Emma Morano at 117 years old

A Supercentenarian Has Fallen: Emma Morano No Longer The World’s Oldest Person

Only last year the Pope sent her a signed parchment as a personal blessing, and Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella personally congratulated her on reaching a very rare and remarkable milestone.

Emma Morano enjoyed the unique title of being one of the world’s few Supercentenarians. At the age of 117, Emma Morano was known as the world’s oldest verified living person. She passed away quietly, resting in an armchair in her small two-room apartment in Verbania, Italy.

Even though Morano had not left the comfort of her cosy home in twenty years the mayor of Verbania, Silvia Marchionini, expressed in words the city’s love for their record-breaking citizen.

“[Emma] reached an incredible finish line. She had an extraordinary life, and we will always remember her strength to help us move forward in life.”

A supercentenarian is a person who has reached, or surpassed the age of 110. Only roughly 1 in 1000 centenarians ever attain this milestone.

Emma Morano was fortunate enough to see many of the world’s greatest losses and achievements since the late 1800s. She was born shortly after the first petroleum-powered car was produced by Karl Benz, and just a few years before the Wright Brothers defied gravity and took to the skies. Having lived through two world wars and the resulting depressions, Emma was able to witness Neil Armstrong taking one giant leap for mankind.

Italy was under a monarchy when Emma was young, yet she managed to see the monarchy fall in favor of a republic that produced almost seventy governments during her life. From silent films to talkies, to HD and 3D and now even 4D, Emma saw it all.

World's Oldest Woman get the Pope's Blessing
A parchment with the papal blessing hangs on a wall in Emma Morano’s home in Verbania, Italy. [Image by Antonio Calanni/AP Images]

What’s her secret?

In a study conducted by Anderson et al., it was concluded that some people get healthier the older they get. Age-related diseases such as “cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and stroke” as well as effective mobility and cognitive decline, were all factors that presented less frequently in supercentenarians.

It seems the answer to good health and longevity is to just get old.

Emma Morano, like all of the world’s oldest people, had her own beliefs and habits that she attributed to her unconventionally long life. She had never been strict about her diet and managed to sneak in her firewater indulgences right to the end.

“For breakfast I eat biscuits with milk or water. 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.”

According to her physician, Dr. Carlo Brava, Emma Morano was not particularly encumbered by a lack of mobility, especially for someone her age. In a New York Times editorial, Brava cited evidence that she certainly moved about 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.”

Incredibly, Morano was vehemently opposed to taking medications or visiting the hospital. She reportedly refused to have blood transfusions on a few occasions, and would also insist that any required stitches be administered in her home.

Morano also believed that a sufficient amount of beauty sleep was essential for longevity. Emma’s slumber routine consisted of waking each morning before 6 a.m. and retiring well before 7 p.m. each evening.

But Dr. Carlo Brava seems to think that defying death has more to do with genetics, having once remarked that doctors “know that the ability to make it to 110 is heritable, so you have a large increase in chance if you have several people in your family to live to a late age.”

Emma Morano’s sisters both lived to see 100 and 102 years respectively. While Morano was still alive, Dr. Brava believed her health was in a class of her own.

“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. For years, she has eaten the same thing every day, not much vegetables or fruit.”

Italy World's Oldest Person Emma Morano
Emma Morano, 117 years old, blows candles on the day of her birthday in Verbania, Italy. [Image by Antonio Calanni]

Up until 2015, when her niece Rosemarie Santoni became her carer, having seen the span of three centuries, Emma had been living independently and alone, admitting that she had never been the dependent type.

“I didn’t want to be dominated by anyone.”

Nobody could argue against Morano’s will as she spent her life being mostly single, and mostly happy. A strapping lad by the name of Giovanni Martinuzzi caught her eye and the young lovers were married in 1926. Emma had a child, but lost the infant 6 months later. Giovanni separated from Emma in 1938 when she drove him from their home. Strangely, they didn’t get divorced until 1978.

Emma worked at the Maioni Industry jute factory until 1954, after which she moved on to work in the kitchens of a Marianist boarding school, the Collegio Santa Maria. Morano worked here until she was 75-years-old, at which point she resigned for what would inevitably be a much longer retirement than she may have anticipated.

The title of World’s Oldest Person will now go to Violet Brown, a Jamaican woman who was born in 1900 exactly.

[Featured image by Antonio Calanni/AP Images]