A handsome old man (the proprietor of the 3-star hotel where I stayed recently in Jodhpur, India) noticed that we were born in the same year (he saw it in the registry book) but asked how come I did not look my age. Then he was fast to say that it’s perhaps because my hair does not show as I wear a turban and I don’t have an elp. And what is that? He proceeded to demonstrate that it’s the flabby skin under the chin most commonly found among elderly women. I will be untruthful if I say I did not enjoy it when he pecked me on the cheek.
A few years before reaching the compulsory retirement age, I left my full-time job to volunteer overseas. After two years in Africa, I am back home and experiencing an identity crisis similar to a child who is in transition to becoming a teenager.
Should I be deliberate about trying not to look elderly and utter a white lie when casually asked in what year I was born? What for? Unless I make it a past-time to engage in a guessing game. In this modern world of inclusivity and equal opportunity, it has become acceptable to come-as-you are.
Regardless of my age, I still want to look good because it makes me feel good. When I feel good, I can make people around me feel good, too.
With age, my eyebrows are now disappearing with a speck of white hairs left. No problem. I have the time to pluck the white hairs and meticulously arch my brows. I even apply mascara now when before I thought it was a time-waster.
As I still do not have sagging upper arms (no elp), I am more emboldened to wear haltered or sleeveless tops especially during the summer months. I don’t worry about the underarm hairs because they are now maintenance-free, if not invisible, being sparse and white.
I wear a turban or a hat to protect my hair coloring which easily fades with the sun. But frankly, I think I look younger with those colorful head gears.
Accepting the truths associated with my age has indeed set me free. The first step to gaining that liberation was to apply for a senior citizens card.
A senior citizens card is far more superior than those issued by banks for their high net worth clients or international airline carriers for their frequent flyers or business and first class travelers. One is issued a senior citizens card not on the basis of how much money you have shelled-out to gain the special treatment. By simply letting nature take its course, one becomes privileged. So why not enjoy the ride?
As a senior citizen, I can jump queues almost everywhere, except when lining up for Holy Communion. I get special seats even in the cashier’s queue of a supermarket, discounts on purchases including movie house seats, restaurants, transport systems (except jeepneys, tricycles and taxis). But since my physique does not easily reveal my age, I have to brandish my senior citizens card lest I get heckled or maliciously stared at. It is wonderful to have a senior citizens card!
Embracing my new identify is however, not easy. I get annoyed when someone who looks older to me calls me ‘ate’, ‘auntie’, ‘nanay’ or ‘lola’. The gall!
My tone changes to irritation when I talk to people who are wont to using “in” phrases such as “ask ko lang”, “wait lang”, “let me double-check” (even if it is the first time to check), “’Te/Kuya” (when it used to be Miss or Mister). I want to use ear plugs when I hear the word “pasensiya” profusely used in the context of “please tolerate my stupidity”.
I also have to get adjusted to the declining quality of service that I get from salespersons and call center agents.
These days, call center agents have become mere telephone operators. A far cry from the caliber of the agents some 4 to 5 years ago. Other than the deteriorating command of the English language with a universal accent, they seldom resolve phoned-in problems now. The recent trend is for them to say that they will forward your complaint to the department concerned. Are the call center agents burned-out or getting substandard training or turning out fast? Or has the business model of call centers been changed that the core service being offered (aided by the script) is just for someone to be on the line to receive calls and not solve complaints or problems?
Likewise, those behind the counters (even of reputable department stores) do not seem very knowledgeable about the products they are selling. Ask them about product features and they give you mediocre answers just to make a sale. Is this because of the trend of hiring casual or contractual salespersons who are replaced by a new batch before the end of the 6th month on the job? Do customers need to always remember “caveat emptor”? Being a senior citizen, I can only remember the times past when shopping was like an educational tour.
Beating the inevitable
If I have an issue about aging, it is the faculty of remembering. In my younger days, I often ascribed forgetfulness to being distracted, having too much on my plate or blaming my secretary. I simply have to devise ways now to combat this inevitability.
I don’t use a handbag because I am afraid to forget it. I have changed my wardrobe from office attire to T-shirts and pants with pockets. No need for a handbag when all I need to carry are my not-so-smart cell phone, a lipstick, and wallet with my senior citizens card, of course.
I don’t relish driving a car around the city anymore but I still enjoy long drives. With my 26-year old Jeep with a manual transmission, I sometimes forget what gear I am running on. At my age, my hearing is probably getting impaired that I do not hear my engine whining. But again, no problem. I have devised a method that if I am not on a top gear, I place my hand on the stick shift to remind me to watch out. It works, most of the time.
Nothing can spoil my fun though because I am now in possession of a great wealth – my own time.
I still wake up at 5:00 in the morning because by habit, I do not want to snub the beautiful sunshine by tarrying in bed. Nights and days were created for specific purposes and I look forward to what I can do best especially with my MacBook Pro.
With time in my hands, I am beginning to acquire the virtue of patience – something that I did not have in my younger days of rat race and ever-present sense of urgency. In a queue, I can wait for my turn even if it takes hours. No problem. I can easily start a small talk about trivial things. Unlike before when I need to fill the time by bringing something to read or tinkering with my Blackberry.
I have shelved my management and finance books; they belonged to my past life. Instead, I find constant guidance from Koheleth’s Ecclesiastes, Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Louis Fisher’s Gandhi, and John Ruskin’s Unto the Last.
According to Ruskin, “there is no wealth but Life, including its powers of love, of joy and of admiration. The man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.”
And when all is said and done, I hope that my children might have learned early enough from my experience. – Rappler.com
Eve Avila was a banker for 40 years before she left her job to volunteer for 2 years in Africa under the Voluntary Service Overseas, a UK-based charity organisation. She reluctantly fills-in forms that put her in the category of Retired. Although she is unemployed, she continues to be active and is starting a new life experience as a Senior Citizen. She keeps a blog, Adventures in Africa, at eveavila.blogspot.com
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