My senior moments
“Sorry po, Nanay, hindi ninyo araw ngayon. Balik na lang po kayo.” Standing behind a very gentle-looking elderly lady, I was a close witness to the quick run of expressions on her still-supple but lined face. About to turn away, she stopped and tentatively asked if she could be given a chance but was firmly turned down. Tempted to step in, I had to take a firm grip knowing that the guard was just following rules. Broaching the incident to the person behind the help counter, from her resigned expression and near automatic delivery of information, one could sense that she was just as frustrated. Walking back to the car, I couldn’t help but be reminded about a similar situation months before, when a pensioner had to wait for assistance, forced to patronize a bank that was accredited to disburse money that was due her.
Scheduled appointment. It was 7:30 a.m. and I was one of too many waiting in line to process requirements. Anticipating a long wait, one can only do three things: get lost in the oblivion of one’s cell phone, catch up on work, or choose to just be in the moment. Proceeding to survey the complexion of the population, a majority were in their advanced years. Engaging in a conversation with my seatmates, each one had a story to tell.
The group. Two were in their 70s. One was a grandmother who spoke about the joy of being one and provided amazing tips on herbal medicine. The other was a widow and childless, who shared her life story of might-have-been, lost loves, and living alone. Two seats away, a woman was in a wheelchair, obviously but quietly trying to deal with her pain, judging from her strained expression. Her son later shared that she already had suffered three strokes and that coming to the government office was a struggle. Thrown a question as to the existence of a special lane, he could only miserably shake his head.
To remain unmoved was difficult. Emotions had burst from within but had to be severely contained. While it is easy to accept that rules are in place to guard against fraud and there have been several horror stories, it is difficult to understand the nonresolution of frequent, often repeated complaints that are more than potent signals that the system has its share of flaws.
The “why” series. Why let the elderly go through hoops? Why are systems still so archaic? Why is there no real attempt to come up with a tamper-proof procedure that would make life a little less of a burden for those whose years, or even days, are numbered? Why the lack of options or alternatives for those that have no means, access, or basic knowledge of technology? Why have we allowed things to remain this way?
Have you ever had those moments when you asked yourself what you could have done and if the course of your action would have made a difference? I had, and that moment never fails to haunt me. I was driving along Edsa in the middle of a downpour and as expected got caught in traffic. On randomly glancing up, from a distance, I saw an old man in a brown coat painfully climbing the steep steps of an open bridge with no umbrella. He was worth stopping for, worth violating road rules for, worth getting that possible ticket, but I didn’t.
Maybe now is the time to make amends. Hopefully, someone in a position of influence picks up this piece to start instituting changes for those who often remain unheard, and are easily dismissed and relegated to the background.
Coming away from those conversations left me momentarily frustrated but at the same time hopeful and more than grateful that through this platform, another opportunity to help has been opened up. A bigger bonus was the chance to spend time and learn more about people and purposeful living just by lending an ear. Truly listening is a form of kindness and an affirmation for someone who may have thought that he has ceased to exist. People are still interested in your story. Share it.
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