Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — In Cuba, it’s no secret to anyone that the population is aging more and more as the days go by. The reasons for this are many, but there are two main ones: low birth rates, also for many different reasons, and the advances made in medicine and healthcare, which have managed to increase life expectancy from just over 60 years old before the Revolution, to almost 80 today.
Scientists have proposed and reality has proven that a human being can live up to 120 years or more. In Cuba, we have over 2,000 centenarians, many of whom still enjoy good health and therefore can aspire to reaching the 120-year-old target. However, I don’t want to live to 120 years old.
I have several reasons for not wanting to aspire to living to such an advanced age. One of them is the fact that even though there is better healthcare, you do start losing your faculties and even though you want to do things, you can’t. I recently turned 80 and both the doctor and my family have stopped me from doing lots of things. Another reason I don’t want to get so old is that you start losing family and friends and you slowly wind up alone. This last factor is something that has hit me the hardest nowadays, and I’m still far from being a centenarian.
This year, 2017, I have lost my two best friends, they were like brothers, which has left me feeling a great solitude.
I have been living in Havana for over 40 years, where I studied Journalism and where I was offered a job, but I am from a small town called Santo Domingo in the Villa Clara province. I have two sisters, two nephews and four great-nephews and nieces there, so I always travel there to see them every year to spend two or three days with them. When my parents used to live there, I would go every month and sometimes more than once a month. Back then, my family was more complete.
In that small town, I used to have many friends and comrades from past struggles and I didn’t have enough days to go and visit some of them and I would run into others on the street. I would constantly be running into friends and acquaintances, which made it hard for me to walk from one end of the town to the other very quickly. The anecdotes, stories and re-counting of times long past used to take up our time without us even noticing.
This situation has gradually been changing and I can now walk from one side of the town to the other without meeting anyone I know. Not because they’ve emigrated to another country, but because time has been writing them off, and I feel as if I am in a desert there, in the midst of great loneliness, among so many people I don’t know.
Maybe, within a few years, if I continue to have my health, my age will stop me from making those trips and I’ll have to stay in Havana where I have my children, my granddaughters and my great-granddaughters, who bring joy to my life, but I will slowly have to stop visiting them because they live a long way away from me and so I’ll have to conform to when they can visit me, from time to time, because they will have many things to do and commitments and this will limit their visits to a phone call from time to time.
Therefore, I will be alone with my wife, who I hope stays with me for a long time, or maybe I’ll find company in the new friends I’ll make in a nursing home, waiting, waiting. That’s why I don’t want to live to 120 years old.