A 117-year-old woman grew seven new teeth and black hair in the 1950s on the famous Greek island of Ikaria, where residents are renowned for their longevity. At least, that’s what the legend says happened on the island. The great-grandson of this legendary woman continues to tell this story today.
Ikaria: a “Blue Zone” of longevity
Ikaria, another beautiful island located in the eastern Aegean, may look like a number of other Greek islands, but there is one vital difference: people live here much longer than the mainland population, or even on other Greek islands.
In fact, people live there on average ten years longer than those in the rest of Europe and the United States. About one in three Icarians live to be ninety years old.
Ikaria, named after Icarus, the young man in Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun and plunged into the sea, is one of the five “blue zones”, a name given to five regions of the world where people regularly exceed the global average life expectancy.
The other regions are Sardinia; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California in the United States.
117 year old from Ikaria lived a long time despite a difficult life
The woman who figures in the legend, named Fani Gerali, lived in the village called Christos Raches in Ikaria and is said not only to have lived to be 117 years old, but also remained extremely young.
She remained so young, in fact, that legend has it that after the age of 100 she began to grow new hair and new teeth. His new hair was black, not gray, and seven new teeth sprouted from him. This added to his generally heartbreaking and youthful demeanor.
According to his great-grandson, Gerali never acted his age. She was talkative and continued to garden until the very day of her death, which did not happen due to natural causes. She was unfortunately stung by bees in her garden, which led to her unfortunate death.
Her life at Christos Raches was also very socially engaging, as she was surprisingly surrounded by peers, which is not the norm when most people reach extremely old ages. Due to Ikaria’s “blue zone” status, Gerali lived alongside other people his age, ranging in age from 103 to 117!
These elderly residents led normal lives, attended church weekly and celebrated their long existence with friends and family.
Gerali continued to have excellent vision and hearing well into his old age and retained memories of his life. Of course, her life had been pretty hard to forget, considering everything she had been through.
She was born in Asia Minor, where she married, had children and was eventually widowed. She was forced to flee Asia Minor in 1914 due to the brutal expulsion of Greek residents by the Ottoman Empire at the time.
Gerali moved to Chios and was finally proposed at the age of 77, which she refused. Tragically, her son was killed in 1944 in Elefsina by German soldiers.
His life – and his incredible regeneration – was documented in a 1954 newspaper article on the island of Ikaria.
Although his life seems marred by hardship by our current standards, his old age seems to have been quite pleasant, and it was certainly long and remarkable.