By Jejomar C. Binay
Former Vice President
Longevity and health experts now agree that 70 is the new 50. My generation, referred to as baby boomers, are living longer and still mentally and physically active at our age. Paul McCartney of the Beatles will embark this year on a concert tour of the United States. Not bad for a 75-year-old.
Then you have the late Washington Sycip, who until his death last week at 96, kept a work schedule that put younger people to shame. He had seen the country rise from the ashes of war, and personally witnessed the rise and fall of companies, governments and presidents. Wash Sycip not only had a front seat to Philippine history but lived it and made it.
So if 70 is the new 50, then 100 may be called the new 80. In Makati, we have 20 centenarians as of this year, and some of them continue to live happy, productive lives.
In 2012, the Makati city government initiated another first in a long list of benefits and recognitions to the elderly: It began giving P100,000 cash gift for centenarians.
Since the program began, 42 centenarians have been honored by the city. For this year, P326.2 million has been allocated by the city government for its yearly cash gifts to seniors and centenarians.
Four years after the Makati program began, in July, 2016, a national law granting a P100,000 cash incentive and additional benefits and privileges to Filipino centenarians was signed.
Republic Act 10868 grants Filipinos who reach the age of 100 a P100,000 cash gift and a congratulatory letter from the President of the Philippines.
They will also be awarded a plaque of recognition and additional cash gift from their respective city or municipal governments. The law sets September 25 of every year as National Respect for Centenarians Day.
An estimated 3,500 Filipinos aged 100 and older are expected to benefit from the Centenarian Act. The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) were signed earlier this month.
Again, Makati is thankful that one of its exclusive benefits for the elderly are now being extended to senior citizens nationwide.
For centuries, man has searched for the secret to longevity. It has become a cottage-industry of sorts, with all these books, fad diets, vitamins and supplements being peddled to people above 60 years old. For some, longevity has turned into an obsession, fuelled by a longing to continue living their years of easy-going youth while trying to defy the physical toll that ageing takes on their bodies. This reminds me of the words of actor and comedian Woody Allen: “You can live to be 100 if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be 100.”
An online article written by Tony Dearing for NJ.Com cited recent research that shows “a significant number of older adults continue to enjoy good health and quality of life well into their 80s and beyond.”
“Some decline occurs as we age; that’s inevitable. But research is showing that the decline can be less acute than previously thought, less tied to chronological age, and well within the ability of all of us to slow down the decline, based on the lifestyle choices we make,” the article said.
It quoted Dr. Thomas Cavalieri, a founder of the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at Rowan University, as saying: “People can age well… People can live into their 80s and 90s and beyond and be active and functional.”
But is there a secret to long life? Has the mythical fountain of youth been found? If you listen to Makati centenarians, there is nothing magical or mystical behind their longevity. Just plain and simple habits. They are examples of “succesful aging,” elderly people who remain mentally sharp and physically active even at their advanced age. And here are some of their secrets:
Margarita Ugarte, who will turn 102 in November, said she has maintained a healthy lifestyle all throughout her life by eating a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and fish. On special occasions, she enjoys a glass of wine.
Romarico Vitug attributes his long life to having an active mind and healthy body. A lawyer and accountant, Vitug keeps his mind alert by computing the taxes of all his family members up to this day. He is also an avid reader and solves crossword puzzles.
Avelina Gil, who turned 100 last May, said she continues to write daily. During the prime of her life, she was an educator, a writer, and an author.
Other Makati centenarians attribute their longevity to daily exercise like walking, having a positive outlook and cheerful disposition, and living a vice-free life.
With these simple habits, added with advances in science and medicine, expect the number of centenarians to increase in the coming years.
And Makati will continue providing them the pampering they deserve. As I have said in my previous column, we make no excuses for pampering our elderly. They deserve it, especially our centenarians who were there when Makati was still a sleepy, small riverside town. They have seen Makati grow from a “worthless swampland” to the country’s financial center extending to its citizens the benefits and services they deserve as taxpayers. And during their youth, they have been part of this growth as taxpayers and citizens.
Why live to be 100, you may ask? If you are a citizen of Makati, why not?