Life begins at 40 if you have the stamina, thus declared an ad run on Philippine TV in the 1960s. When I was 40, I was oozing with energy and vitality so much so that I could do back-breaking work for many hours. I thought then that these blessings would last long.
Now in my early 70, I have lost much energy and vitality, and most of the time I’m bored. I felt as if I am just going through the motion of daily living. I ask my grandchildren to help me plant a small vegetable garden because my back aches whenever I bend. My arthritis makes me lose sleep, and I have to use the oldies’ perfume (Bengay) to ease the searing pain.
Many people look at me as a fool whenever I bump into a glass wall or stumble on the street. And people watch me with mocking eyes for being error-prone.
But life has to go on until our appointed time.
Now there is something to look forward to, and that is a particular time in the near future. That is when you are 80 years old or older. At 80, things would be very different — with people much kinder to you and more understanding of your woes. This is an assertion by Dr. Frank Lauback who wrote an essay titled “Life Begins at 80.”
Lauback wrote: “Once you reach 80, everyone wants to carry your baggage and help you up the steps. If you forget your name or an appointment or your telephone number and you can’t remember how many grandchildren you have, you only need to explain that you are 80.
“Being 80 is a lot better than being 70. At 70, people are mad at you for everything. At 80, you have a perfect excuse no matter what you do. If you act foolishly, it is your second childhood. Being 70 is no fun at all. At 70, people expect you to retire at a house in Florida or on the Caribbean islands and complain about your arthritis or diabetes.
“And you ask everybody to stop mumbling because you can’t understand them. Actually, your hearing is about 50 percent gone. If you survive until you’re 80, everybody is surprised that you are still alive and kicking. They treat with respect just for having lived so long. Actually, they are surprised that you can walk and talk sensibly. So please try to make it to 80. It is the best time of life. If you ask me, life begins at 80.”
That should be a compelling motive for old folks like me to keep themselves healthy – mentally and physically.
Barring incurable diseases, cataclysmic disasters, terrorist attacks and accidents, we are expected to survive up to 80. This expectation arises from the much improved healthcare system.
Well, that is a problem, too, because the efficient healthcare system in the U.S. has resulted in a life span much longer than that, say, 20 years ago. This was not anticipated, and as a consequence, facilities for assisted living are sadly inadequate.
Many nursing-rehab homes are crowded with sick, old, gray-haired men and women curled up on bed and slumped on wheelchairs with no more zest for life. In such condition, there is no more quality of life. You are no longer capable of enjoying simple pleasures like watching TV.
My mother died at 95, and she was bound to a wheelchair for at least three years. Her fingers had atrophied and grotesquely formed. She also suffered serious dementia, and called me “Eduardo” when I asked her what is my name.
So we want to live up to 80. But do we also want to live up to 90? That may be pushing the envelope too far. But only God knows our appointed time.