Age is in the mind!!

September, 2020

Dear Friends

A few weeks ago, World Senior Citizens Day was observed. While the intent is to create awareness about issues and problems related to old age, it is also a day to recall their contribution to the society during their productive years. Does this mean older adults do not contribute as they start aging ? This is a myth when you watch the lives of so many sung and unsung senior citizens around you. I feel age is in the mind. As long as you keep yourself fit and keep learning, you never age. Learning, unlearning, picking up a new skill, living in the present, sharing, giving, adapting – all these attributes help us stay young.

At 75, my good friend, Uma Pai who is a breast cancer survivor, runner, woman realtor (for more than 40 years) loves travelling and helping people. But for the pandemic, she would have been vacationing across the globe with her no-so-young friends from the Silver Surfers Club. Last year I enjoyed a hilarious play put up by this club which has only senior citizens as its members. She has taken to a smart phone as fish to water. Her messages are always young and chirpy with the choicest of emojis to reflect the mood. Forever willing to help others, she spreads warmth around her. Never regrets. Never complains.

At 90, a woman joined a Toastmasters club in the US to learn to speak before an audience. She completed the first set of 10 speech projects and passed away in her late nineties, wrote her proud son about his enthusiastic mother. At 91, Agnes Kasparkova, a Czech woman has turned her village, Louka into an art centre. I am sure most of you have seen this widely circulated whatsapp forward of an elderly woman standing and bending at all angles to paint her village walls with beautiful floral designs. She picked up the skill post retirement. Is there an age to learn ?

At 94, my father spends atleast 10 hours a day performing his japa, meditation and reading thanks to a disciplined life style that he has led all along. He is such a stickler to time that he literally lives by the clock, with a simple ‘timepiece’ (as he calls it) by his side throughout the day.

At 95, my husband’s uncle Y N Rama Rao wrote a research paper on nuclear geology, his favourite subject. I have written many times about him in the past, but his zest for life, curiosity for knowledge and love for people never fail to inspire me.

At 108, if the world’s oldest marathon runner, UK veteran Fauja Singh keeps going, Prof. G Venkatasubbaiah just turned 107 a couple of weeks back in Bangalore. A Padmashri awardee, he is a writer, speaker, educationist and doyen of Kannada literature. Still alert and active, I was surprised to see this grand old linguist speak so clearly in a video recently. 3 years back I saw him enjoying a traditional banana-leaf meal at a social gathering I went to. If not the love for what they do, what else can keep a person going after hitting a century ?

The list of senior citizens who are living or have lived a full life is long. Each one of you can add more to it but what is important is the takeaways that we can get from their lives. That is something no academic course can teach us. Well, how can I conclude without paying homage to Bharat Ratna, Sir M Vishweshwaraya who not only designed the KRS dam in Mysore but was also the chief designer of the flood protection system for Hyderabad, a saviour of sorts for the city ? A visionary, a disciplinarian, an economist, a statesman, a nation builder, I still remember reading his biography as a child and my mother sharing interesting stories about his struggle as he pursued education sitting under a street lamp. 15th September is celebrated as ‘Engineers’ Day’ in the memory of this great son of India who lived for 101 years.

These seniors of our society have “not only added years to life but also life to years” !

PC: Antonin Vrba

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