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“I am old, very old, but not an idiot,” reads the Twitter bio of María Branyas Morera (USA/Spain), who is now confirmed to be the world’s oldest woman living and oldest person living, following the death of 118-year-old Lucile Randon (France).
Mrs Morera is 115 years 321 days old, as of 19 January 2023.
She was born in San Francisco, California, on 4 March 1907, one year after her parents emigrated to the country. Eight years later, they decided to return to Spain, where they settled in Catalonia.
María has called the region home ever since. She has resided in the same nursing home – Residència Santa María del Tura – for the past 22 years.
“She is in good health and continues to be surprised and grateful for the attention that this anniversary has generated,” the home said in a statement on Thursday.
“To celebrate this very special event we will have a small celebration behind closed doors in the residence in the coming days.”
María often takes to Twitter – with the help of her daughter – to share her pearls of wisdom. She attributes her longevity to “order, tranquility, good connection with family and friends, contact with nature, emotional stability, no worries, no regrets, lots of positivity, and staying away from toxic people.”
“I think longevity is also about being lucky. Luck and good genetics.”
Sadly, María’s father did not survive the treacherous transatlantic voyage from America to Spain; he succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis towards the end of the journey.
María was also injured aboard the ship after falling whilst playing with her brothers, resulting in the permanent loss of hearing in one ear.
The young family arrived in Barcelona in 1915, during the First World War.
“Because of the war, Germany was still attacking the North, and you couldn’t go through the Nordic seas, but we could go further down, through the Azores and Cuba,” she told Catalan News, describing the ship’s modified route to Spain.
This wasn’t the only war she was forced to endure; she has “very bad memories” of the Spanish Civil War, which broke out in 1936 when she was 29.
After surviving both World Wars, the Spanish Civil War, and the Spanish Flu pandemic, María also fought off COVID-19 in 2020.
She contracted the virus mere weeks after celebrating her 113th birthday; fortunately she managed to make a full recovery within a few days.
This made her the world’s oldest COVID-19 survivor, however, her record was broken by Lucile Randon later that year.
“This pandemic has revealed that older people are the forgotten ones of our society,” she said in an interview with the Observer at the time.
María has three children, 11 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.
Her husband was a Catalan doctor named Joan Moret, whom she married in 1931. Their wedding day proved to be an eventful one, as after “hours of waiting for the priest,” the couple was informed that he had unexpectedly died.
“There was no phone. A car had to go down to Girona to look for an available chaplain,” María recounted on Twitter. “At that time, in the entire province of Girona there must have been around 50 cars.”
María has witnessed a remarkable number of technological advances since then.
One of the most positive developments, in her opinion, is the ease with which people can now communicate with each other.
María has taken full advantage of this – in addition to Twitter, she also has a voice-to-text device which allows her family to easily communicate with her, given that she’s extremely hard of hearing.
However, for María, the grass is not necessarily greener. She believes that modern society places too much value on money, and according to her, people lived “more peacefully and more joyfully” at the beginning of the 20th century.
Having said that, María still has a bright outlook on life, and believes that there is always something new to learn every day – even when you’re the world’s oldest person.
On the first day of 2023, she tweeted: “Life is not eternal for anyone… At my age, a new year is a gift, a humble celebration, a new adventure, a beautiful journey, a moment of happiness. Let’s enjoy life together.” (Guinnessworldrecords)