New Straits Times – Sunday 13th June 2010
THEIR children have left the nest, employers are counting the months to their retirement and health problems may be lurking around the corner.
However, with a renewed zest for life and ambition to live their golden years to the fullest, people over the age of 50 — the “scary age” according to some and the “halfway point in life before everything goes downhill” to others — are no longer willing to just sit around the house in their pajamas. In fact, studies have shown that as people get older, stress, anger and worry tend to fade; replaced with a feeling of wellbeing and adventure. Currently 1.4 million Malaysians are over the age of 60 and by 2020, this figure will rise to 3.3 million, a 210 per cent increase from 1990.
Malaysian Aging Society honorary secretary Ranuga Devy said life is heaps better after hitting the big 50 for many reasons. There is the added confidence gained from experience, for example. “When you are younger, you worry non-stop about what other people may think and say about you. Everyone’s opinion is more important than your own. Even sitting alone in a restaurant can be intimidating and scary.
“But as age catches up, people are confident about themselves. After all, how many more mistakes can one make in life?” She said many older Malaysians have also learnt that life is to be lived and not denied. “When the kids have grown up and you are all alone, there are two paths to choose from; curl up at home or live the way you want!” Unfortunately, some older people tend to focus on their regrets. “Why look back? So what if you have not achieved all that you intended to by age 50? You should be thinking about what you can do when you get to your 60s and 70s. “Many also grumble about not being acknowledged or treated according to their age. But if you start to define yourself by your age, others will too and eventually you will feel older.” Ranuga believes society should adopt the same approach towards aging as Western societies do, because “life is not over just because you are older”. ”Aged people should enjoy quality of life, like in Western societies. They travel, enjoy extreme activities and socialise freely. They are not limited by a number. Here, we are so afraid of what people might think of an ‘old’ person trying to act young.
“Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey are good examples of older women who are still living life to the fullest; carrying themselves well and up and about. That’s how life should be for all of us.” She said it’s sad that our country doesn’t provide enough facilities for older people to live independently without having to continuously worry about safety. “Our facilities are far from age friendly. Older people are forced to depend on their children or friends to drive them around, because bus steps are too steep and our roads don’t provide proper walking paths. It’s almost life threatening to drive alone anywhere.” Older women, Ranuga said, have it much worse than their male counterparts, as it’s still a man’s world out there. ”A spinster or widow might face a lot of criticism if she is seen socialising at a party, joining a networking group or even just having a meal alone. ”A married woman usually loses part of her own identity when she gets married, including her name. That can make her easily forget who she is. When she is older and tries to regain her own personality, people are quick to assume she is having an affair or going through a mid-life crisis. “There is too much tradition involved in behaving a certain way; we are still behind time.
If we don’t start to make changes today, our children are going to face even bigger obstacles when they are in their golden years.” Ranuga said the Malaysian Aging Society is trying its best to educate the older generation on many aspects of life, including the art of aging gracefully. ”The message we want to bring to people out there is that life is far from over when you get to your 50s. ”This is the time to do what you’ve always wanted to do; read more motivational books, join a gym, climb a mountain and travel to places you’ve always dreamed of. ”Stop worrying about being old and sickly. Every day is a blessing and losing out on making that day a happy one can take years off your life.”