ONCE again, Spain's healthcare system is the best in Europe – it's official. And State medical services in the country are the third-most efficient on earth, beaten only by those of Hong Kong and Singapore...
Spain's Ana Vela Rubio, 115, is now Europe's oldest and the world's fourth-oldest woman
EUROPE'S oldest woman alive today was born in Puente Genil (Córdoba province) and has held this honour since Saturday, when the last person on earth born in the 19th century – Emma Morano, 117, from Italy – passed away.
Emma's status as the oldest woman on the planet, having been born on November 29, 1899 in Piamonte, has now been taken over by Jamaican Violet Brown, who was born in 1900.
And her place as Europe's most elderly is now held by Ana Vela Rubio, who came into the world on October 29, 1901 and who is the fourth-eldest on earth.
She is beaten only by Violet, and the two Japanese ladies Nabi Tajima, 116 and Chiyo Miyako, 115, according to the GRG World Supercentenarian Rankings List.
Ana moved to Catalunya in the 1940s, working as a seamstress for a tuberculosis hospital in Terrassa (Barcelona province) – having left school at age 11 - and became a regular at the day centre in the La Verneda nursing home in 2005, when she was 103.
In 2008, aged 106, she moved into La Verneda permanently.
She has one surviving daughter, also called Ana and aged 89, who lives nearby and visits her very regularly.
Ana's 115th birthday was reported in www.thinkspain.com in 2016 – and, in fact, she is becoming a regular feature on our site, having been the subject of a story five years previously when she declared that kindness and happiness were her secrets to living to 110.
At the time, her surviving children Juan, then 81 – who worked in England all his life but retired to Torremolinos (Málaga province) aged 71 – and her daughter Ana said their elderly mother had 'always been very active' and that they could 'never remember a time when she had been ill'.
All this was in spite of having lived through two World Wars and the Spanish Civil War, as well as the deaths of her eldest son in 2005 and of her daughter when she was just 10 years old.
Son Juan predicted back on October 29, 2011 that his mother would 'live many more years yet' as she was 'physically in a good condition' and had a 'strong constitution'.
Although she has to be got up by carers and placed in a wheelchair by day, only staying awake between 10.00 and 16.00 as she gets very tired, Ana is not bed-ridden and has still never had any illnesses, not even the common cold.
La Verneda staff say she 'does not look 115', although she is unable to walk and has lost her cognitive faculties.
She 'eats very well'; however, her food has to be liquidised.
But so far, Juan's prediction has come true, and his mother's eyesight is still said to be good even though she is no longer able to be the compulsive reader she was until at least age 110.
She seems to enjoy being alive, and is 'always smiling', say staff, who have four other residents aged between 100 and 106, and many others who are three decades younger than Ana but look older than she does.
Sadly, Juan has not survived to see his mother become the oldest woman in Europe, since he himself passed away last year aged 86.
Ana's predecessor Emma Morano lived across three centuries, two World Wars and saw over 90 Italian governments come and go, and attributed her longevity to her DNA – since her mother had lived to age 91 and two of her sisters reached 100 – and to a diet which included two raw and one cooked egg per day.
Scientists have placed the 'natural' limit of human life at age 125, although as yet nobody is known to have officially lived longer than 122, which was the case of Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment.
Three men claim to have been born in the mid to late 19th century – Mbah Goth, 146, from Indonesia; James Olofintuyi, 171, from Nigeria and Dhaqabo Ebba, 164, from Nigeria – but they cannot be considered as 'officially' this old or become world record holders, since none of them is able to prove his age.
The photograph of Ana Vela Rubio, provided by La Vereda, was taken when she was aged 114 and features her sitting next to her daughter Ana (left), who was then 88.
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