Saturnino de la Fuente: Meeting Luck Halfway
Episode #10 of the course Secrets to a long life: A study of the world’s oldest people by John Robin
Welcome to the final lesson of our course on long life!
Yesterday we met María Capovilla, and learned about the importance of working on our fitness. Today, to close the course, we are going to meet our final supercentenarian, to take away a final lesson on the secrets of long life and equip you with everything you need to know to be on your way to tapping into your potential.
Saturnino de la Fuente: 111 and Counting
As of December 2020, today’s supercentenarian man is about one month short of turning 112. Despite some as-yet unverified disputes, he is generally regarded to be the oldest living man alive today.
All his life, Saturnino de la Fuente lived in the same province in Spain—León, on the northwest coast, known for the famous Camino de Santiago walk. He has spent more than 111 good years there, working as a shoemaker.
Saturnino has eight children, and as of his 110th birthday, six of them were still living. He celebrated with all of them at his side, including 14 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren. Despite in-progress disputes on his exact age, Saturnino is nonetheless undisputedly the oldest man in Spain, and as of June 27, 2020, the oldest man in Europe.
His birthday is on February 8. Right now as I write this final lesson, it is January 1st, 2021. This means, in 39 days, with good luck and blessing, you may find a Google search that brings up articles commemorating Saturnino’s 112th birthday.
If you’re curious, of course, the oldest validated living man is Albano Aldrade of Portugal, born December 14, 1909. I mention this because the Gerontology Research Group is ever in motion working on validating its claims, so as a student keen on learning more about longevity, you might want to pay attention to him as well as Saturnino, as front-runners in the race to claim the spot as world’s oldest living man.
And of course, as you will remember from Lesson 2, they still have a few years to go before they beat Jiroemon Kimura’s 116 years.
Saturnino’s Longevity Lesson
When asked how he has lived so long, Saturnino said simply: “I’m lucky.”
Indeed, his life story reflects a degree of luck. In 1937, during a now-famous plane crash, when the Condor Legion crashed on La Rúa street, it nearly crushed Saturnino, who was nearby.
He also has had great luck with his health. Even at age 111, he was yet to be on any medications. When briefly hospitalized for gallbladder colic in 2019, after doctors told him he would need penicillin, he couldn’t recall what that was—he only recalled the large tubes that used to be required to administer it in his youth, and was surprised they could now be delivered in pill form!
Whereas we’ve seen our supercentenarians so far lead active lives full of some sort of drive, or inertia, Saturnino presents a notable contrast. After every meal, he falls asleep for about 2 hours. He spends a lot of time sitting, and eats anything he’s given without fuss.
Yet frequently, he will awaken to his loving family and enjoys many a wedding or celebration with them. And, even at 111, he has a sharp mind, as anyone who has challenged him at a game of cards will testify!
When asked by interviewers what makes him happiest, he pointed to his daughter Angelines, with whom he presently lives. And, rather than worrying about when their beloved father, grandfather, and great-grandfather might pass away, his family all looks forward to “when the cake will arrive.”
As of 2020, he has adopted the nickname, “the oldest grandfather in the province.”
Saturnino’s study helps us wrap up our course because it makes us stop to consider, generally, why most longevity claims are misleading.
We have learned that verifying long-lived men and women is a relatively new science. As such, we have not been able to run proper longitudinal studies tracing different diets and lifestyles of men and women from their 20s and 30s, all the way through to those who live past 100.
Most often, when you hear claims about something that is “proven” to make you live longer, it comes either from a company trying to sell the product, such as supplements, or a blog or message board where these so-called “tips” spread without proper fact-checking.
In fact, however long you might live is down to luck and most factors you cannot control. What’s definitely true is that the better you can take charge of your diet and fitness, engage in proactive habits, reduce stress, and increase relaxation, the better you can stack the deck.
From Saturnino, we take away the one-word trait: luck.
And with that one trait, we can tie together everything we have learned.
Think of your life path from this day forward as the one you can meet halfway. You cannot control the luck of the draw, but you can take charge of good strategy, and play your hand in a way that makes you proud.
When the day does come for your obituary to be read, whatever number may be appended to your age, may there be other more important adjectives remembered by those who fondly recall you—determined, disciplined, calming, laughing, accepting, resilient, positive, going with the flow, active, and lucky. Lucky to have the love of those who surround you, lucky for the many happy moments and memories left behind in those who will continue on and be inspired in their own lives, to live long and happy like you.
This completes our course! I hope you are inspired, full of insight, and that you will share this course with others so they can be inspired too. I wish you long life, good health, and happiness, and may your journey on a path to discovery continue, from this day forward!
I love hearing from my students. If you have questions about this course or ideas for a future course, please send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturnino de la Fuente blowing out the candles of his 111th birthday cake, surrounded by family.
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