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Old is gold

When my husband turned 60, he wasted no time getting his senior citizen ID, that mighty ticket to the legislated perks for the elderly. When he finally had it, he waved it proudly in my face, as if to say, “Now, I’m an entitled old man!”

Not in my case. Although I absolutely had no misgivings about being a senior, I just didn’t have the motivation or the inclination to apply for a senior citizen ID. Back then, I didn’t think it would be of much use to me, or that I would be missing out on life’s blessings if I didn’t have one.

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But I changed my mind when my mother, who was then 83 years old, persuaded me to get an ID. Perhaps she found it alarming that some time had passed since I turned 60, and I still hadn’t lifted a finger to obtain something so integral to the life of the “old lady” I had become. Thanks to her, I finally got to enjoy the benefits and privileges to which senior citizens are entitled.

It is really heartwarming that, aside from discounts, priority lanes are provided for seniors in private and government establishments to shorten their waiting time. These lanes not only expedite a senior’s transactions, but also make them feel valued and special.

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After shopping at a mall in the thick of the Christmas rush one evening, I went to a taxi stand for the ride home. I agonized at how long I would have to stand in line and endure the discomfort, especially since incoming taxis were getting scarce by the minute. But my fears were soon allayed when the taxi stand attendant asked us seniors to move to the head of the line, where seats were provided to make our wait comfortable.

Just as important as the legislated perks which an ID allows seniors to enjoy are the heartwarming entitlements, the simple courtesies that do not require documentary proof. The wrinkled face, gray hair and slow gait are enough evidence that one is over the hill. While not everybody loves the elderly (many think they are debilitated, irrelevant, unworthy of attention), there are those who treat them with kindness and respect.

So uplifting were the times when young people gave up their seat for me in a crowded bus, or when a young lady, who was ahead of me in a long restroom queue, asked me to go before her because she understood my urgency. And there was that time when, as I was making my way with great difficulty, bags in hand, to the departure area in a jam-packed passenger terminal, the guard stealthily moved the railing a bit to allow me and another senior to pass through the side entrance and avoid all that pushing and shoving.

I read somewhere that people are horrified at the prospect of getting old because it equates with bad health, bad looks, dependency, disability, even degradation. But old age is inevitable; we can run but cannot hide away from it. As the years roll by, the cells in our body just wear out and deteriorate, and all those antiaging drugs and cosmetic procedures to wall off aging will not be of much help.

In “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Mitch Albom writes, “If you’re always battling against growing older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it’s going to happen anyhow.”

Rather than cursing what we cannot control, we must recognize and accept the fact that getting old, with all its physical and mental difficulties, is a natural part of the cycle of life. In the meantime, let’s thank God for taking us this far in our journey, and enjoy the perks of olderhood while we can.

Delia T. Combista, 66, is a retired college professor.

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