Emma Morano, last of pre-1900 babies, dies at 117

Ms Emma Morano blowing out the candles during her 117th birthday last November. She attributed her longevity to her diet, saying she ate two eggs a day and cookies - not much, as she had no teeth.
Ms Emma Morano blowing out the candles during her 117th birthday last November. She attributed her longevity to her diet, saying she ate two eggs a day and cookies - not much, as she had no teeth.PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME • Emma Morano, an Italian woman believed to have been the oldest person alive and the last survivor born before 1900, has died at the age of 117.

Ms Morano, who lived for 117 years and 137 days, was born on Nov 29, 1899, four years before the Wright brothers first took to the skies. Her life spanned three centuries, two World Wars and more than 90 Italian governments.

She died at her home in Verbania, in northern Italy. Her death means there is no one living known to have been born before 1900.

According to the US-based Gerontology Research Group (GRG), Ms Morano ceded the crown of the world's oldest human being to Jamaican Violet Brown, who was born on March 10, 1900.

"My life wasn't so nice," Ms Morano said last November on her 117th birthday.

"I worked in a factory until I was 65, then that was that," she said as she sat in an armchair by her window, a white shawl over her shoulders.

Her first love died in World War I, but she married later and left her violent husband just before the Second World War and shortly after the death in infancy of her only son.

That was 30 years before divorce became legal in Italy.

She had clung to her independence, taking on a full-time caregiver only a couple of years ago, though she had not left her small two-room apartment for 20 years.

She had been bed-bound during her latter years.

In an interview last year, she put her longevity down to her diet. "I eat two eggs a day, and that's it. And cookies. But I do not eat much because I have no teeth," she said then at her home, where the Guinness World Records certificate declaring her to be the oldest person alive held pride of place on a marble-topped chest of drawers.

She also refused to be taken to hospital, with the exception of a cataract operation. Her eyesight did become very poor and she spent much of her days sleeping.

But she kept her sense of humour till the end.

"How does my hair look?" she asked before blowing out the candles on her 117th birthday cake last year.

The eldest of eight children, Ms Morano outlived all her younger siblings. The world longevity record remains with French woman Jeanne Calment, who died at 122 in 1997, having outlived both her daughter and grandson.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2017, with the headline 'Emma Morano, last of pre-1900 babies, dies at 117'. Print Edition | Subscribe