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World's Oldest Person Shares The Secret To Her Long Life

It's not what you expect.

In one month it will be Emma Morano's birthday. Though she hasn't invited anyone, people from around the world are still likely to turn up to celebrate with the last known person alive to have been born in the 19th century.

"I'm 116 years and on 27 November, I'll be 117," this alert and chatty lady tells AFP in her room in Verbania, a town in northern Italy on Lake Maggiore.

On a marble-topped chest of drawers stands proudly the Guinness World Records certificate declaring Morano, born in 1899, to be the world's oldest living person.

Emma Morano, 116, holds a pillow reading '116 years old, Happy Birthday Emma' 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.

There is also a photograph of her and her doctor Carlo Bava holding eggs: the secret to her long life appears to lie in eschewing all received 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 says.

The egg habit dates from when she was diagnosed with anaemia at 20 in the wake of World War I and a doctor advised her to eat three a day, two raw and one cooked.

She maintained that regime for 90 years and is believed to have eaten over 100,000 eggs and counting.

"Emma has always eaten very few vegetables, very little fruit. When I met her, she ate three eggs per day, two raw in the morning and then an omelette at noon, and chicken at dinner," said Bava, who has been her doctor for the past 27 years.

Now she lives mostly on biscuits "and does not want to eat meat because she doesn't like it anymore and someone told her it causes cancer," he said.

Morano is not even sure she'll have a slice of her birthday cake, saying "the last time I ate a little, but then I did not feel good."

A "precarious equilibrium"

She may still be some way off the previous record, held by France's Jeanne Calment who lived to be 122, but Morano, the eldest of eight children who has outlived all her younger siblings, knows turning 117 will be an event to celebrate.

"People come. I don't invite anybody but they come. From America, Switzerland, Austria, Turin, Milan... They come from all over to see me," she says with an amused smile.

Birthdays aside, Morano is a solitary person. Having left her violent husband in 1938 shortly after the death in infancy of her only son, she lived alone, working in a factory producing jute sacks to support herself.

She clung to her independence, only taking on a full-time caregiver last year, though she has not left her small two-room apartment for 20 years, and has been bed-bound for the last year.

While her mind is alert, she is very deaf, speaks with difficulty and does not see well enough to watch television, spending her time instead either sleeping or snacking.

Bava puts her longevity party down to genetics — Morano's mother died at 91 and at least two of her sisters lived to be over 100 — but said having a daily routine and her great strength of character had also likely played their parts.

"I eat two eggs a day, and that's it. And cookies. But I do not eat much because I have no teeth."

"She is a very determined person. She has never wanted to go to hospital, she's never received any particular (health) care. She's suffered from a bit of bronchitis, had a (blood) transfusion, and some stitches, but always at home."

"Now she's well, she's very well, but it's clear she lives every day in a very, very precarious equilibrium," he said.

Bava admits he feels a bit like "the keeper of the Tower of Pisa, which has been leaning for centuries. The day it topples over, someone will be held responsible.

"When Emma dies, people will hold me accountable."

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Alexander Imich, Age 111
Michael Mannion/AP
Alexander Imich and his wife, Wela Katzenellenbogen, immigrated to the United States in 1951 after having fled from Eastern Europe during the Holocaust. Imich attributed the long length of his life to good genes and a healthy lifestyle, having quit smoking and drinking long ago.

Imich is one of six Americans who have been recognized as the oldest people in the world. However, that doesn't mean that the United States has a particularly large elderly population. In fact, the U.S. doesn't even belong to the group of nations with the oldest populations in the world. With the exception of Japan, the countries with the oldest populations are situated in Europe.

As CNN reports, "The title of world's oldest man now goes to Sakari Momoi...who was born just a day after Imich in 1903."

The United States, however, might soon join its European and Japanese counterparts, as the Administration of Aging expects the percentage of Americans older than 65 to reach 19 percent by year 2030.
Jeanne Calment, Age 122
The oldest person ever recorded was French citizen Jeanne Louise Calment, who reached a whopping age of 122 years and 164 days. Born in 1875, Calment witnessed both the technological innovations and the destructive wars of the 20th century before passing away in 1997 in her hometown of Arles, France.

Despite having been the home of the oldest person in the world, France is not known for having a particularly elderly population. The country didn't even make the 2011 list of oldest populations in the world.

According to the UNITED NATIONS, it took France a total of 115 years to bulk up its elderly population from 7 percent to 14 percent. In contrast, it will only take developing nations China and Brazil twenty-something years to experience the same change in demographics.
Jiroemon Kimura, Age 116
When Jiroeman Kimura died in June 2012 at the age of 116, he had been the oldest man for slightly under six months. Born in the end of the 19th century, he was introduced to modern technologies like the television, the Internet, and cell phones.

Although Kimura is certainly a record-breaker for his lifespan, Japan is accustomed to a large elderly community. In January 2011, more than 23 percent of Japanese were older than 65 and the average life expectancy was STOOD AT at 83.1 years. Yet Japan's long lifecycle will likely create headaches for its lawmakers, who face the world's second-largest public debt and a below-replacement birthrate, making it difficult to continue handing out generous pension plans to a retiring workforce.
Maria Esther de Capovilla, Age 116
Victor Proanio/AP
When Ecuadorean Maria Capovilla died in 2006 at the age of 116, she was recognized as the oldest woman to have lived in Latin America and in a developing nation. Capovilla's daughter told the Los Angeles Times that her mother "always had a very tranquil character...She does not get upset by anything. She has been that way her whole life."

Capovilla's impressive lifespan highlights the growing concern of other Latin American countries--particularly Brazil, Mexico, and Chile--whose aging populations will put burdens on government finances. A report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimates that "the number of elderly in Latin America will triple as a share of the population by 2050," resulting in a "dramatic slowdown in population growth." Another concern for the continent is that while life expectancy has increased, living standards in many Latin American countries have stagnated. CSIS warns that "while the United States, Europe, and Japan all became affluent societies before they became aging societies, Latin America may grow old before it grows rich."

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