When I became a senior, I wasted two years before I finally took advantage of the 20-percent senior discount. I felt no urgency to get my card because I had always regarded seniors as “old people,” and perhaps subconsciously didn’t feel I belonged in that category. This was until I went to see a movie with some senior friends who got in for free, while I had to shell out P150.
The next day, I rushed to our barangay office and applied for my card. As soon as I got it, I went to the movies for five consecutive days, to make up for “lost” discounts. Since then, I have adopted the famous AmEx credit card slogan, “Don’t leave home without it.” And like many other seniors, I have reproduced several copies to make sure I always have one readily available.
But believe it or not, I know some senior ladies who are still in denial about their age, in the process losing hundreds if not thousands of pesos in potential discounts. I have a lady acquaintance who, when it comes time to pull out our senior cards in a restaurant, conveniently excuses herself to go to the restroom.
Looking younger than one’s age is usually welcome, but can also be a disadvantage. Years ago, when I visited the US with my four daughters, I took them to a famous theme park. I asked for four regular and one senior ticket. The lady at the booth looked at me and asked, “Who’s the senior?”
When I said I was, she said sarcastically, “C’mon, give me a break.” I had to show my passport to prove I was a senior. My children were secretly laughing because they could see I was flattered despite the hassle.
‘Please follow me’
Years later, when I was renewing my visa at the US Embassy, I was asked to sit in the rear of a room full of applicants. I estimated it would take about three hours before my turn came up. A roving usherette scanned the seated crowd and said, “Sir, please follow me.” She led me to a special senior’s window where only two people were ahead of me. My turn came within five minutes and my visa was renewed in one minute. I knew right then that my days of looking like an obvious senior had finally come.
Aside from discounts provided by the magical senior card, many other perks given by the government and the private sector make life more comfortable for retirees earning much less than before. LGUs give free goods and services and exemptions from fees, along with rice, groceries, drinking water; medical/dental consultation, tests and procedures, vaccinations, basic medicines; dedicated parking spaces, free parking, home delivery of medicines, special senior events.
The private sector is also generous—job opportunities and loan facilities; new skills training, making available special equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, canes, eyeglasses, hearing aids, prosthetics) and medical supplies; even senior-friendly establishments.
But probably the greatest benefit that a senior enjoys, which younger people do not have, is self-generated: time. With this gift, every reasonably healthy older person has almost unlimited opportunity to freely choose whatever activities will give him/her the greatest satisfaction.
Many “empty-nester” couples do “apostolic work,” taking care of their grandchildren (apo). I have grandparent-friends whogo twice a year to whatever country their children live in, and others who stay for months when their daughter or daughter-in-law gives birth.
Some of my golfing friends are members of our parish choir and sing at Mass on Sundays, while others are lay ministers who give Holy Communion. The senior ladies are active in the many Church and community organizations.
I have former classmates who have adopted outside advocacies, such as visiting prisoners in the national penitentiary.
I also have friends who have embarked on learning a new skill—painting, writing or learning a foreign language. I myself took up motorcycling at 62—and since then have seen a good part of our country on my bike.
To maintain their health and fitness, many seniors go to the gym regularly or do zumba, tai-chi or ballroom dancing, some even competitively. Frequent travel has become a favorite hobby for those who can afford it.
But the most popular activity (for both men and women) seems to be getting together every week for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We have a group we call Club Wed, which meets for snacks and drinks every Wednesday afternoon in our sports club.
Lastly, and most significantly, I have friends, mostly widows and widowers, who have not closed their minds and hearts to having new relationships, and have rediscovered love.
Happily, some of these relationships have culminated at the altar, like those of my classmate King Rodrigo and Boots Anson, and of Loy Ventura and Tweetums Gonzalez, while others are going strong, judging from the stars in the eyes of the love-smitten couples.
These simple (and not-so-simple) joys of seniorhood make life very much worth living