By FLORANGEL ROSARIO BRAID
“We are living longer than we have planned for….And with new opportunities in life, our expectations have increased. ” This observation was made by the editor of Bloomberg Media Studies who also noted that over the last 150 years, life expectancy has increased by two to three years each decade. But, while we may be living longer, older individuals are not necessarily aging well.
Globally, the number of those within 60 and above is expected to grow five times faster than those who are younger. This trend has far-reaching implications, especially for government which would have to allocate more resources for healthcare and other forms of security as well as the educational system which has to meet “multiple-career demands as retired career persons will need new skills to be able to re-enter the world of work. The trend is also expected to reduce gender inequality and transform personal relationships,
Asia, led by Japan and South Korea, where the pace of aging is happening rapidly, is expected to have the oldest population in the world.
Longevity, according to the UN is one of the most significant transformations of the 21st century. But this success is worthless if the quality of life is compromised because of health reasons and loss of autonomy.
Our government has been responsive in many ways as shown by the Senior Welfare Act and several initiatives like the special privileges and discounts given to seniors for medicines, hospitalization, transportation, access to cultural events. and special lanes in government offices and even grocery stories. But much more needs to be done in expanding welfare and wellness centers. The latter includes additional health and insurance coverage and providing wider choices and availability of homes for the elderly in the light of rising needs of senior citizens to live independently.
A proof that our seniors are living longer and enjoying productive lives is illustrated by two women. One is a close friend, former diplomat Polly Cancio who is now 93. I met Polly 45 years ago in Sri Lanka where she was our embassy consular officer, and my matron of honor during my wedding. She served in various capacities in Jakarta, Cairo, Honolulu, and New Zealand until her retirement as chief of mission with the rank of ambassador. What explains her longevity is that she continues to be active, participating in various public affairs gatherings with other retired diplomats. She plays mahjong, and at 90, published her personal memoirs which were co-written with daughter Honolulu-based executive Theresia McMurdo. For almost three years now, we have been taking art classes at Sunshine Place. We communicate via email and Facebook where she posts positivity stories.
The other is 94-year-old Honorata Vicencio, an online friend who said she reads my Bulletin column. Like two other columnists who are likewise her email friends, I have never met her personally. But her outlook, the desire to share opinions on national issues, is remarkable. From Polly and “Ate,” I learned a valuable lesson — that “establishing relationships, reaching out, and staying connected”and contemplation are necessary prerequisites for healthy and happy aging. She shared this piece which I thought is also a lesson by itself.
When the Zen Master attained enlightenment, he wrote the following to celebrate It.
“Oh, wondrous marvel
I chop wood! I draw water from the well,”
For most people there is nothing to wonder at such prosaic activities as drawing water from the well or chopping wood,
After enlightenment, nothing really changes. Everything remains the same. Only now, your heart is full of wonder.
The tree is still a tree; and people are just what they are before; and so are you, and life goes on no differently.
You may be as moody or even-tempered just as wise before. There’s one major difference: now you see all these things with a different eye. You are more detached from it all, and your heart is full of wonder.
That is the essence of Contemplation: the sense of WONDER.
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