Seniors in Villa Clara

Photo feature by Elio Delgado Valdes

Eustaquio Castellon

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba is the Latin America country with the oldest population, with more than 17 percent of its inhabitants 60 years of age or older. Typically this is an indicator of developed countries; however Cuba’s medical system ensures care for people from before birth until their final days, thus allowing them to live longer and healthier.

Many programs here — such as senior daycare, golden age centers and the University for the Elderly Program — ensure exercise and socialization, care during the day and intellectual stimulation.

However, it’s necessary to come up with some formula so their aren’t elderly roaming aimlessly in the streets, which — while bad in itself — also presents an image of helplessness that is far from being widespread.

According to statistics from last year (2011), Cuba had more than 1,800 centenarians. The province of Villa Clara is one of the most aged populations in the country, with 172 of its residents over a century old and 21.4 percent of its population over the age of 60.

Eustaquio Castellon, living in a rural area of the municipality of Santo Domingo, is about to celebrate his 101st year, but he keeps his mind lucid. Until he was 92 he would ride his bicycle back and forth into town.

He worked hard in the fields all his life and today his family doctor attends to him, keeping a constant eye on his health.

This photo essay shows Eustaquio and a few other seniors from that same municipality of Santo Domingo, Villa Clara.

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3 thoughts on “Seniors in Villa Clara

  • Although my information is solely anecdotal, I agree with your analysis Freud. During my years in Cuba, the elderly more than 70 years old seemed healthier than many 50-year olds. Many of them looked as young as their 50-ish children. Also striking was the high incidence of adult and juvenil asthma. During this time of year as the rainy season began, many of my Cuban friends complained of asthma attacks. The proportion of the population affected seemed higher than what I had witnessed in the US. I was told this was due to the type of air pollution in Havana, the humidity and because of poor nutrition. Children also seemed more prone to asthma. I am always entertained with Elio’s post. He has managed to highlight what is otherwise seen as a harbinger of doom for the Cuban population. That is to say, the fact that Cuba indeed has the oldest “average” population in Latin America is owed most significantly to the fact that Cuban women have the lowest birth rate. Resulting in a slightly negative population growth rate.This is also impacted by the high emigration rate of Cubans aged 18 – 35. That just leaves older Cubans to skew the national average higher. As the Cuban economy continues to wallow in inefficiency, caring for this aging population will become an even greater burden on the State. This trend also impacts housing, transportation, and agriculture. Younger people want to live in housing independent of their parents, let alone grandparents and if you are blessed to have a centenarian in your family that you live with, maybe great-grandparents. An older population demands a more efficient public transportation system as well. Finally, who will work the farms and grow the food to help make Cuba self-sufficient as the population ages? I guess Elio missed that part of the analysis.

  • Of course, most long living elderly in Cuba were raised and lived 30-35 years in pre casto Cuba when the country was one of best food producer in the world, when actual health care was born and when almost all hospitals built in Cuba were built…… this good food, the low pollution rate, the lack of stress granted by economical success and democracy, the health care and a culture of relaxation and happiness formed the ground of these people long life…… castro regime has nothing to do with such longevity, Cubans that left Cuba in the 60s and relocated in Venezuela, Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico or Honduras also lives a long life…. reality is that people born with and along Castro’s government live extremely short lives compared with their fathers and grand fathers……. pollution , that causes epidemic pulmonary diseases, extreme stress causes by repression, polarization of the society, constant insecurity caused by the regime’s terror policy, and economic misery caused by country’s destruction, heart disease caused by deficient feeding including decades of forced consumption of hydrogenated fat (the only fat regime supplied to population along 60s, 70s, and 80s), alcoholism, prostitution, drug consumption that was unknown before 1959, extreme housing deficit and double moral people had to live in order to survive made Cubans’ health weak and dependable of external factors……. of course, regime does nor release statistics about this problems but the records of Cuban funeral homes gives the whole picture: Cubans today die younger than their parents.

  • I enjoyed your story and fotos, Elio! My friend franco franco’s father, who is 91, still works every day, running a “ponchero” out of the carport of his home, on Avenida 51, near Arroyo Arenas. He opens at 6:00 a.m., and soon a group of his friends, also “jubilado,” gather around, chating as he works, and sometimes helping out. During my last visit, as we drive a rental car about 2 km. from home, we saw him walking, stopped and offered him a ride the rest of the way home, but he declined! (Such regular exercise is one of the reasons he’s still in such great shape!). During the same trip franco franco and I also visited his family’s native town of Bayamo, . The modest “shotgun shack” were his father was born in 1920 still stands, and looks is similar to the one where lives the the centenarian in your fotos.

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