On April 15, Emma Morano, the last person documented as being born in the 1800s, died peacefully at the age of 117 in the town of Verbania, Italy. She made the Piedmont town famous after she hit 110 when her fans came in a steady, exhausting steam to visit the world’s certified and celebrated oldest person. “Emma was always polite and patient with her many guests,” one of her nieces recalled, “but after a while she would turn to me and say in dialect, ‘Are they ever going to leave?’”
This super centenarian lived in a two-room, church-owned apartment for her last 27 years. Her relatively youthful priest, 91-year-old Rev. Giuseppe Maseroni, said Emma’s simplicity was “sculptural,” because she accumulated few possessions—the most prized of which were rosaries and photos of her parents and eight siblings. Emma had an unfortunate marriage and separation in 1938, and credited her longevity to lack of a husband. “I didn’t want to be dominated by anyone,” she said. The New York Times article noted that inside the drawer of Emma Morano’s night table was “a supermarket-aisle anti-aging cream she had applied every evening before going to sleep.” Perhaps that was the key?
I’ve been thinking a lot about my own aging and demise because of the recent passing of two people very, very dear to me—one in his late 60s, the other in her mid 80s. If I am fortunate enough to live healthy until age 86, as an Indian mystic predicted when he produced my “Vedic horoscope” some 20 years ago, I wonder to what fact or attitude I would attribute my long-lived blessings. 100% Italian genes? California living and organic gardening? No husband since 1996? Tango-ing and rumba-ing my way through the second half of life? What about you?
In my next post, I’ll muse about recent scientific evidence for staving off dementia and Alzheimer’s: brain-building, memory improving, the therapeutic and joy-inducing effects of dancing.