KEEP THE FIRE BURNING BRIGHT

It was only a quick glance but it stopped me in my tracks. I’d just caught sight of a photo showing a 92-year old politician climbing up a ladder. The ladder led to the top of the flatbed of a truck, from which this very senior citizen gave a speech.

Amidst concern, awe surfaced in me for this brave individual. What actually drives a person to do things like this – without a care for age and its supposed “limitations”?

The person is of course Malaysia’s newly-elected 7th Prime Minister. Much has been said and analyzed about his age, determination and passion to do what he so strongly believes in.

What Awaits In Old Age?

Way before Dr. Mahathir stood for the elections, my old school friends and I used to occasionally discuss ageing. What to do, what to eat, where to stay, and all those associated challenges that come with the advancing years of life. We had vastly differing views.

Let’s examine two common myths many hold about ageing.

Myth 1: The Elderly Don’t Have Active Lifestyles

Everyone in the nature group knew Uncle Yap in those days. He was the fit 70-something photographer you’d see on outings deep in the jungle. Nimbly, he’d climb over huge logs and skip up hills, leaving many panting behind him.

My stories about him usually astounded my ex-schoolmates. All excuses to avoid being active, even up to presently, would vaporize at the mention of this legend of a man. Uncle Yap has even had a flower that he had discovered named after him. Mind you, this happened after his retirement.

Since he was 100% Asian, Uncle Yap certainly squashed the common belief that it is usually the Caucasians who continue to maintain a physically-active lifestyle in their senior years. By the way, there were others above 60 years of age who went on those physically demanding trips too – their passion probably pushing aside all thoughts of limitations which normal folks may have.

Myth 2: Old Brains Can’t Cope With New Info

This one sounds a wee bit strange, even as I read it. However, it’s one of those things that have been discussed in my social media chat groups; which means some people do believe in it although I never did myself.

My father used to rattle off phone numbers even in his early 80s. On the other hand, his old friends couldn’t do that. Heck, even I couldn’t do it! In case you’re wondering, this was of course during the long-ago days of the pre-mobile phone era.

There were times when I suggested the possibility of learning something new or taking up new hobbies to friends, and some would ask me why I bother. “Aiyah! I’m too old for that,” they’d insist.

I’ve mentioned two myths so far, but there are many more out there. After having listened to them all, I’ve come to my own conclusions.

 Create Your Own World

Never let daunting words about age stop you from doing whatever you want to.

I’d always wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument. During my teenage years, I’d go green with envy as schoolmates learned to play the piano or the violin.

Finally, the middle-aged me decided to give it a shot. Choosing something simple – the ukulele – I signed up for classes. A few eyebrows were raised a wee bit high, making me feel awkward, but I chose to persevere.

Before class, I’d sit in the waiting room. Me with my ukulele, surrounded by amazed primary school kids who looked at me like some strange object of curiosity. Even more amazed were their parents, who were, mmm, obviously younger than yours truly. Occasionally, the mums would reveal how they’d never learned music, and felt they were too old for it. See – it’s just old belief patterns running inside of us.

Anyway, I’d always tell the parents how much I enjoyed my sessions. In fact, one lady almost signed up for classes herself after listening to me rave about my love for my ukulele lessons which I never missed.

I had even taken part in one little concert the music school held. The average age of participants must have been 10 years old. And then there was me!!! I couldn’t stop laughing at that. It was really amusing. I had almost chickened out of taking part in it, but am still glad I did. And the teachers at the music school had always been super encouraging.

Just Do What You Want To Do

I know this much. Never tell yourself that you are going to be old and feeble. Your body is listening. As you’re the master, it will do exactly as you command it to.

And another thing: don’t let work consume you to the point that you don’t have a hobby or something that you’re passionate about. That hobby or passion is the thing that keeps your fire burning bright.

Forget about growing old gracefully. Have fun, have a blast! Make it the most adventurous and memorable days of your life!

Sheela Prabhakaran is a writer and trainer who has a keen interest in people and nature. Her career started out in publishing followed by many years in Corporate Communication. Over time she has reached out to people of all walks of life through copywriting, writing books and articles. Her training experience includes Business English and Communication. She has embarked on an exciting new spiritual journey which sees her exploring more ways to share ideas on leading a healthier and happier life. She can be reached at sheelaprabha@gmail.com