Age gracefully, learn endlessly | Inquirer Opinion
With Due Respect

Age gracefully, learn endlessly

Today is the 10th day after my wife Leni and I got our second jab of the Moderna vaccine from the Cardinal Santos-Meralco Corporate Wellness Center.

While still observing health protocols, we thought that soon we could be liberated from 17 months of “house arrest,” but the recent lockdown to tame the Delta variant crushed that goal.


Doctors advise that the best vaccine is “the one injected in your arms.” Our young and strong children, grandchildren, and household help believed this advice and were injected with whatever vaccine was available. We waited for Moderna because of our comorbidities.

Vaccination is a good way of giving more years to our lives. More than that, we hope to have more life to our years. How?


First, age gracefully. I listened to an online lecture to the Couples for Christ by Dr. Cornelio Banaag Jr., my high school chum and a brilliant psychiatrist. From him, I learned four things:

(1) Aging is a complex process influenced by heredity and several manageable factors. Genetic programming sets the upper limit of life. While listening, I recalled that my father died at 54 and my mother at 61. In contrast, my eldest sister passed at 90, my elder brother at 88. My other sister is still alive at 88, and I am 84 (85 in December). Thankfully, our “heredity” has been overtaken by better nutrition, regular sleep, friendly doctors, modern medicine, and healthy lifestyle.

(2) He advised us to socialize online with relatives and close friends via digital devices and apps like Viber and WhatsApp; catch up with current events; participate online in civic, spiritual, charitable, social, and/or sports activities to release endorphins, the “happy hormones”; and to avoid COVID-19 by staying home and observing health rules.

(3) The billions of cells in the brain are not, by themselves, connected. Rather, they are “wired” by neurotransmitters that evolve as we age. The brain is more “elastic” than previously thought. The more we use it, the more it grows. So, “use it or lose it,” because “old dogs can still learn new tricks.”

(4) Aging is determined mainly by telomeres located at both ends of chromosomes. They are like “clocks” that regulate cell division. Once they shrink to a certain level, the cells can no longer divide; their metabolism slows; they age and die. “Toxic” stress shortens the telomeres and leads to memory loss and dementia.

Second, learn endlessly. Corollary to Doctor Banaag’s teachings and from my experience, I think we, super seniors, should never stop learning; we should also be calm and spiritual because we “have been there, done that.” When the going gets really tough, we turn to our Lord, confident that “there is no problem so big He cannot solve it.”

For my retirement, I intended to rent out our home in Makati and to move to a small farm in Tagaytay where I could relax, smell the flowers, and plant greenery. But right after I left the Supreme Court, several tycoons—most of whom I had not met before—invited me to join their companies as an independent director or adviser. Separately, I was asked to lead or join philanthropic, legal, economic, and religious groups here and abroad.


I am now as busy as when I was in the Court. I enjoy my work as an independent director or adviser because, like during my judicial stint, I can think and act independently, owing fidelity to the corporations I serve as separate legal entities, not to the owners.

I’ve learned the meaning of CCNI, O&M, NIAT, QoQ, EPS, kWh, GLA, PFRS, US GAAP, DU, WESM, etc., and new concepts like 5G, cloud, OLT, AI, sustainability, block chain, bitcoin, CX centricity, digital, fintech, deep learning, data, cracks, silos, etc.

I also enjoy my philanthropic work. At my age, I did not know that I could help raise P200 million to retrofit, strengthen, and redecorate the Manila Cathedral, and that I could set up scholarships, professorial chairs, and rewards for excellent dissertations.

I personally type my emails, speeches, and columns on my desktop. I use my MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iPhone 12 to attend online meetings. I find that tapping on the keys coordinates my fingers with my mental processes, and that walloping tennis and golf balls aligns my eyesight with my nervous system and muscles.

Truly, I find retirement to be merely a change of tires to embark on new journeys. I hope to age gracefully, work happily, learn endlessly, and pray unceasingly until the Lord calls me to an even more glorious journey in His Kingdom of Eternity.

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TAGS: Aging Gracefully, Artemio V. Panganiban, COVID-19 Vaccination, learning in old age, With Due Respect
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