María Branyas Morera has lived through two world wars, the Spanish civil war, the 1918 flu pandemic and Covid.
Now the California-born woman is the world’s oldest living person.
Morera, 115, became the eldest known person alive after the death of 118-year-old Lucille Randon, the Guinness world records website confirmed last week. Randon died at her nursing home in the French town of Toulon on 17 January.
Morera captured global headlines after she survived a bout of Covid in May 2020, when the pandemic made Spain one of the hardest-hit countries before the availability of vaccines. She was believed to be the oldest Covid survivor at one point, before Randon survived contracting the virus herself.
“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” is what Morera credits with her longevity, according to the Guinness site.
“I think longevity is also about being lucky,” Morera said, Guinness officials added. “Luck and good genetics.”
Morera was born in San Francisco on 4 March 1907, a year after her parents moved from Spain to the US. Her family returned to Spain eight years later and brought her along, settling in Catalonia.
Ever since, Morera has endured defining moments on scales large and small.
Her father died from pulmonary tuberculosis on the ocean journey from the US to Spain. The route was circuitous because the first world war made passage through the Nordic seas treacherous, so the ship had to go via Cuba and the Azores, Morera once recalled.
In 1918, the Spanish flu pandemic began sweeping the world. Then, when Morera was 29, the Spanish civil war broke out, leaving her with what she has previously summarized as “very bad memories”. The second world war followed soon after.
Morera started a family with her husband, a Catalan doctor named Joan Moret, which has given her three children, 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
On the couple’s wedding day, after hours of waiting for him, they learned that their priest had unexpectedly died. There was no telephone at the church to call for another chaplain, so the family had to get in a car and search for another one.
Morera has embraced advances in technology since then, embracing social media and digital communications in particular. Morera uses a voice-to-text device and Twitter to stay in touch with her loved ones.
“Life is not eternal for anyone,” she tweeted on New Year’s Day. “At my age, a new year is a gift, a humble celebration, a beautiful journey, a moment of happiness.
“Let’s enjoy life together.”
Branyas’s nursing home, Residència Santa María del Tura, issued a statement saying they would recognize her becoming the world’s oldest living person in a private event.
“She is in good health and continues to be surprised and grateful for the attention that this … has generated,” the home said.