from Spainís centenarians on how to live to 100
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[January 03, 2017]
By Andrea Comas
CANGAS DE ONIS, Spain
(Reuters) - With more than 100,000 people aged 100 or
over, Spain is the country with the greatest life
expectancy after Japan, OECD data and the latest
population census shows.
Over a year, Reuters photographer Andrea Comas interviewed
and photographed Spaniards aged 100 or more across the country
from the green-hilled northern region of Asturias to the
Balearic island of Menorca.
Average life expectancy at birth in Spain is 83.2, according to
the latest OECD statistics made available in 2013, just a shade
below the 83.4 years on average a Japanese newborn can expect to
Most of the men and women Comas interviewed 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 the living
room of his flat in Asturias, northern Spain, where he lives
with his wife who is nearly 20 years younger than him. Their
daughters visit them often.
"The nuns taught me how to play the piano as a child," he said
after giving a rendition of a Spanish waltz.
The majority of these elderly people were surrounded by family
or had loved ones calling in on them daily showing how Spain
continues to be a closely-knit society, where family ties are
Francisco Nunez, 112, is the oldest person Comas interviewed. He
lives with his octogenarian daughter in his house in Badajoz,
south-western Spain. He says he doesn't like the pensioners'
daycare center because it's full of old people.
"He hasn't had to leave his home. I'm single and I live here
with him," says daughter Maria Antonia Nunez, 81, as she adjusts
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When questioned about their most vivid memories, many recall Spain's
1936 to 1939 civil war which set neighbor against neighbor and
resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths followed by the 36-year
dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
Pilar Fernandez, 101, suffered hunger and hardship during the war
years alongside her nine brothers and sisters. To avoid history
repeating itself, she limited herself to one child.
"From pure fear, I didn't have any more," says the sprightly woman
who lives with her daughter's family in Asturias and tends livestock
and a vegetable garden.
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, from Avila, 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 where I lived as a
child," he says, telling of how his mother would put a jar of the
resin under the bed of the sick.
(Writing by Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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