Mahathir Bin Mohamad is 93 and is the prime minister of Malaysia. He is the oldest serving head of state in the world.
Donald Trump, president of the United States, is now 72. His looming rival for the presidency next year is former Vice President Joe Biden, who is 76.
Here, Rodrigo Duterte will be 77 by the time his six-year term ends in 2022.
For better or worse, many global leaders are seniors in their 60s and 70s. And although millennials are beginning to rise, seniors from the Baby Boomer era continue to be leaders in their various fields.
The two most outstanding figures of global environment activism are seniors: former US Vice President Al Gore, 71, co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize; and Sir David Attenborough, British naturalist-broadcaster who, at 92, is still very active in his advocacy. Attenborough is considered a “national treasure” of his country.
Every country has its local senior heroes who still make significant social contributions in their 70s, 80s, 90s and even beyond 100.
Here at home, for the past 28 years, the Coalition of the Services of the Elderly (Cose) has annually celebrated the significance of older persons to society through its Sampung Ulirang Nakatatanda Awards.
Last October 2018, the 10 awardees ranged in age from 70 to 107, and their contributions were in widely varied advocacies—
environment conservation, human rights, cultural preservation, urban poor housing, education, HIV/AIDS, and the elderly.
In her tribute to the awardees, the Cose executive director put it succinctly: “We always say that older persons play a big part in nation building… but we seldom show our appreciation… The Sampung Ulirang Nakatatanda Awards is our simple way of searching for these unsung heroes and honoring (their) services and efforts…”
At the other extreme, many “younger” seniors and even some “pre-seniors” in their 50s have decided to “get off the bus” much earlier.
Years back, I ran into a former high-school classmate. When I asked him what he was into, he simply replied, “Oh, I decided to retire years ago at 50.” When I further asked what he did every day to fill his time, he said he enjoyed going to the supermarket to buy the groceries and do some of the household chores.
A rather unusual example was an advertising colleague who ran his own ad agency. One day, out of the blue, he announced to us, his fellow CEOs, “I have decided to retire next year.” He was 37. To my knowledge, he made good on his word. Obviously, he could afford to “retire” from work that early, a luxury the rest of us didn’t have.
The foregoing contrasting examples simply show that continuing to live dedicated passionately to a purpose or transitioning to a more relaxed, one might say “marginal” existence, in one’s “golden” or “twilight” years (our preferred term probably reflects our outlook), is really a personal choice.
Assuming we have no serious physical or mental disability, most of us would probably choose something in between. But although we want to “slow down,” we still want to remain relevant and involved, not marginalized, when it comes to important social and civic responsibilities.
A special opportunity presents itself to us today. In just over a week, we can show that we are still very much empowered citizens, by voting responsibly in the crucial midterm elections on May 13.
I say “crucial” because our 12 senatorial choices will determine whether the Philippine Senate will retain its tenuous independence or will also finally capitulate to the domineering executive branch like the other supposedly co-equal major government bodies. No less than the future of our democratic system, much weakened but still functional with an independent Senate, is at stake.
For perspective, the seniors’ vote is not marginal but remains significant. According to figures from the Comelec (cited by rappler.com), Baby Boomers (born in 1946-64) compose 28 percent of this year’s registered voters, versus 32 percent for Gen X (born in 1965-1980), and 31 percent for Gen Y (the millennials, born in 1981 to 2000). Adding up older seniors born before 1946 and Baby Boomers born before 1959, we conservatively estimate that registered seniors (60 and above) account for 15-20 percent of this year’s registered voters.
Considering the slimness of some winning margins, our vote is far from marginal, and we only have to vote wisely to make a difference.
Come May 13, we should already have diligently made our senatorial choices from independent-minded candidates and the local officials we believe will serve their constituents best. I would suggest that our explicit gold standard should be “good governance.”
The primary criterion to enable good governance is the personal integrity and honesty of each candidate. Without this trait, good public service just won’t happen. Everything else—academic credentials, experience, programs and campaign promises—simply comes after.
Let us do justice to the Filipino people, especially our children, grandchildren and all our future descendants. Let us participate responsibly—with utmost discernment and discrimination—in this electoral exercise. Let us prove that we seniors are not marginalized citizens, but can still make a significant difference for our country. —CONTRIBUTED