Does my hair look OK? World’s old­est per­son turns 117 in style

‘I think her se­cret is ge­netic’

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Emma Mo­rano, hu­man­ity’s last known sur­vivor of the 19th cen­tury, turned 117 in style yes­ter­day, dressing up for the oc­ca­sion and de­mand­ing to know “does my hair look all right?” be­fore hav­ing her pho­to­graph taken. The old­est known per­son alive can hardly see, is very hard of hear­ing, has been largely bed­bound for the last year and has not left her small sec­ond-storey flat in Ver­ba­nia on the shores of Lake Mag­giore in north­ern Italy for over two decades. But her doc­tor, Carlo Bava, said his pa­tient re­mained alert and con­tin­ued to have a rea­son­able qual­ity of life.

Bava told AFP she was very aware of all the fuss being made about her reach­ing the lat­est mile­stone in a re­mark­able life that be­gan on November 29, 1899. “She is very lu­cid, very present,” Bava said. “She was very happy and hon­ored to get a tele­gram of con­grat­u­la­tions this morn­ing from Pres­i­dent (Ser­gio) Mattarella. “There was a tele­vi­sion crew there and she got flow­ers. She had dressed up and she was very proud. She posed for a pho­tog­ra­pher and even asked if her hair looked good. “So I think you can say she is on good form.”

No veg­gies, thanks

Mo­rano has reached a ripe old age de­spite an ex­traor­di­nar­ily tough life, even by the stan­dards of many of her con­tem­po­raries, and fol­low­ing a diet that flouts al­most ev­ery piece of es­tab­lished med­i­cal wis­dom. “I eat two eggs a day, and that’s it. And cook­ies. But I do not eat much be­cause I have no teeth,” she told AFP in an in­ter­view last month. She has long es­chewed veg­eta­bles and her con­sump­tion of fruit is limited to the oc­ca­sional hand­ful of grapes or snacks of apple puree. Her prodi­gious egg habit started when she was di­ag­nosed with anaemia at 20 and a doc­tor told her to start eat­ing two raw and one cooked ev­ery day: a habit she main­tained un­til her ap­petite be­gan to ebb slightly around the age of 110.

When she still had teeth, she was also fond of chomp­ing chicken and lean raw steak. Along with her fond­ness for pure pro­tein, she has al­ways had a sweet tooth mean­ing vis­i­tors were usu­ally ad­vised to come bear­ing gifts of Colomba, a cake rich in egg and but­ter that Ital­ians associate with Easter, or Pan­netone and Pan­doro, tra­di­tional Christ­mas treats of a sim­i­lar ilk.

But it wasn’t clear if she would be en­joy­ing any of the birthday cake she re­ceived on yes­ter­day. “The last time I ate a lit­tle, but then I did not feel good,” she con­fided to AFP last month. Bava sus­pects that Mo­rano has thrived de­spite her un­usual diet, not be­cause of it. “I think her se­cret is ge­netic. All of her fam­ily lived very a very long time,” the doc­tor said. “The diet she has had would have de­stroyed the liver of most peo­ple. But with Emma, I think she could even eaten peb­bles and she would still have lived a very long time. “What might be more im­por­tant is that she has al­ways had a very strong strong char­ac­ter. It has al­ways been her who de­cides what she does or doesn’t do.” Mo­rano her­self has at­trib­uted her longevity to hav­ing the courage to take the life-chang­ing de­ci­sion of leav­ing a vi­o­lent hus­band in 1938, shortly af­ter the death in in­fancy of their son, her only child. It was al­ways an un­happy mar­riage. Years be­fore, her true love had gone off to fight in World War I and not come back.

Leav­ing a hus­band was no easy thing to do in the Church-dom­i­nated Italy of the 1930s and Mo­rano worked in a fac­tory pro­duc­ing jute sacks to sup­port her­self. “Back then, the work­ers in those fac­to­ries were con­stantly breath­ing in dust and yet her lungs are fine-that’s ge­net­ics,” said Bava.—AFP

VER­BA­NIA, PIED­MONT, Italy: (FILES) This file photo shows Emma Mo­rano, 116, pos­ing for AFP pho­tog­ra­pher in Ver­ba­nia, North Italy.—AFP

Very strong char­ac­ter

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