By Henrylito D. Tacio
THESE days, no one wants to be called “tigulang” or “matanda” (old) anymore. If you happen to attend alumni homecomings or family anniversaries, you will encounter some people who are already “past their prime” (that’s how some of them want to be called).
Now, if you meet some bald men, please don’t call them old. Instead, use the word “mature” to express your observation. Another euphemism you may want to use is “reached maturity.” And, please, abhor yourself from saying “almost old,” as what ‘Washington Post’ once labeled those people.
Former American president Bill Clinton was politically correct when he calls those using bifocals and with gray hair as “junior-seniors.” In the Philippines, we use the words “senior citizens” to separate them from “younger generations.”
In 1978, the Associated Press first used the description “near-elderly,” according to William Safire of the famed ‘New York Times.’ This “is the fatalistic term, embraced by middle-aged demographers – those from 40 to 60 or so.”
Whatever you call them, there is one definite thing: nobody can escape aging. “Aging is a simple fact of life – a stage we all lead to,” said Dr Felicitas Artiaga-Soriano, assistant head of the Department of Psychiatry at Veterans Memorial Medical Center. “After the period of young adulthood, which seems brief to many, the aging process begins.”
Some senior citizens embrace life with surprising gusto, “but most people don’t appreciate aging the way they should,” Dr Artiaga-Soriano said. “But if we acknowledge the fact that we’re going to get older and embrace the aging process, we can enjoy our lives from 60 years of age and up.”
A study conducted by the University of the Philippines showed that older folks are considered as assets and not as liabilities. For instance, the elderly can take care of the young members of the family when both parents are at work and especially those who opted to become overseas Filipino workers.
Elizabeth Arden once said: “I’m not interested in age. People who tell their age are silly. You’re only as old as you feel.” Oscar winner George Burns, who lived more than a hundred years, said “Age to me means nothing. I can’t get old; I’m working. I was old when I was twenty-one and out of work. As long as you’re working, you stay young. When I’m in front of an audience, all that love and vitality sweeps over me and I forget my age.”
Bernard M. Baruch quipped, “To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.” Bill Clinton, one of America’s youngest presidents, said: “When our memories outweigh our dreams, we have grown old.” Another US president, Thomas Jefferson, thinks otherwise: “Too old to plant trees for my own gratification, I shall do it for my posterity.”
Yes, no one wants to grow old. British playwright George Bernard Shaw declared: “We grow old because we stop playing!” American writer Washington Irving noted: “Whenever a man’s friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old.” And Hy Gardner argued: “You know you’re getting old when everything hurts. And what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work.”
C.S. Lewis penned: “When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am 50, I read them openly. When I became a man, I put away childish things – including the fear of childishness and the desire to be grown-up.” Ever heard of 10 Commandments for the Elderly?
I never knew it until I read the article which appeared in ‘Health and Home,’ a bi-monthly publication of the Seventh-Day Adventists. Allow me to share it with you:
1. Thou shalt preserve the body in the best possible condition – a brisk 30-minute walk every day is a wonderful tonic.
2. Thou shalt continue to increase thy knowledge, to anticipate retaining thy memory, and to realize that temporary misplacement of stored facts occurs at any age. Thirty minutes of challenging mental stimulation is a daily necessity.
3. Thou shalt regularly eat nutritious meals of natural, unprocessed foods – eating slightly smaller portions and selecting foods with more care. Aim for a low-fat, low-salt, high-fiber, and chemical-, alcohol-, and caffeine-free diet.
4. Thou shalt remember that characteristics developed during earlier years are simply magnified with age. Therefore, become now the kind of person thou art desirous of being.
5. Thou shalt preserve a good self-image and a healthy level of self esteem, realizing that there is no substitute for the wisdom of experience. Sharing the gift of accumulated knowledge is a priceless legacy to succeeding generations.
6. Thou shalt maintain a good sense of humor and develop the ability to laugh at thyself and the incongruities of life, realizing that a merry heart does good like a medicine – and stimulates the immune system. Cultivate a happy face; it is an instant facelift.
7. Thou shalt reminisce. Recall the good along with the bad, because this contributes to successful adjustment in the present, realizing that optimism is the oil of old age.
8. Thou shalt be realistic in thy expectations and learn to accept help graciously when it is offered. Remember that many cultures have overemphasized independence at the expense of interdependence.
9. Thou shalt not isolate thyself from family and friends, but regularly initiate contact with people of all ages. Socialization not only stimulates the mind but helps to keep life in perspective; love and caring are the secrets of growing old gracefully.
10. Thou shalt continually give thanks for munificent blessings, realizing that a grateful heart nourishes the bones and helps to prevent discouragement, illness, and depression.
Are you old, past your prime, senior citizen, matured, or of certain age? Don’t fret. Listen to the words of Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo: “Every age is modern to those who are living in it.” To which William Allen White adds: “I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.” — ###