The New Year brings with it some hope and enthusiasm about turning a new leaf. We’ve heard so many things about what people promise to do better in 2016.
But everybody will also turn one year older this year. This is likely to prompt reflections about growing older and what life might be like in one’s advanced years.
Our vision of what we’d like our golden years to be—and what we would not—is a factor in planning for 2016 and beyond.
We picture retirement as a happy relief from the daily grind of going to and from work. One is blissfully free of financial responsibilities one used to have. The assumption is that a retiree has already put in enough work hours to build the family home and send the children to school. By now, they should have finished work and established their own careers. They should have started their own families.
The reality is that this is not always the case.
Some parents, for instance, still operate on the thinking that children are an investment. You raise them well and enable them to go through life on their own, so that they would in turn take care of all your needs when you get old.
It’s a Filipino ideal, given how close-knit our families are. This is the beauty of a mutually loving and grateful relationship. Trouble begins when one party imposes on the other, or when resources are finite and there are competing priorities.
On the other hand, there are some senior citizens who still find themselves working hard to provide for their extended families. This is likewise difficult, because the children you are supposed to have empowered have not stepped up to the challenge.
Some find themselves parents yet again, caring for their grandchildren because the children’s parents are out of the country, working to earn a living.
The fortunate ones continue to be active, doing what they love. Perhaps it is a profession. Or an advocacy. Many exist but few truly live, so when they find their life’s work and know they live to do it, they will continue doing so as long as they physically can.
Some live and waste away, existing with no mindfulness.
Unfortunately, some do not have much of a choice. What do we feel when we see on the streets elderly people begging or peddling goods? Do we not score their children for allowing their parents to suffer such indignity?
Some suffer illnesses, some, the tragedy of forgetting their entire lifetimes—not even recognizing the people closest to them.
Some do not have the gift of growing old at all.
So how would we want our older versions to be?
Much as we would like to live in the moment and enjoy the journey one day at a time, it is never too early to envision how we would like to grow older. As a result, what we do today and in the near future should be aligned to the vision we have of ourselves 20, 30, 40 years down the road.
Old age could be our friend. Wisdom, experience and the fondest of memories go with it. But the future could be our enemy if we squander today.