GROWING OLD IS THE PITS!

Ain’t it the truth!

There is a saying, “The moment you are born, you began to die”.

The world average life expectancy for men is 69.8 years and 74.9 years for women.

The U. S. average life expectancy is 74.5 years for men and 80.2 years for women. This places them at the 45th spot on the world life expectancy charts.

Closer to home, the average life expectancy for Singaporeans is 81.5 years for men and 86.1 years for women; occupying the 6th spot on the world life expectancy charts.

Malaysians aren’t far behind from the Americans. They come in at the 48th spot with the average life expectancy of 73.6 years for men and 78.5 years for women. (1)

The United Nations estimates that currently there are 573,000 centenarians, almost quadruple the 151,000 made in 2000. (2)

My mum’s sister, Aunty Diana; received a personal letter from Queen Elizabeth II congratulating her when she turned 100 in July last year (2022). Aunty Diana resides in the U.K.

In the Wikipedia listing, Malaysia has 134.68 centenarians per 100,000 people, the highest number in the world. (2)

Centenarians are increasingly becoming the norm. “Supercentenarians” or super-centenarians are people who 110 years old. There are some who have reached 115 years. Jeanne Calmant from France is the only age-verified person to have reached the milestone of 120 years (2)

So, at what age can we consider old as in “old”?

We are living in times that provide us with better living facilities, environmental friendly areas, food and methods such as exercise.

The retirement age from work for most people in Malaysia is 60 years. If their place of employment offers to extend their employment on contract for one or two years, the employees will accept.

Some employees may accept the one or two years work extension simply because they do not know what to do with their free time if they are no longer in employment.

At the point of retirement, people will have plans on how they plan to live life – a life of relaxation, taichi, travel and other things. One month…six months… 1 year goes by.

Then, the joy of relaxation wears out. How much of taichi, line dancing, mahjong, long coffee mornings at the kopitiams and travel can one enjoy? Your attention span. vision, etc., takes on new roles. You, begin to notice the short strands of cobweb strung up together at an obscure corner of the room.

You will notice every minute fault in your home that was never there before or went unnoticed all this while. Guess what? You will probably complain (a nicer word than “nag”) about it but do nothing to fix it.

I, for one; formed images of what it means to be retired and old. These formed images were based at the time on what I saw when I was growing up, in my younger and childhood days in Klang (3): The old people go for walks early in the morning for about an hour or so. They may go for walks with groups of friends. Almost inadvertently after that, they end up going for breakfast, most often, to kopitiams (4). They meet up with other friends. Conversations range from politics, share market (in the 1980s) and gossip. More often than not, they will drink tea, chinese tea i.e. (that is); at a kopitiam, not a “teatiam”. Some may opt for kopi, kopi-o and kopi-o kosong (5). However, most end up drinking tea.

At that time, I used to think it rather odd, that they would pour tea from a large aluminum teapot into a small red color clay teapot. From this red color clay teapot, they pour the tea into small red color clay cups without handles (their version of an expresso coffee?).

Another thing is I used to see some old people wash the cars of their children. My impression at that time was because they were staying with their children; they either felt obligated to do things like this or they were forced by their children to do so. PERCEPTION.

It is only years (many years later) that I learnt the reason behind this “art” of drinking tea. Quite interesting. Perhaps a topic for a future essay.

As for the washing of their children’s vehicles; these senior folk may have done this because they wanted to; that it gave them something to do.

So, what do we do from the time we retire till the time we say “sayonara” for the next world? How do we prepare a platform for a continuance of life from retirement and after, for the next 20, 25, 30 years? We should not just prepare nursing homes and basket weaving activities. We should not turn on the tv sets the whole day where it becomes the only activity. We should not just employ them to sweep floors and clean tables at fast food restaurants. All these are “consolations”, afterthoughts or kneejerk reactions.

Many of these seniors have knowledge, skills, expertise that could be put to good use. For example, an organization can be created where these seniors work with plans, ideas, solutions to help the millions of starving people around the world, disaster relief, etc. As it is, the manpower resources available now is not enough because we have heard the same story about world hunger and disaster relief time in memorial. Ideals?…lofty ideas? Maybe. Food for thought.

Life is a gift. At birth, we are not promised anything. One thing is for sure: it will be full of adventure. While people around us will work at creating a pathway for us, and succeed at that; for most of us, we will be set on centerstage, where the world is our audience to watch how we transform ourselves through this ever evolving journey. Or we will be on a platform where we draw the map and connect the dots after us at each marked point of interest. Where the next moment that has yet to come, is a journey to the unknown, or “uncharted waters” if we may, scary because we do not know what that moment that has yet to come, holds for us.

Now, where was I before I was interrupted? You put your left foot in, your right foot out, your left foot in, and shake it all about…Hang on.., hang on…, that is not Billy Ray Cyrus’ song, “Achy Breaky Heart”. Must be old age. 😉

NOTES:
1. WorldData.info, worlddata.info/life-expectancancy.php
2. Centenarian, Wikipedia, en.m.wikipedia.org
3. Klang is a city in the state of Selangor, Malaysia.
4. Kopitiam: is a popular reference among local Malaysians of a coffee house serving traditional Malay and Chinese fare.
5. Kopi is coffee, kopi-o is coffee without milk or creamer and kopi-o kosong is plain coffee – no sugar, milk or creamer.
6. I chose not to focus on illnesses, aches and pains. These cannot exclusively be associated with old-er age; as some younger people may not escape from these ailments.

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