Average life expectancy at birth in Spain is 83.2, according to 2013 OECD statistics, just a shade below the 83.4 years on average a Japanese newborn can expect to live. Most of the centenarians interviewed for the story showed a zest for life and an interest in pastimes from amateur dramatics to playing the piano. Many also continued to carry out daily duties from farm work to caring for a disabled child.
Pedro Rodriguez, 106, plays the piano every day in his flat in Asturias, where he lives with his wife who is nearly 20 years younger than him.
“The nuns taught me how to play the piano as a child,” he said. Majority of these elderly people are surrounded by family or has loved ones calling in on them daily showing how Spain continues to be a closely-knit society, where family ties are paramount. Francisco Nunez, 112, lives with his octogenarian daughter. He said that he doesn’t like the pensioners’ daycare centre because it was full of old people. When questioned about their most vivid memories, many recalled Spain’s 1936 to 1939 civil war that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths followed by the 36-year dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
Tips for long life ranged from a spoonful of honey a day to regular intake of gazpacho, a traditional cold Spanish soup made from tomatoes and cucumbers. Gumersindo Cubo, 101, puts his longevity down to a childhood spent in a house in the woods with his eight brothers and sisters, where his father was a park ranger. “It’s from inhaling the pine resin from the woods,” he said, telling of how his mother would put a jar of the resin under the bed of the sick.