P.D. James may have been a famous writer in the Anglo world but her Observer interview about becoming a nonagenarian seemed incredibly shallow for someone who should have acquired the wisdom of age. Or so it seemed to this lesser “generian” (to coin a new word).

I was quickly reminded of something I had read only the day before. It was one of those articles probably deemed unworthy of finding its way into the English language press, but the message was germane.

A Sardinian family found entry into the Guinness Book of Records as the “longest living family in the world,” consisting of nine siblings whose collective ages totaled 818 years.

A quick-with-the math descendant of another large family in Belluno, in Northern Italy, knew his family had to beat those numbers. Sure enough, when Antonio Perenzin, one of 24 descendants added up the ages of his 10 aunts and uncles (his father had died in a work-related incident), all siblings on his father’s side, he came up with 846 years collectively. Their ages run from 72 to 100 for the two males and eight females whose average age is 84.6 years.

All are in good health, having long ago witnessed war, death and misery. They had lost three siblings many years before: one at an early age, another in war and the third in a work accident in Switzerland.

The oldest is Melinda Perenzin who celebrated her centennial last May. The youngest member is Vittoria, who for many years has been a missionary in the Congo. One sister lives in Milan, another in Verona. The seven others live in the small mountainous villages around Belluno. Collectively they have 24 children, 36 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

“What is the secret of the long life of your aunts and uncles?” Antonio was asked. His response: “The secret of longevity? Healthy living and healthy food!” As farmers his aunts and uncles ate the fruits of their land, breathed the clean and pure Alpine air and were fortunate to be blessed with good heath and caring for one another. “No particular secret” he added.

Antonio and his cousins are contacting the Guinness Book of World Records to see if they can claim the world record for family longevity.

The 10 smiling faces in the accompanying picture are indeed the “picture” of health – and happiness too!

Death? Euthanasia? The article never mentioned the words. This is a family that understands life!

Vincenzina Santoro is an international economist. She represents the American Family Association of New York at the United Nations.

Vincenzina Santoro is an international economist. She represents the American Family Association of New York at the United Nations.