By Cecilia Chan
I burst out laughing when I read a recent post in my group chat by my classmate on WhatsApp. She proudly declared a motto “Let us make 50 the new 20” ! You see, me and my beloved classmates are hitting 50 next year. Whilst I excitedly wanted to celebrate this milestone amongst my classmates, most of them shied away as they don’t want to be reminded of the new number, the BIG Five O. Then in her wisdom and tongue in cheek pragmatism, this classmate decided on a better approach, a brilliant strategy, by substituting 50 with 20!
I fail to comprehend this modern-day mantra that keeps reminding us that fifties are the new twenties, which was what my dear classmate was musing on. Whilst I understand one’s indulgence to psychologically feel young, my belief is that one should maintain a dignified appearance as one ages.
The ageing process is a journey, not a predicament. When we travel from Ipoh to KL we see different stations, and as we pass along the way we see kampongs and forests which enrich our senses with memories of our experience. That is part of the journey. I couldn’t help wondering what my friend would consider when we reach the grand old age of 90 or a joyous 100! Will she be advocating let’s make 100 the new 50?
I have lived my twenties…why do I ever want to live it again? My 20s was consumed with image projection and establishing security, peer approval and acceptance. I am at the end of forties now and with that I feel enriched with innate wisdom, tranquillity and immense joy that I could have never experienced in my frenetic twenties. Now, nearing my fifties I can enjoy the serene lifestyle and peaceful existence with the experience in life acquired and the wisdom that comes with it. The only consideration worthy of focus while moving forward is good health, peace of mind and security of personal fulfilment.
The media is often a key driver of negative attitudes, especially in internalizing ageism. Media often represents ageing as a crisis or a societal burden, with the ageing population described using metaphors such as “grey tsunami”, “demographic cliff” and “demographic time bomb”.
Often, older people are depicted as “villains” unfairly consuming too many of society’s resources and cast on the “reject heap” side of life. Recently, I stopped listening to the local radio, Mixed FM, as the announcers repeatedly and even proudly made derogatory remarks on their older colleague, Rod Monteiro as the “old guy”…etc etc. Not a day goes by when I turned it on, that I don’t hear such ageist remarks.
What message are we sending to the public? It is no wonder that we are less tolerant to our Malaysian elderly. Such intolerance is evident in our refusing to have aged care facilities that’s noticeable in our residential areas. Such old people must be isolated far away from us in order not to contaminate the youthfulness of the community.
It is about time that we reflect on our prejudice and demonstrate compassion to the aged as we are all shareholders in this dimension and it won’t be long before we would hope that the same compassion will be extended to us from the youth of the future when we get old.
With much sadness, it appears our older Malaysians are widely mocked, patronised and demonised by the rest of society. Our incessant stereotyping of the aged with “used by dates” does not say much of a compassionate society that we espouse ourselves to be. Older Malaysians are mostly seen as incompetent, hostile or a burden on others and are often subject to a litany of damaging stereotypes.
So, no. 50 is actually 50, not 20! There is much to be said about growing old gracefully and with dignity imbued with experience and no longer having to prove to anyone other than myself that I am worthy in body, mind and spirit as a unique individual. I humbly accept 50. However, I do not begrudge my classmate in her search for youthful nirvana with all my best wishes but for me let us maintain 50 as 50 and drink to that. Cheers.