ASBURY PARK, N.J. – Back in May, Darlene Jasmine got the phone call no one wants to receive: Her grandmother had come down with COVID-19.
At age 107.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is it,’” Jasmine said. “This is the thing that’s going to take her down.”
Didn’t happen. Anna Del Priore – who is one month shy of turning 108, was born the year the Titanic sank and survived a case of the Spanish Flu a century ago – beat the coronavirus. Not only that, she’s still on her feet, walking and even dancing – to the delight of the staff at Brighton Gardens, an assisted living facility in New Jersey.
“People don’t believe me,” said Laura Halle, who is Del Priore’s health care coordinator at Brighton Gardens. “It’s really been amazing to watch her journey.”
Del Priore was born in Brooklyn to deaf parents who taught sign language. She was a seamstress, and her late husband, Frank, was a professional tango dancer.
“She always danced, always loved music,” said Jasmine, 66. “As soon as she hears music, her foot starts tapping.”
At around 6 years old, Anna contracted the Spanish flu during the influenza pandemic of 1918, Brighton Gardens administrators confirmed. As with COVID-19, the Spanish flu attacked the respiratory system, although at a far deadlier rate.
“Maybe that has something to do with her recovering?” said Jasmine, who noted that Anna’s younger sister, 105-year-old Helen Guzzone of Queens, New York, also survived both illnesses.
After Anna fell ill with COVID-19, Jasmine said, “She had a fever, didn’t eat much, but she didn’t need a respirator. They didn’t have to send her to the hospital.”
Now Del Priore has resumed her normal activities, including swimming and sewing.
“I feel good,” Del Priore said. “I thank God I’m alive.”
Jasmine called it “a miracle” but added that a lifetime of healthy choices probably helped.
“She’s constantly moving,” Jasmine said. “We always walked in Brooklyn – to the grocery store, to the bakery. Every night she would make a homemade meal from scratch. All Mediterranean food – olive oil, vegetables, fruits, nuts. It’s like the old peasant food that now they charge you so much for.”
Del Priore has no plans to slow down.
“You keep living,” she said. “Dancing makes you feel good. I want to keep my health.”
According to a gerontology site that tracks such things, two 108-year-old Americans are confirmed to have survived the coronavirus and seven other Americans age 107 or older have done so. Around the world, the oldest confirmed person to beat the illness was a 113-year-old woman in Spain.
Suffice it to say, Anna Del Priore is not counting the days.
“She’s a month shy of 108 and she gets up, combs her hair, walks and dances,” said Halle, her health care coordinator. “For the rest of my life, I’ll be able to say I met and loved someone who’s made it this far and stayed healthy.”