The death of 116-year-old Susannah Mushatt Jones in New York City on Thursday leaves just one person on Earth who was alive in the 1800s.
Born about a month before 1900 began and when England’s Queen Victoria was still on the throne, Emma Morano is now the oldest living person. Incredibly, she still lives on her own in northern Italy.
On Friday, she was happy to hear the title had passed to her, one of her relatives told London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. “She was told this morning and she said ‘My word, I’m as old as the hills,’ but she was very pleased,” Rosi Santoni said.
Morano was not able to come to the phone, the Telegraph reported – she is almost completely deaf. When the Telegraph reporter called she was eating a lunch of semolina with a boiled egg. She eats a raw egg each day, ever since a doctor’s recommendation when she was diagnosed with anemia at the age of 20.
Here is her story:
Name: Emma Morano
Country of residence: Italy
Birthday: Nov. 29, 1899
Morano was the first of eight children, all of whom have since died. One sister lived to be 102. In 1926, she married and in 1937 her only child was born, but died at a few months old. In 1938, she separated from her husband, Giovanni Martinuzzi, but never divorced. Until 1954, she was a worker at a jute factory in her town before working in the kitchen of a boarding school. She retired at 75.
When asked about the secret of her longevity by the La Stampa newspaper in 2015, she first mentioned her daily glass of homemade brandy.
But Morano mostly cites her eating habits for helped her live so long. “For breakfast I eat biscuits with milk or water,” she said. “Then during the day I eat two eggs — one raw and one cooked — just like the doctor recommended when I was 20 years old. For lunch I’ll eat pasta and minced meat then for dinner, I’ll have just a glass of milk.”
Sleep is another important factor in her longevity, she told the newspaper. Morano goes to bed before 7 every night and wakes up before 6 a.m.
Her physician, Dr. Carlo Bava, is convinced there’s a genetic component as well.
“From a strictly medical and scientific point of view, she can be considered a phenomenon,” he told the Associated Press, noting that Morano takes no medication and has been in stable, good health for years.
Italy is known for its centenarians — many of whom live in Sardinia — and gerontologists at the University of Milan are studying Morano, along with a handful of Italians over age 105, to try to figure out why they live so long.
“Emma seems to go against everything that could be considered the guidelines for correct nutrition: She has always eaten what she wants, with a diet that is absolutely repetitive,” Bava said. “For years, she has eaten the same thing every day, not much vegetables or fruit. But she’s gotten this far.”
When the AP visited in 2015, Morano was in feisty spirits, displaying the sharp wit and fine voice that she says used to stop men in their tracks.
“I sang in my house, and people on the road stopped to hear me singing. And then they had to run because they were late and should go to work,” she recalled, before breaking into a round of the 1930s Italian love song Parlami d’amore Mariu.
“Ahh, I don’t have my voice anymore,” she lamented at the end.
But even though her movements now are limited, according to the AP — she gets out of bed and into her armchair and back again, her eyesight is bad and hearing weak — she does seem to walk around at night.
“Her niece and I leave some biscuits and chocolates out at night in the kitchen. And in the morning they’re gone, which means someone has gotten up during the night and eaten them,” Bava said.
On her 116th birthday last year Morano received a congratulatory telegram from Sergio Mattarella, the president of Italy, according to the Telegraph, and a signed parchment of blessing from Pope Francis, which is now framed and hangs on the wall of her apartment.