Raw Eggs and No Husband Since ’38 Keep Her Young at 115

16.02.2015 13:51

VERBANIA, Italy — Celebrity
came late to Emma Morano.
Her routine life, in fact, might
have raised barely an
eyebrow were it not for the
fact that she’s managed to
hold on to it for so long.
At 115 years and nearly three
months, Ms. Morano is the
oldest person in Europe, the
fifth oldest in the world and
one of only a handful of
people whose lives have
straddled three centuries.
In her time, she has watched
Italy evolve from a monarchy
to a republic that spawned
nearly 70 governments in
seven decades, with a 20-year
foray into Fascism in the
middle. She survived two
world wars, and the hardship
of their aftermath; years of
domestic terrorism, and
years of economic prosperity
that transformed Italy from
an agrarian economy to one
of the world’s most
industrialized nations.
On a recent chilly January
morning, trussed up in hand-
knit shawls, next to a warm
radiator, she summed up her
life simply: “115 years are a
Ms. Morano has no doubts
about how she made it this
long: Her elixir for longevity
consists of raw eggs, which
she has been eating — three
per day — since her teens
when a doctor recommended
them to counter anemia.
Assuming she has been true
to her word, Ms. Morano
would have consumed
around 100,000 eggs in her
lifetime, give or take a
thousand, cholesterol be
She is also convinced that
being single for most of her
life, after an unhappy
marriage that ended in 1938
following the death of an
infant son, has kept her
kicking. Separation was rare
then, and divorce became
legal in Italy only in 1970. She
said she had plenty of suitors
after that, but never chose
another partner. “I didn’t
want to be dominated by
anyone,” she said.
Gerontologists agree that
there is no one key to
longevity. “You talk to 100
centenarians, you get 100
different stories,” said Valter
D. Longo, the director of the
Longevity Institute at the
University of Southern
California, whose studies
suggest that diet is an
important factor in living
And there’s genetics. “We do
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,” Dr. Longo said.
One of Ms. Morano’s sisters
died just short of 100;
another lived to 102.
Remarkably, Ms. Morano still
lives alone, shuffling around
a tiny two-room apartment
surrounded by dusty
memories and the vestiges of
her more recent fame,
including tributes and
certificates from officials,
among them the country’s
last president, commending
her resilience. Next to her
bed is a small plaque with the
numbers “115” in bright blue
letters, made by children at a
local nursery school, who
hand-delivered the present.
“They also brought their
coughs and sniffles,” fretted
Rosemarie Santoni, her niece
and principal caregiver who
comes by every morning to
prepare the day’s meals,
which consist of the
aforementioned eggs, now
down to two a day, ground
meat, soupy pasta and a
A neighbor checks in
periodically, and is on call for
emergencies, but there have
not been many. The few
times she has been ill, she has
“refused to set foot in a
hospital,” even having blood
transfusions or stitches done
at home, said Carlo Bava, the
doctor who has cared for her
since she turned 90. Her
general health is good, he
Ms. Morano appears to enjoy
her new fame, patiently
reviving rote reminiscences
for the many strangers who
call on her to recount her life
and the times she lived in.
Her memory, however,
evades entire decades.
Ask her about Mussolini, or
the world wars or any
number of current or past
political figures, and she
shrugs indifferently. Her
recollections are mostly
intimate. “My sisters and I
loved to dance and we’d run
away to the dance hall and
then our mother would come
looking for us with a birch
stick,” she recalled recently.
One of eight children, Ms.
Morano was born on Nov. 29,
1899, in Civiasco, a tiny town
in Piedmont, in the same year
that Guglielmo Marconi first
transmitted a radio signal
across the English Channel
and a group of investors
founded the Fabbrica Italiana
Automobili Torino, or Fiat.
While still a girl she moved
with her family to
Villadossola, once an
important iron and steel
company town. The climate
— humid and cold winters —
was not congenial to her
constitution, so a doctor
suggested she move to the
nearby environs of Lake
Maggiore, which straddles
Italy and Switzerland. She
chose Verbania, a pretty
lakeshore town with a milder
climate where she found a
job in a factory, making jute
“The doctor told me to
change air,” she said, “and
I’m still here.”
Ms. Morano began to gain
fame only when she crossed
the 110-year-old milestone
and entered into the ever-
dwindling ranks of
supercentenarians, nearly all
of whom are women. She is
amused to be the object of
interest among researchers
from around the world, who
travel to her bedside —
because she no longer leaves
her home — to study her
lifestyle and genetics.
“She’s aware of the privilege
of living,” said Dr. Bava, who
said Ms. Morano had always
graciously accepted the aging
process and the aches and
pains that come with it. He
visits her once a month, just
to check in.
“If all my patients were like
this,” he said, “I could have
spent my days reading