St. Augustine, Florida, hosts the “Fountain of Youth,” but it has proven pretty stingy on doling out enteral life over the years. The idea of a living spring of water permitting people to cheat death originated with the Taino Indians. They believed the life-extending aquifer existed on the island of Bimini (in the Bahamas) and in a river situated in present-day Florida. Once the Spaniard Juan Ponce de Leon arrived on the scene in the 16th century, he became enthralled by the notion, launching a famed quest for immortality.
Considering Ponce de Leon has been dead since 1521, we can surmise the pursuit of “life eternal” (shoutout to Dracula) didn’t go as planned. But that hasn’t stopped many other humans from sharing in his dream. Now a group of scientists thinks we may be closer to breaking the longevity glass ceiling than ever before. And if one 89-year-old Japanese man has his way, above that glass is plenty of surfing.
Here’s everything you need to know about why humans may someday live twice as long as they do today and why you should consider spending those extra years hanging ten.
The Study That Challenges How We Think About Aging
In a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, a prominent French scientist, Benjamin Franklin astutely noted, “The only two certainties in life are death and taxes.” Mark Twain would promote this witty phrase into popular parlance, hitting on a truth that’s hard to deny. (Especially come mid-April!)
While there’s no way to escape death, a group of scientists believe it could be postponed. At least, that’s what their latest paper argues. (Sadly, taxes remain just as certain.) How did these researchers come to their surprising conclusion? By analyzing life and death records from 19 nations between the 18th and 19th centuries. (They made 1969 their end date.) In the process, they discovered that the mortality rates of people born after 1910 indicate there’s potential to live longer. Maybe a lot longer.
David McCarthy of the University of Georgia explains, “In most of the countries we examined, we project that the maximum age will rise dramatically in the future. This will lead to longevity records being broken in the next 40 years or so.” Not everyone agrees with this assessment, and they point to flaws in the study. These include the glaring fact that the study doesn’t account for the biology of aging. Nevertheless, it’s an optimistic message that most people can get behind. After all, who doesn’t want to believe that age is just a number?
The 89-Year-Old Surfer Who Won’t Let Age Stop Him
While the study above has surprised many people in the scientific community and the general public, Seiichi Sano of Fujisawa, Japan, isn’t among them. The 89-year-old surfer has long understood that age is a mindset, and he’s not about to give up taking life by the horns, even after nine decades. Instead of falling into the mold and behaving the way people think men his age should act, Sano has spent his advanced age adventuring.
At 89-years-old, Seiichi Sano has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the “oldest person to surf (male)” and he doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. https://t.co/j5KzyG68iq pic.twitter.com/TcCbK79hKv
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) March 31, 2023
Whether that means climbing Japan’s tallest peak, Mount Fuji, at 80 years old or catching gnarly waves while nearly in his 90s. He plans on surfing until he’s 100 and is even toying with the idea of taking up bouldering. That said, he’s no mere advanced-age adrenaline junkie. In fact, he thinks bungee jumping sounds “too scary.” So, what’s the secret to his incredible longevity and boundless energy? Mind over matter.
He notes, “I don’t consider myself an old man. I have never thought of myself as an old person. I always feel that I can still move forward. I can still do it. I can still enjoy it.” Does that mean Ponce de Leon should have been looking for a positive attitude rather than a mythical fountain? Perhaps. But one thing’s for sure, Sano is our man when it comes to #AgingGoals.
By Engrid Barnett, contributor for Ripleys.com