Enjoy life but know the limitations


AS we grow older, we start to change the way we think and act. That’s because we have to “be our age”. What would people think if we behaved like we were 21 when we are already in our 50s or 60s?

Another school of thought is that we should live life to the fullest no matter how old we are. And that’s because we only live once. Stay young at heart, they say. We cannot stop enjoying life just to please others or because that is “the right thing to do”.

How do we decide then what is the right lifestyle to lead in our later years? Do we let life slip by as we sit in the rocking chair admiring the sunset or do we travel the world and have all the fun we can?

The correct barometer would be to do whatever makes you happy. If a sedate, calm lifestyle pleases you, so be it. On the other hand, if you just can’t keep still and need to go paint the town red, so be it too.

I would categorise myself as a hybrid of the two, sometimes preferring to just laze at home. During these times, I catch up on the news, watch TV, take naps, go for lunch and “jalan-jalan” at the mall. Then, when I feel like I need some “action”, I meet up with friends for some food and drinks.

Occasionally I take a short holiday to Penang or other nearby destinations with family or friends.

It’s all cool when just relaxing and taking life easy. But when we decide to be on the move and do all kinds of stuff (in our later years), it’s not so “happening” all the time.

As much as we want to “remain young”, there are difficulties and impediments. This is also the same for the elderly who have no choice but to move around as they have to get things done and have no one to turn to.

We have to be aware that as we age, reduced mobility, sluggish thinking capacity and slower reflexes become the norm.

More than a year ago, my friend Jeff and his wife Alice were walking in the carpark of a mall when they got the shock of their lives. A car came out of nowhere at breakneck speed (well, it was too fast for a basement carpark). It nearly knocked them down by just inches before hitting a concrete wall and coming to a stop.

After the initial shock, Jeff and Alice realised there was an elderly couple in the car and they went over to help. Fortunately, the old couple was okay although the car was smashed up. The husband had been driving and he must have stepped on the accelerator accidentally.

Admittedly, some of us have no choice but to do our own chores and run errands. In such cases, it would be best then to take whatever precautions we can.

These include having enough rest before we go out, staying focused on the task at hand (like driving), and most importantly, no multitasking like making a phone call while at the wheel.

It would also help if we made sure the car is well maintained. Are the brakes working? How about the horn? And what about black oil, battery and air pressure in the tyres?

The bottomline is, don’t try to be a hero. While we want to be independent (sometimes because we don’t have a choice), we must admit to ourselves that things are not like they were before.

We have slowed down. Multitasking is getting more and more difficult. The eyesight is failing and we are becoming forgetful.

Sometimes the situation is so bad that we get annoyed even with ourselves. There have been times when I could not recall what I had for dinner the previous night. Or while driving, I suddenly cannot remember where I am heading to.

We need to come to terms with our situation and understand our limitations. We have to be realistic. Only then can we move ahead and go for that exotic holiday or maybe bungee jump.

Getting old is not the end of the world. We, however, need to make adjustments so we can continue to enjoy our twilight years albeit at a slower and safer pace. (Don’t forget that regular health check-up).

In the next few weeks, I plan to visit Siem Reap in Cambodia. There will be a lot of walking involved as the vast Angkor Wat is a no-miss. I will go well prepared but being forgetful, I hope I won’t end up in Phnom Penh or some other place. Even if I lose my way, I will make the best of it. Now, that’s called enjoying life.

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