‘Growing old is all in the mind’, it is said.
I tend to agree, because in my case the physical challenges of old age hit when I was just 37, and I had to face and taste a major dose of them when rheumatoid arthritis slowly attacked with aching, stiffening and gradually degenerating joints and slowing down of many of my movements. By the time I reached 60, I had already undergone two total hip and knee joint replacements and two major abdominal surgeries.
Yet, when I look back on the past three years since I became a senior citizen, I feel sometimes overwhelmed and amazed at what new tasks I’ve tackled, despite arthritis and epileptic seizures, living independently and other challenges I have to face as I age. The first that literally was thrust on me the day I turned sixty, was a Facebook page in my name, gifted by a loving niece, Nyna containing sixty ‘posts’ from ‘fans’! Nyna, had gathered these messages from among family and friends around the world.
Till then, I had vaguely heard of FB but had no clue how to even open the page. A young friend came to assist and instruct me how to administer it. Today, with the savviness I exhibit with not only my daily posts and relevant pics shot with my own camera, also loaded and attached by me, you’ll presume I’m ‘lady and ms’ of the Facebook.
Two years ago I started organising and leading from a wheelchair, the Bangalore walk and meet for the global walk for India’s Missing Girls as part of a movement against female foeticide/infanticide causing a big concern of poor sex ratio in India. Another yearly pursuit is my participation in the ‘wheelchair’ category of the Bangalore 10K run to raise funds in the charity event for the Association of People with Disability.
Never mind that I have to rise at dawn (comes naturally at this age, doesn’t it?) to get ready and be at the stadium by 6:30 am. Sporting traits die hard in one, and this for sure is the case with me, being a former Indian hockey player. I enjoy being ‘queen of the road’ in the morning, as these hours are kept traffic free. I feel specially honoured too for my age and despite my disability to be respected as a person of worth and ability! Otherwise, there is no place out of our homes for people like me, with the disabled unfriendly infrastructure we have in India.
Can you imagine I shaved my head too for the first time in my life last year?! I only found the guts to do it as a senior citizen and in empathy with a schoolmate who was losing hers as the effect of chemotherapy. I repeated the act in celebration again this year when she was declared as cured. In old age, one can choose to be cranky or cheerful, despite the odds! Difficult days will be many, but will pass. A cheerful attitude can remain constant.
My experience is that if you smile, the world smiles with you, but when you cry, you cry alone. When you need help genuinely, ask for it, and you will receive it. Do not beat around the bush, nor indulge in self pity or grumble. Be as independent as possible but not irrationally so. Be realistic about limitations of physical abilities of ageing and do not attempt foolish pursuits ending in disasters, putting the burden of broken bones on care givers. Then unpleasantness of ‘I told you so’ sets in. Avoid these confrontations. Remain young at heart and the mind will match.