I just turned 60, as one inevitably does. For major milestones like this, Marindukenyo tradition dictates that I should be honored with the traditional “Tubong” or “Putong” as it is known in my tiny heart-shaped island province. It’s a practice wherein the honoree is feted with song and dance amid a flurry of flower petals and coins, as he or she is handed a scepter and crowned with a tiara of flowers.
But the Wuhan virus spoiled all that, just as it had so many things human, like touching and hugging. I suppose the more than 400 or so greetings on my Facebook page more than made up for the transition to Senior High, as some of my contemporaries call this magical—albeit uneasy—age, and the much-awaited welcome to the Senior High Discount Club. I guess every age has its perks.
What makes me anxious, though, is not the fact that I will be causing long queues at the checkout as the cashier goes through my groceries to tick off boxes in my purchase booklet, but in the stereotypes attached to anyone who gets tagged as a senior. Not that I mind being given priority in most long queues if I am lucky, but I dread the thought of being asked if I need a wheelchair in places like the airport, for instance. Or getting that incredulous glance when onlookers see me sprinting to hit a wayward tennis ball mercilessly lobbed cross-court by my 20-year-old opponent. Can that be called prejudice or discrimination, or am I just being overly sensitive and insecure at the thought of seniorhood? I guess every age has its insecurities.
Although I am not yet retired, some of my younger friends who will sooner or later be inducted into the club talk about retirement. I quickly presented my case and stated for the record that I believe retirement is a Western concept, and so I do not subscribe to it. In fact, a quick search on the web indicated that it was in 1889 that the concept was introduced by Otto Von Bismarck to reduce youth unemployment, by asking those 70 years and above to call it quits. Otto famously said, “Those who are disabled from work by age and invalidity have a well-grounded claim to care from the state,” as quoted by Neil Pasricha in his Harvard Business Review article “Why Retirement is a Flawed Concept.”
We only need to look at countries like Japan and Vietnam where seniors are still inspiring the younger generation with their work. I guess retirement is for people who never really enjoyed their work in the first place.
If there is one extraordinary benefit of being in Senior High, it’s the way people tolerate my little “tantrums” in the form of sarcastic remarks or unsolicited feedback that I usually throw at selected government offices. More often than not, they will just ignore my grumbling, perhaps for the simple reason that I remind them of their grumpy old uncle.
To those who try their best to bear with me, I say: “Bless your cotton socks, I am a senior citizen!”
Ramoncito O. Mandia, 60, is a government employee at Marinduque State College.