France’s Oldest Citizen Still Smiling

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Honorine (l) gets a kiss from her 85-year-old daughter Yvette

The 113-year-old is still the straight-talking bookworm she always was, according to her relatives

“I’d prefer not to be”, says Honorine Rondello with aplomb, when asked how she feels about being France’s oldest woman. Her 85-year-old daughter Yvette Florens smiles on with tenderness and admiration. Rondello, who was born Honorine Cadoret in Brittany in July 1903, took over the title of France’s oldest citizen after the passing of Elisabeth Collot in the Isère department just last week.

Honorine has been living in a retirement home in the little town of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in the Var department for the last six years. Interestingly, this is only 100km east of Arles – the town where the oldest ever living human being (Jeanne Calment) lived to the very ripe age of 122.

When she’s not receiving family, she apparently spends most of her day exercising her considerable grey matter by reading, according to those closest to her.

“I have a walk around the corridors, I eat and then I go back to my room,” says Ms Rondello, in an interview with the Sud-Ouest newspaper. “I haven’t much to talk about with the other residents, there are quite a few of them that don’t have their full faculties any more.”

Still enjoying a good read: Honorine keeps the grey matter active by reading every day

Still enjoying a good read: Honorine keeps the grey matter active by reading every day

This old lady is certainly still all there: “And I still have plenty of memory! My legs don’t keep up any more, however.”

“Neither does your hearing!” her daughter teases.

So what’s the secret of her longevity?

“I don’t even know myself! It just happened liked that, pure and simple!” Although she radiates a humble and unassuming personality on first impression, this Breton girl has been through a lot of upheaval in her life. She has seen two World Wars come and go.

“Her childhood wasn’t an easy one,” says her daughter Yvette. “She came from a poor family; her father was a fisherman and she used to housekeep.”

“I used to work in the houses of the bourgeoisie,” says Honorine, just to be clear about it. “I’m not really aware of my age… It only hits me when I want to do something and my body won’t allow me to do it.” She gets around mostly in a wheelchair but she can still walk very short distances.

Although she mentions Jeanne Calment in the course of the interview, she certainly has no intention of attempting to beat her record of 122 years:

“If it means having to be bedridden, then no thank you! I live from one day to the next. When the time comes, I’ll do just like everyone else does and take my leave,” says Honorine Rondello, still with an enigmatic smile on her face.

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