Veggies and spinach key to longevity, says 118-year-old villager
Wearing her new party dress, ready to celebrate her 119th birthday with her family and villagers in her freshly painted home, Elizabeth Setshedi smiled and clapped her hands in delight on Saturday.
According to her ID book, Setshedi is one of the world's longest-living people and not much younger than the oldest woman, Kane Tanake of Japan, who turned 119 on January 2.
Setshedi will celebrate her 119th birthday on July 16 in the area where she grew up and has lived her whole life — Slagboom, in North West, 80km north of Pretoria.
“We know today is not her real birthday, and we will be celebrating her 119th birthday, but we wanted to do something nice for her now because we don’t know what God will decide between now and then,” said mayoral committee member Winnie Sono from the Bojanala Platinum District Municipality, who organised the party.
Setshedi has outlived her husband and eight of her 12 children. The family have not kept track of the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“There are too, too many,” laughed her son Alex Setshedi, who is 59 yet does not seem fazed that he is the age his mother was when she gave birth to him. While it is not impossible to become pregnant naturally over the age of 50, it is rare.
Setshedi was delighted to see her home filled with people on Saturday. Her small kitchen was filled with basins of tomatoes and huge cabbages. A cold storage room trucked in by the municipality held her large birthday cake and boxes of frozen chickens, while women in the back yard stirred enormous pots of food cooking on outdoor fires.
In the front yard youngsters put up a tent gazebo next to another white tent housing tables all neatly laid and decorated. Nearby, councillors, politicians and dignitaries gathered to socialise — occasionally entering the house to greet Setshedi as they steered clear of the newly painted walls and varnished door frames.
As the day progressed, stories about Setshedi spread. As she clapped her hands in delight and held up the top tier of her birthday cake she appeared vibrant, strong and happy. She is still able to walk with the aid of a stick.
“She says her good health comes from eating vegetables and morogo (wild spinach) every day,” said mayor Magdalene Nondzaba.
“We are so happy to do this for her. And we are happy to give all the families in the village a chicken. They are very poor.”
Setshedi’s sons say she has never been formally employed, though she did work in the fields and occasionally in the kitchen on the farm where she grew up.
“It is two mountains away from here,” said her middle son Philemon Setshedi.
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