Yograj, the father of one of my friends at the senior citizens club of which I have been a member for many years, recently celebrated his birthday with great aplomb. He comes to the club once a week and is one of the fittest individuals I know — full of energy and purpose.
With his authority and autonomy, both physical and financial, he is a far cry from those elderly people who are perceived to be some sort of a burden on and disconnected from society. “Just getting to the club relieves all my stress. I get to catch up with all my wonderful friends and it just makes me feel relaxed,” he explains.
When I look at him, two things happen. First, I try to picture myself at his age. It’s another matter that I can’t really picture myself that far, at 97. Second, I feel like a kid around him (I have seen 24 lesser winters than him) and it feels good.
That is not to say that I do not recognise the reality of my age. I have been retired for nearly 10 years and my body keeps reminding me that I am 73 years old. Over these years, I have found that the challenge in old age is to make things manageable with each moment’s passing. So, my focus has always been to try and find ways to make the ageing process work for me and not against me. After all, leading an active and meaningful life in old age is a fundamental issue. With this perspective, I value the idea of encouraging the social integration of older people. And places like the senior citizens club, which vie to engage the elderly folks socially, physically and mentally, provide a great platform for individuals to help them reinvent themselves and continue to grow — thus, making the world better for the elderly people.
The club I go to is located in Sector 25 of Panchkula, not far from where I live. I get my daily dose of exercise by walking to the club and meeting other visitors. It offers an array of pastimes and pursuits to engage seniors: from library and ping-pong table to WiFi and TV room. But among the amenities I relish most is the pleasure of being in the company of like-minded seniors. They are the ones who make my life rich and colourful. It’s my good luck that the majority of them are about my age, are active, engaged and well integrated.
A young lad recently said to me, “It’s not good to hang around with old folks all the time.” I think the point he was trying to make was that one gets nothing but sadness in the company of older people. But as far as my experience goes I’ve found the reverse to be true. Older folks are fun to be with. They are understanding friends who appreciate your viewpoint and know what’s important in life. By no means are they boring; rather, they enrich you with their life’s experience. Their vivacious spirits and wit allows me to savour life to the maximum.
Postscript: Recently I ran into a friend from the club who has this habit of making a joke out of everything. He told me that he had gone abroad on a solo trip to England, but was obliged to return home, to his wife, as he fell ill. And then came the joke: “Do you know what is an air hostess called in Hindi?” “No, what?” I asked. “Hawai sundari,” he said. “Nurse?” he continued without waiting for my answer, “… dawai sundari; wife... ladai sundari.”
The writer is a former director of the Punjab board of technical education and industrial training and resides in Panchkula.