This week I asked the members of the Olderhood International Club if they thought that the quality of life for older people is improving or diminishing in their country, and was fascinated by the responses that I received; not so much for what people had to say about the quality of retirement life in their own country, but how much they agreed that the quality of that life really depended upon the individuals perception of those circumstances.
As one member put it; the answer depends on the individual circumstance, whether they have medical benefits, can still find employment, and have loved ones to share their time with.
It is fair to say that regardless of their financial situation, the members of the group are generally accepting of their situations and fairly optimistic about their ability to come up with ways to “get by” during their retirement years. One member has opened a small store in her neighbourhood; another who is approaching retirement is currently working two jobs in order to add to her savings, and still others are in the process of obtaining a lump sum payment from their government which they plan to either invest, or spend.
Another member wisely pointed out that a successful retirement life is a tradeoff of priorities specific to the individual. While she knew that the cost of housing and living in general are significantly lower in The Philippines, she had elected to stay in the United States because “health expenses like medicines and hospitalization the government does not provide for its citizens, while in the US at this age you are fully subsidized both by local federal government”.
But mostly interestingly of all was the moment when people began to discuss problems that they were having completing and processing their government paperwork to receive their pensions, and ordinary people stepped forward to offer each other advice as to how to best proceed.
At that moment was reminded of the famous African proverb “Ora na azu nwa” which translates into English as “it takes a village to raise a child”. Although we are certainly no longer children, circumstance has deposited us at the doorway of a whole new world without a guidebook. But we are blessed because the millions who have gone before us have left bits of advice based on the benefit of their experience.
In our lifetime we have migrated from a world in which “old people” were not valued in many cultures; often considered a burden, they were expected to wither and die as quietly as possible. But that does not have to be our fate; we are stronger, braver and more educated than ever before. Connected by the internet in a way never before possible, and working together in Olderhood, we can lead a vital and meaningful new life that our ancestors only dreamed of.