When I walk around places, I like to play a face guessing game. I pick out a random stranger’s face and guess their age. Of people I come to know their ages later, I have a surprisingly good success rate, and only extremely neanimorphic faces throw me off, (that’s people that look younger than they actually are). Faces are interesting, there’s oval ones, square ones, diamond ones, and even heart-shaped ones, with aquiline noses, or button ones, or fleshy ones complemented by full, or thin lips.

I didn’t see a lot of old faces when I was growing up. There weren’t too many old people where I lived, there’d only been one or two really old people, (about 80 years and older). statistically, as of last year, Kenya’s life expectancy was 66 years, which is pretty low for a developing country like ours that doesn’t struggle with natural disasters or the lifestyle diseases that come with development. Hong Kong has the best life expectancy at 85, and 53 in countries like the Central African Republic is the worst, (In Kenya, your 50s is the age where you’ve just started getting a little bit more money because your kids are moving out, and that would really suck)

Why is our life expectancy so low then? Granted, we do have one of the most incompetent regimes in the world, which means we spend hours in traffic, have toxic ingredients in our food and get attended to by overworked and underpaid doctors. Still, why don’t we see more older people in our urban neighbourhoods, and nowadays, even in upcountry? Off the search bar results on google I got the following reasons; poverty, bad diets and lack of exercise, capitalism, and bad living conditions.  


Man, this is straight forward, and sad. On  a personal level, I’ve lived with toothaches for a few days too long as I waited to get the money needed to rid me of it. However, that’s nothing compared to the people who refuse to go to the hospital even with blinding migraines, or bruised joints after hit and runs because they can’t afford the ER costs. Poverty really robs us of our lives. for context, a study in America showed that the wealthiest top 1 percent of men live 14.6 years longer on average than the poorest 1 percent of men, while among women in those wealth percentiles, the difference is 10.1 years on average. Imagine Kenya now, where the wealth gap is even greater and access to health services is hinged on the contents of one’s bank account. It’s very sad!


With life so expensive, a recommended diet is a dream in many homes, where satiety (quantity) is prioritized over nutritional value (quality). A heaping plate of stripped-down maize meal, and kales, is the go-to meal, and the monotony is only broken when a ‘deal’ comes through or it’s Christmas. White meats, especially seafood, which are healthier, are out of bounds for large sections of the populace. Same as the playing fields which would be used to keep our internal organs running better, get our minds emptied of stress, and prolong our lives, but have now been grabbed by the same politicians we fight over. Another study found that all-cause mortality is decreased by about 30% to 35% in physically active, as compared to inactive subjects. Work out if you can


You probably didn’t think I was going to blame the absence of old people on capitalism, but ask around..I have no shame! Capitalism means that sick days are often used for funerals and actual medical emergencies are postponed until it’s almost too late. The fear of losing a job, through absence or being late, often is responsible for late nights and super early mornings. Add calloused hands, the eternal fear of a boss’ phone call or bad review, working on weekends and missing out on rest, good sex and time with loved ones, and death is not too far off. Britain’s NHS in a study revealed that “sleeping less than six hours a night makes you 12% more likely to die prematurely than someone who sleeps up to eight hours”. Damn, I’m not just another bitter human, capitalism is out here actually killing people!


Man, the ghettoes in Africa are built differently. Little or no water, too many kids and not enough parents, poor sanitation, unemployment, illiteracy and lack of exposure, drugs, and vices around the corner. The smoke, the peer pressure to conform or be seen as ‘snobbish’ has people cutting years off their lifespan. The trio of capitalism, poverty, lack of good food, and exercise is capped off by the poor living conditions in most places. There’s external factors, like our traffic accident statistics, ravaging cancer epidemic, and non-communicable diseases. These issues, coupled with the internal stress and unresolved traumas that a lot of people struggle with, work to ensure that Kenya and other poorly governed countries are no countries for old people.


I am really good at that game btw, (this is me trying to get you off that sad read). So good, I think if there was a trivia for it, I’d be winning that game and not doing assignments for American students. Sigh, I’d wish to end by saying, “hopefully, a regime will come in that will extend our country’s life expectancy to at least 80” but we all know that’s a mirage at this point. So eat good, (s)exercise a lot and go for therapy. Also, go Bobbi Wine!

Categories: Medium Reads


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