Cuba’s surprising number of centenarians

World Today

You might not think a country known for its cigars and rum could also be famous for longevity. Cuba has more than 2000 people aged 100 or older.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue spoke to some of these centenarians to learn their secrets to a long life.

Argeo Aguilera recites a 19th century poem by Guatemalan poet, Ismael Cerna, with ease. It’s a skill he acquired 90 years ago.. when his father challenged him to memorize a book of poems in exchange for a horse.

Argeo was born in Cuba on January 1st 1913, making him a young, 104 years-old.

He said his healthy lifestyle – no drinking and no smoking – are just two reasons why he’s lived so long.

And then there are the daily walks his active social life and an interest in current events that helps keep his mind active .

Argeo lives in the home he built in 1958, with his son-in-law and daughter.

“She is my life, she is my everything.. my doctor, my nurse, everything. I live for her. She is my utmost everything,” Aguilera said.

Cuban health officials said staying active and managing stress is key to leading a long and healthy life.

If census data is anything to go by, they know what they’re talking about. Cuba is in the Global Top Ten for countries with the highest percentage of people, per capita, over the age of 100.

“Centennials generally end up being people with low incomes who live in communities who live a healthy life. They eat healthy food that they themselves have produced. They sleep well and they are far from stress and noise that we see in the modern world,” said Dr. Raul Gonzalez, President of Caribbean Medical Association.

In Cuba, there are enough 100 year-olds to form a club that celebrates this milestone and encourages members to reach the 120-year mark.

“If we create a program and put together a plan and if we implement all the advances of science, man can reach the 120 years of age,” Gonzalez said.

At this 14th International Seminar for Longevity, assistants don’t just share the secrets of a long life but a quality one.

“Motivation for life.. you have to have a desire and a reason to live,” Professor Ricardo Selman, Founder of Caribbean Medical Association said.

They have graced our planet for the past century. Argeo Aguilera recites poems of love, heartache and laughter-reasons for living…no matter how old you are.