To be elderly is a gift in the right perspective. We are all very young from within, which is important. With the passage of time, we all have to be younger in our interior life which means we are more in love with Our Lord with more souls to being to God.Vici Ramos Tanjuatco
Today is World Elderly Day, so greetings to all seniors and elderlies. It’s also the feast of Sta. Joachim and Anne, parents of Mother Mary, and grandparents of Jesus. We have asked some distinguished seniors to share their thoughts on growing old, a privilege denied to many.
Let us hear it first from retired former Supreme Court Justice Consuelo Ynares Santiago: “As a retired SC Justice as well as grandma, I now have time to give back to society by sharing not only material wealth, but wisdom and knowledge brought about by my experience as a jurist for almost three decades and by joining civic-oriented groups and foundations for the protection of women and children. I also support and act as surrogate parent/elder to the children of friends who have passed on.”
From Bob Zozobrado, 72, comes happy memories. “It was only very recently, that I started to be conscious of my real age,” he says. “Because of scholastic acceleration, I finished elementary school when I was nine, high school at 13, and college at 17. Even in my career, my colleagues have always regarded me as the most ‘junior.’ I was an airline manager at 21, a managing director at 34, and president of an airline company at 39. I breezed through life enjoying my youthful persona so much that the thought of being old was never a factor. More so in recent years, because of my involvement in the academe. Then the pandemic forced me to take a good look at myself, aches and pains included, and jolted me with the realization that I am old. But, then again, I know that we grow old only if we stop living, so I now keep myself busy with things I enjoy doing, things that add meaning and purpose to my existence.”
Rocio de Vega, former MTRCB head, asks, “How does one compress a lifetime of eight decades into a few lines? In my life there were joys, sorrows, triumphs, pains. I remember clearly the most shocking day of my life—the day my husband Guillermo de Vega was shot to death. In my middle 30s, I was left with three children to raise. Somehow I managed to pull through and then one day I was 60 and then 80. Where have all the years gone? All too swiftly and now I have many more years behind than ahead of me. And so many memories that always make me smile, and also bring tears. These are my golden years and I try to live them a day at a time. My body feels the aches and pains that come with aging. I have a plethora of vitamins and maintenance medicines. I see my doctors more often than I see the friends. And those friends of long ago—oh how many have gone on to better realms leaving me behind to miss them! I am consoled with the thought that when I put on my angel wings we shall be together again. Now I have time to read all those books I bought years ago. And time to visit once again the great philosophers who nourished me mentally and whose thoughts I tried to impart to my students when I was a member of the academe. And time to discover hidden talents, like painting. Now that my children (my son Eddie is Philippine ambassador to Brussels) are leading separate lives from me I have as constant companions my dogs, my cats, and my two talking parrots. Many people in their few remaining years feel lonely, but I fill my life though bereft of much human companionship with many fruitful hours in meditation and prayer, a little exercise, music, reading, other activities in isolation, and the love of my four-legged friends. So staying home due to COVID restrictions is never stressful for me.”
To Yette Montalvan Aguado, “the most magical moment we can experience is becoming a grandparent. I married early and God blessed me with seven grandchildren, four boys and three girls. I am also now grandmother to adorable Kish (nine) and Brae (two). Grandchildren and great grandchildren are a boundless source of joy as we grow older. Someone said that while children are the rainbow of life, grandchildren are the pot of gold. I may not be your typical great grandmother because I am still active and independent to a certain extent. I am not bound to a wheelchair nor use a cane, and I do not have dentures. My mind is still sharp. Your health is a top priority and if you can manage that well, you can be in great shape. It dawned on me as I grew in years that we do not stop learning. In my late 60s, I still pursued my post-graduate studies on Language and Literacy Education at UP. In my 70s, I published three novels, which are available on Amazon.com under a penname. Learning is an endless odyssey, and no matter how old you are, there will always be something new in the horizon. I just wish there are more hours to learn more languages and crafts, to read, paint, travel, and write more.”
Age is relative, according to Beth Javier Africa. “When you are over the hill, you pick up speed,” she says. “When I was in grade school watching people in their 30s, I would say to myself, ‘I wonder how it feels to be old?’ I am definitely beyond my 30s, so kids who watch me must be asking themselves exactly the same question. I would love to give them a piece of my mind and tell them I am not old, but I have proudly joined the ranks of the elderly. What is the difference? Growing old means looking at the mirror and seeing myself as someone who has less ‘joie de vivre’ while being elderly means I can now freely make my own choices. During this COVID-19 pandemic, I definitely have the time to reflect on all my memories. Unfortunately, this present worldwide crisis has limited my mobility and that of my relatives and friends thus, curtailing our fun activities like ballroom dancing, dining at restaurants, and having family reunions. One activity most precious to me is having virtual prayers with neighbors, friends, and family. Yes, I have reached the ranks of the chosen few and I am privileged and grateful to the Lord for this transition in my life.”
Our math genius, valedictorian Adriana C. Regudo, rounds out our reflections: “Being 80-ish is a blessing and a gift from God! Having lived through eight Philippine Presidents is also a survival achievement. But most of all, having had the love of family members, relatives, friends, and neighbors enriched my long life. The strict pandemic quarantines on elderly Filipinos made me appreciate activities I took for granted—trips to the supermarkets and banks, masses at churches, birthday lunches with Maryknoll classmates, and short trips to Baguio with golden classmates! Mabuhay!”