Grandma, 113, reveals her secret to long life: Supercentanarian attributes her longevity to respect for God, her elders and her love of wild fruit.



Johanna Tutasn !Howaes, who was born on January 2, 1903 to housekeeper Amalia #Nuses and cattle herder Johannes #Khamseb at Farm Hausemann in //Hae //Goab in Otavi district, personifies longevity.

A supercentenarian is someone who has lived to or passed his or her 110th birthday. This age is achieved by about one in 1 000 centenarians and is thus very rare.

New Era visited Johanna !Howaes and asked her to share the secret to a long life.
“If you want to be old, like me, respect your elders and God will bless you,” advised !Howaes, who at 113 years old lives with her daughter and granddaughter at Otjiwarongo.

Her parents had worked at a farm that belongs to German-speaking Namibians where they raised her with her five siblings, three of whom are still alive.

“Truly speaking, if you respect your elders then you will live many years like me. Don’t insult your elders. Nowadays children are way too clever,” !Howaes opined.

She says since she was born she never smoked, although she tasted alcohol, a habit she kicked when she reached 40.
“Smoking and alcohol make you feel great, but they are not [good]. They are two evil twins that can destroy your life,” advises !Howaes, who is no longer able to walk because of her advanced age.

The 113-year-old revealed her old age can also be atrributed to her passion for wild fruit, which she ate during her younger days.
!Howaes says she ate //U, //Haie (wild potatoes), //Haba, #Hou, //Hari, #Hu-di and Doroli in the areas of Komkandi, Visfinger and Tsausabis in the Otavi area.

The elderly lady was married out of President Hage Geingob’s mother, //Haiba Geingos’ house at Otavi and she vividly remembers her wedding.

“Oooh, it was so beautiful. I arrived on a cattle-drawn cart and a lot of cattle were slaughtered. After that I went back to our farm,” she reminisced with her eyes sparkling.

While !Howaes speaks her granddaughter, Albertine ‘Ousie Blom’ !Hoaes, smiles and nods: “She has a great memory. What a blessing we have, thank you Lord.”

Wild fruits are healthy and tasty, besides they were what was mostly available to them as kids, !Howaes recalls. Before she stopped walking earlier this year she used to wake up at 06h00 every morning to make fire at their home in Damara location.

“She likes to wake up early in the morning to make tea, as well as light porridge for her great grandchildren,” !Hoaes confirms.
“If there was no fire wood available she would clean the fireplace and sit there and if one sees her you would feel guilty and rather go buy firewood,” her granddaughter said.

!Hoaes further says their grandmother never waited for others to prepare her tea or to cook for her. She says her grandmother sewed her own dresses and bed linen with a needle until last December.

“She loves to sew her dresses and bed linen by herself. Even the dress she is now wearing was made from material given to her by her great granddaughter,” Hoaes says.

!Howaes has 31 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren, plus one great-great grandchild.
She has stopped eating solid food and now lives on bananas, yoghurt, polony, and Omaere, which at times is hard for her family to afford.

“She only eats certain food for a day and after that does not like it. We slice polony into small pieces. We will appreciate if people can assist us with food she can eat,” said !Hoaes, who works at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Otjiwarongo.

She lives in a room gifted to her by one of her great grandchildren. According to !Hoaes, her previous room was too small as !Howaes receives many visitors every day and also likes to sleep with her great-great children and grandchildren when they visit.

The room is lit with a hunting lamp that uses batteries since she does not like too much light. !Howaes’ daughter Josephine !Hoaes says people who have elders must respect them and care for them.

“For me, it is a blessing to have my elderly mother alive and be there for me every day. She is God’s gift to us,” !Hoaes says.
On gender based violence, !Howaes said during her days women and children were not killed like animals.

“It is very hard, very hard. During our times people were not killed like animals by their men, but nowadays for simple things they are slaughtered,” !Howaes said.

Bernhard Tsanigab, 66, vice president of the Senior Citizens Movement of Namibia says the elderly, such as !Howaes must be sought out as vital sources of oral history.

“Such people sit with vast knowledge of our history and the media must search for them and inform the public about them,” Tsanigab said, noting that the responsibility must not lie with government and the families only, but non-governmental organisations and businesspeople must assist where they can.

Tsanigab and his delegation visited !Howaes in March.
!Howaes today resides at a farm in Fransfontien near Khorixas, where she planted mealies and watermelon before Independence, but she later moved to Otjiwarongo after her husband, Jeremiah !Howaeb – to whom she was married for more than 50 years – died.

!Howaes never attended school and instead helped her mother on the farm. She described her parents’ German employers as good people with kind hearts.

Otjiwarongo, incidentally, is also home to Ellie Uxams, a 107-year-old resident.


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