SOMETIMES, my wife and I find ourselves having difficulty accepting that we have arrived at this chronological stage of our lives.
“Whatever happened to those years?” is our shared plaintive refrain. “Can you believe we are this old?”
It’s as if we jumped-cut from an early sequence to a later sequence of a movie. There seems to be a big gap. Where did all the other scenes in-between go? Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flew the days?
Naturally, the mind resists and shifts defensively to denial mode: “You’re not old; you feel young.” But the body slaps the mind back to reality. Again and again. Resistance or denial is futile, it says to the mind. Deal with it and all the pain that goes with it. Ouch.
At first, I thought of using the word “ambushed” in the title of this article, but on second thought, I went with “surprised” because, from another perspective, the senior age can spring welcome surprises along the way.
In my sphere of work, which is the business of advertising and marketing communications, people are biased or condescending toward anybody who is past 50. Brand managers want to be serviced only by gen X or millennials as if senior creatives have nothing more to give. Just like with old objects, the general attitude in our youth-oriented culture is to discard them, replace them with new ones. Retire the seniors; replace them with the young.
The door being closed, I have looked for new doors to open. As Victor Frankel said, “What counts is not what life does to you; it’s what you do with what life does to you.”
With this decision to plod on, I have made a lot of unexpected discoveries and gained new knowledge and kindled new passions, new avocations, and new interests which wouldn’t have happened if I were still a youthful employee working from 9 to 6, five days a week in an enclosure called the Office.
For one thing, I have stopped commuting by car and learned to walk. I park my dilapidated car in an open parking lot (sometimes for free, and sometimes with a fixed parking fee), and I ride public transportation. Of course, I go through the hassles of elbowing and being squeezed, but with an attitude of an open mind and heart, willing to absorb anything and everything, I find the experience enlightening. I have become a mindful observant of human behavior and traits. I discover the realities of being an ordinary Filipino.
The golden years have given me the freedom not only to wander, but also to wonder once more. With more time in my hands, I take leisurely walks to Binondo, Avenida Rizal, Carriedo and other old haunts of my college days. I have once again relished the taste of my favorite siopao and lumpia in old Quiapo.
I have more time to pay attention, which Buddhists like to call “mindfulness.” I am not pressured by deadlines or working hours. That frees me to do something else and to pursue new things or whatever I had put aside before because of my former life as a time-bound career professional.
Best of all, my body has benefited from long hours of walking on pavements and climbing footbridges.
Seniors like me should look at this stage in our life as an opportunity for building a new-found power. I am talking about an advocacy of senior empowerment. Instead of lamenting our sorry state and moping that we have been cast aside as old and useless, let’s show the world we are not done yet and that we have more to give to humankind!
For one, we can enhance the newly emerging science of gerontology or geriatrics. Our collective experience can build a body of valuable knowledge that can help doctors and scientists gain more insights and open new pathways to the discovery of new drugs, new practices, new ways to alleviate or even cure knee problems, enhance memory and so on. It could probably even bring down the cost of medicines for geriatrics.
Going beyond senior discount cards and other senior-oriented benefits and privileges, why not organize Chambers of Senior Advisers, or initiate senior-driven business ventures or create a whole new blue ocean or business niche for seniors that have not yet been thought before?
Seniors can not only be a big market, but a powerful voice for the many.
Power to the seniors! “May asim pa,” as we say in the vernacular.