The gift of extended time
Aging can be a daunting journey if we are to think of the trying realities that we must face along the way. As they say, aging is not for the faint of heart.
These realities include having to cope with unwanted physical changes — wrinkling, hearing impairment, disability—and other intimations of mortality. We also have to contend with being stereotyped or shrugged off as past our prime, insignificant, and outdated.
Some youngsters also have this notion that old people have lost their place and sense of purpose in this youth-centered, highly technological and fast-paced society, and that all they want to do is watch television shows all day in their wheelchairs or tumba-tumba (rocking chair).
Does aging have its redeeming grace? Does it have a brighter side?
Filomena Zamora of Pangasinan reached old age with her childhood dream still alive in her heart: She still wanted to go to school and learn to read and write.
Due to poverty, her parents were not able to send her to school when she was young. At age 66, she finally found the
opportunity to enroll in elementary school, ignoring the possibility of being ridiculed. Her indomitable spirit earned for her the respect of her classmates, teachers, and other people.
At 71, “Lola Filomena” (as she was addressed in school) graduated and moved on to high school. Her story found its way in the media, inspiring hope among other older adults with their dreams still pulsating in their hearts.
Maestro Felix refused to retire at age 62 because he wanted to continue teaching the Dumagat children in Quezon province. He had polio, but he did not mind taking long boat rides to the village to carry out his mission. A television network which learned about his noble work renovated the makeshift school and donated books and school supplies. Maestro Felix felt so happy and honored.
Creativity increases with age, as illustrated by the life of famous American folk artist Grandma Moses. She did needlework for a living, but when arthritis made it difficult for her to push and pull needles, she studied painting by herself, then sold her works in small shops. In her 80s, she gained wider notice, had her first solo art exhibit, and received an award from no less than US President Harry S. Truman. On her 100th birthday in 1960, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller proclaimed the day as “Grandma Moses Day.”
Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara was a highly esteemed Japanese physician who wrote the bestseller “Living Long, Living Good.” He was also the founder of the New Elderly Movement in Japan. According to him, the human body has 36,000 genes, and as we age, we can use the potentials of some of these genes to do new things, such as painting, sports, and music.
He believed in working beyond the retirement age as a key to a long and fulfilling life. “There is no need to retire,” he said, “but if one must, it should be much later than 65.”
Most of Dr. Hinohara’s life was spent helping others as a physician and volunteer worker. He also gave lectures on healthy and happy living and shared his wisdom even with children for whom he also wrote a musical.
He lived to 105. A few months before he passed on peacefully last July, he was still attending to patients in hospitals and teaching in college. “Don’t be crazy about amassing material things.” This was one of his best-remembered rules for living a long and happy life.
Many other inspiring stories about finding hope and fulfilling dreams in later years just show that God has unique statements to make through people who embrace aging as a gift of extended time… a time for us to take stock of our moral and spiritual lives, to rediscover who we really are in His grand scheme of things, and to be able to experience the wonder of reaching for the stars even as we watch the setting sun.
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Prosy Badiola Torrechante, 70, once attended a seminar on communicating with people with Alzheimer’s, which led her to write about growing old.
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