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Embracing the challenges of getting old

Arranza

Getting old is a blessing because it is a privilege denied to many. It is a gift because we become wiser with each passing year. Although I do not regret growing old, I can’t help but feel the weight of 75 summers bringing with them uncomfortable realities. Gray hair aside, old age makes us feel helpless, weak, and oftentimes absent minded, like a zombie walking and acting mindlessly. Body aches set in and we feel the need for crutches­—not just for our physical self but also for our mind. If we become forgetful, we want to be constantly reminded; if we become weak, we need somebody to assist us.

Growing old changes many things in our body, including our hair, teeth, skin, eyesight, and bones. We become weak even in character. Being off-guard, we become vulnerable to give away our precious things.

As we grow old, we value loyal relationships, honest and dedicated assistants and helpers, and uncomplicated workloads. We crave for a simple lifestyle. Slumber is a good thing for us—our comfort zone.

At age 75, I already have problems with my eyes. I am getting injections on both eyes for retina swelling because of leaking fluids. I had them lasered to stop the bleeding. Back pains come and go, depending on my uric acid levels. I’m delaying my front tooth extraction because I might lose my sweet smile. Some years back, I had my discolored teeth capped, each with ceramic crowns. The front teeth must now be removed because root canal is not possible. It might affect my brain, the dentist said. I am taking maintenance medicine for my heart as I have erratic blood pressures. I needed to adjust my medicine intake for the sudden fluctuations and surges. Since I’m diabetic, I’m taking daily insulin injections. I am also trying to control my tension and stress to have a desirable and pleasant feeling. Because of my medicine intake, I came to embrace the necessity of going to the bathroom often.

Aging comes with the challenge to fight the gravitational forces. But when we feel weak and lazy, we just want to sleep or lie down, not thinking particularly of anything. Inactivity has its price—we lose muscle strength and firmness. Noticing these changes, we begin to panic and our options are either to do drastic exercises to revive weak muscles, take our vitamins, or do nothing and just accept our losing battle.

As we grow old, we sometimes become impatient. We want things done our way. Our stubbornness as “an older person who knows it all” takes over. We become irritable and blame others when things do not go well. No wonder some people think we are arrogant, conceited and over-bearing. Thankfully, I am not on that level…maybe not yet.

There are things we need to accept as we grow old. For one, we lose control of our visceral muscles. Some of us need adult diapers to avoid any disposal accident, and some of us prefer not going out anymore for this reason.

When we grow old, we realize that gradually our physical realm is being taken away from us—like good eyesight that becomes hazy and dim. Then our memory fails us—we can’t remember where we put things, or we can’t remember people’s names.

Growing old makes us cling to things that are precious to us, including things that are valuable or expensive, which we think can give us power or elicit respect. When my Dad in his old age lost his most valuable possession—his diamond ring that he often puts on top of his bedside table when he retires at night, he was shocked, maybe traumatized. The incident killed his spirit. That was the time he got so lost, angry, sad, and really began to deteriorate fast physically. The one who stole his ring also stole everything from him, and my Dad just wanted to die. The ring represented his happiness and pride. When he lost it, he can’t trust anyone anymore.

The Covid-19 pandemic is causing a lot of pain to seniors like me. The authorities fear that senior citizens are most susceptible to virus infection. Many facilities like malls, restaurants, public markets are off limits to seniors, even if they are already open to younger age groups. How can we buy food and things we need if we have no young companions since we seniors who are still strong are quite independent and want to do things our way. There is a law about kasambahays that provides all the benefits to them. And since many seniors have very limited income or pension, they can’t afford to hire a kasambahay. Where then do these seniors get help?

Before the pandemic, seniors like me love to socialize so we can forget our problems and release our tension. Now, nobody but family members are allowed to visit us. The elderly feel so lonely and isolated in the time of the pandemic.

Being a senior is more complicated than people think. Inadequate and feeble, seniors become the target of abuse, inconsideration, neglect and bullying. Since their strength is gone, they have no way to fight. They just accept the pain inflicted on them.

Being strong, disciplined, and independent in their younger days, the over-ripe seniors have become dependent on their family. For some lucky ones, their savings or retirement money become so precious because there is no more replenishment or augmentation. As such, some people think of these seniors as selfish, thoughtless and mean.

Senior citizens are more scared now and can hardly adapt to the fast-paced life brought about by digitalization and new technologies. The new technology being presented to older people, like the operating process of a simple laptop, can be daunting to them. That’s because the senior brain can’t remember instructions so well. These new gadgets may bring so much joy to younger people, but to the elderly, they’re definitely no laughing matter. 

The author is a former Licensed Realtor in the Philippines and in the USA. She now has her own company dealing on real-estate business.

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