Sushmita Bhattrai spoke with three seniors on the occasion of World Senior Citizen’s Day and got their stories of ageing gracefully, coping with the Covid-19 scare and their tips to fellow 60-plusers.
Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been – Mark Twain
August 21 marks the World Senior Citizen’s Day – a day to celebrate the importance and contribution of the elderly to mankind. It was founded by the former US President Ronald Reagan in 1988, in honour of elderly for all their valuable contribution, hard work and sacrifice that made world a better place. In 1991, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the principles for seniors concerning independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and dignity.
Senior citizens are an integral part of our lives, wisdom that they impart with their years of life experiences can add value to life in unimaginable ways. But often we hear stories about seniors being abandoned, or perceived as a burden whereas they are the guides. As people get older, there comes a need for support, extra care, and some assurance that they are not alone goes a long way. Ageing is inevitable and that gives us all the more reason to celebrate it instead of defying it.
We spoke with a cross-section of senior citizens on the occasion of World Senior Citizen’s Day and their stories of ageing gracefully gave us a peek into their world. What keeps them motivated to make life better each day…
Maj Gen Sanjay Soi (Retd), 63
Seniors should be celebrated everyday but Senior Citizen’s Day is a reminder for everybody to remember and respect our elderlies always. As a senior citizen, I believe I can still contribute so much to my country, by imparting the knowledge I gained over the years of serving in the army. I believe all of us have the capability to do so much more than we think.
The pandemic has surely changed a lot but it has been a smooth transition for me into the new normal. Since I come from an army background, we are trained to sustain ourselves in the roughest of terrains with minimum food and ration for months on end. Through this time, I have stayed disciplined, have been exercising regularly, I eat well, and I make sure to keep myself positively engaged by guiding college students with motivational talks. In this process, I have learned so many new things that I strive to learn more.
Earlier, life for a senior citizen was different, the concept of nuclear families had just begun to bud. But times have changed now. Todaym I feel seniors can impart good values into their children in a way that doesn’t burn bridges instead brings them closer without pushing them out of their comfort zone.
For seniors, it is important to have company. They shouldn’t be left alone. A little time spent with the younger lot can be a great source of positive energy. Especially spending time with kids, you learn something new, you feel energised, you feel fresh.
It is most depressing when a senior is left alone. These lonesome situations can have a huge impact on the mind and body. This is the reason why you hear stories about seniors moving into old age homes looking for company. So, spend time with the elderly. They deserve your attention and affection.
To my fellow seniors, I would like to say: live life as if there is no tomorrow but look after yourself, keep yourself fit, strike a balance between physical and mental health because at the end of it all, you are responsible for yourself. Keep moving and continue to learn something new every day.
Shakuntala Joshi, 62
Advocate, Bombay High Court
In my opinion, a majority of seniors are often ignored and considered a burden. I believe they should be given some importance for everything that they have done for society and their loved ones. People often tend to disregard what their elderlies have worked towards and why they deserve to be heard. The fact is everyone should be acknowledged for their efforts made to make life better. A little support to open their heart again in their old age will encourage them to speak up in their niche so that they are connected to the world.
Life before the pandemic was quite active for me. I am a lawyer by profession and it demands a lot of running around to attend our court matters especially in litigation. I had never imagined that everything would pause suddenly. And since the pandemic, we have been detained of a life that kept us so busy. Initially I was clueless about where life was headed, thoughts like – will things ever go back to normal again, how is life going to be from here on, was a great challenge to overcome. But time went by and here we are in the new normal where life has changed for everybody. My husband are I are continuing work from home but it isn’t the same. These days, we keep ourselves busy with reading, mental exercises and healthy worldly discussions.
I am grateful we are together supporting each other in our unique ways. There are days when we reminisce life before the pandemic hoping things would improve soon and we go back to the old normal. This unprecedented situation has caused a number of psychological problems for many, I empathise with them and hope that soon life will be good again.
From my perspective, one has to have a particular goal in life, some purpose. Without purpose, you will be clueless about everything happening around you. So being aware and informed helps you stay afloat, ignorance will only lead to drowning. Sometimes you may feel life is unfair to your but remember you are not the only one. We are self-made people and we know the importance of being self-sufficient.
According to me, seniors should not depend on anybody for anything. You should not have any kind of expectations from anybody, especially in todays time. If somebody is offering help that’s great till it lasts, you cannot get dependent on them instead take that support so that you can stand on your feet.
Struggle is not a good feature in your senior years and hence it is important to maintain yourself so that you stay strong and be independent. We deserve to live our life in our own terms and for that you can’t have expectations from anybody. If you do then it will be very difficult to survive in this time.
My dear seniors, be self-sufficient, be ready to face new challenges that life present you with confidence. Do not trust unknown people blindly. There are all kinds of people in the world and seniors should be extra cautious of whom they let into their lives.
Sunalini Menon, 70
Technical Expert on Coffee
President of Coffeelab Limited
It’s a wonderful idea that we are celebrating senior citizens. When you reach a certain stage in your life it’s great to be acknowledged and remembered. Otherwise life just goes by and you feel that perhaps you have reached a stage where people don’t recognise you any more.
I feel a celebration for the elderly is a great way for seniors to revive memories of one’s life through all stages of life. A day when one feels appreciated for all they have been through in life is definitely a good feeling to have. I have been through quite a bit in life and have reached a place where I feel great about myself. I hope that I always leave a footprint behind, a footprint not for myself but for others, so that they can get inspired and realise that their goals can be achieved.
At the moment, I hope we are able to go out soon. We are all stuck at our home and often wonder about when things will be normal. I have been working from home and had never imagined I would do coffee cupping at home. But I did it, got a table converted a corner into a cupping room, it was tough in the beginning. I would wake up at 5:30 am and finishing cupping by 7am so that the report would go on time. It was chaotic at first but I found my way around.
I think this entire crisis has taught us resilience. It has also taught that if you put your mind into something it can get depressing and hard at first but that discomfort of change invokes courage to say I can do it. That feeling will get you going. I believe if we are living in tough times, we should be hopeful about the future as it will be bright.
Reaching out to all the seniors, be safe and keep smiling. Choices are very limited at the moment but remember that we are all in it together.