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History beckons for Italy’s oldest woman at 116 years

Monday May 16 2016

Emma Morano, 116, poses for AFP photographer in Verbania, North Italy, on May 14, 2016.  Emma Morano is the oldest living person in the world, and the only one left who has touched three centuries. PHOTO | AFP

Emma Morano, 116, poses for AFP photographer in Verbania, North Italy, on May 14, 2016. Emma Morano is the oldest living person in the world, and the only one left who has touched three centuries. PHOTO | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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VERBANIA, Italy, Sunday

As a young woman in the roaring 1920s, the world’s oldest living person loved to go singing and dancing.

Now 116-year-old Italian Emma Morano’s next challenge is to see in the 2020s and become the oldest human being on record.

The last known surviving child of the 19th century is enjoying the spotlight after succeeding American Susannah Mushatt Jones, who died last week, as the oldest person on the planet.

And on the evidence of AFP’s visit to her this weekend, Morano could very well go on long enough to surpass Jeanne Calment’s record.

The Frenchwoman died in 1997 at 122 years and 164 days, the oldest recorded age achieved by a human being.

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Morano was having the first of her two daily naps when AFP came calling at her tiny second-storey apartment in Verbania, a small town on the shores of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.

But her carer had no doubt that she would want to have her picture taken once again.

Barely a few seconds after being woken, she was alert, sitting up on the edge of her bed and smiling for the camera.

- ‘I’m fine, who are you?’

Clutching an embroidered pillow she received when she celebrated her 116th birthday last year, she spoke in a barely audible but unwavering voice.

“I’m doing fine, who are you?” she said, confirming comments from her doctor and her few surviving relatives that becoming a world-beater has boosted her already remarkable vitality.

Morano’s extraordinary longevity — and more broadly Italy’s high number of centenarians — is a subject of much fascination among scientists.

The eldest of eight children, Morano was born on November 29, 1899. She has outlived all her younger siblings, the last sister having died five years ago at the age of 102.

She is now looked after by two elderly nieces with the help of a Colombian carer.