Friday, February 5, 2010

Talkin' 'bout My Generation

On Tuesday I turned 65. To me this is a significant milestone. For one thing I am now a full-fledged senior citizen. Too bad there's no Denny's here in the Philippines where I can go and celebrate.

As far as life expectancy, I'm now more or less at the" top of the eighth inning" (to quote my friend Alan Perlman). But even if I were to live a great deal longer such as into my 80's or beyond, obviously this does not guarantee doing so in good health. I would much rather have quality than quantity and would not want to become one of the frail elderly especially by experiencing a loss of mental faculties. So while I still have my marbles, now and then I reflect on where my life has taken me (and vice versa) and where to go from here.

Consider the decisions that we make and the paths that we choose in our early adulthood. This is a time when we are inexperienced in life; yet those choices are, for better or for worse, the ones that often wind up to be the most binding of all on the rest of our lives. Sometimes, I think back and muse about how differently my life would have turned out if, say, I hadn't left home and moved to California (which I decided upon when I was nineteen). For one thing, I wouldn't have met the best thing that ever happened to me: my wife Lydia. So that's one decision that worked out for the best.

My biggest regrets, however, are falling into the line of work in which I spent my career and not finishing my college education. (Of course the two are related). I need two more years for a BA degree. That is something I would like to complete as a lifetime achievement.

Other matters that I occasionally contemplate:

I am glad that I was not born in the last thirty years. I think that on the whole young people coming up now face a much tougher economic future and have fewer opportunities than members of my generation did in our youth. I also think that the quality of education in America has decreased, due to the mean-spirited slashes in school budgets beginning in the Reagan era, continuing into the the politically correct "multicultural" 1990's, and through the first decade of the 2000's thanks to "Dubya" whose "no child left behind" policies left every child behind instead.

On a related note, I hope never to become intolerant of younger people and their culture as were my parent's generation of their children's ideas and ideals.

Senior discounts are nice but should be considered a privilege, not a right. Why should older people feel that they are entitled to them? The world doesn't owe us anything beyond our social security/ medicare, and pensions (if the latter were in fact part of an employment package). Unfortunately, here in the Philippines, the pendulum has swung too far in favor of the elderly. A 20% Senior discount on food, medicine, and even luxuries is mandated by law. A few years ago a 12% VAT (value added tax) was levied on all residents of the Philippines for just about all goods and services, thereby effectively reducing the senior discount to 8%. A law is in the works that would totally exempt senior citizens from having to pay this tax thus restoring the senior disount to 20%. However, I think that giving any group of citizens a free pass from VAT is going too far. This exemption will negatively affect tax revenue from which everyone regardless of age benefits one way or another. It's true that if all the corruption here were eliminated, there wouldn't be a need for a VAT in the first place. But two wrongs don't make a right. However, perhaps in the spirit of compromise, it would have been more equitable to split the difference and make the senior citizens exemption 6%.

For access to health care to be depend on one's financial resources is obscene. No one should be for denied decent medical care or face financial ruin due to lack of funds to cover treatment. Will true health care reform ever see the light of day in the U.S.? Probably not in my lifetime.

As there is no evidence of an afterlife, the only immortality there is in my opinion is to leave behind a good name. To die and be immediately forgotten or ill-remembered is sad beyond words.

Finally, as previously mentioned, old age is a time of increased risk to our mental acuity. So there's no excuse for seniors to waste their lives by becoming intellectually idle. To the extent that we can do so I believe that it's incumbent on us to keep active by utilizing various such as books, computers, and personal interaction, especially with younger people in order to keep our minds active. To do so won't guarantee retention of our brain power. But to cave in to laziness will almost surely lead to deterioration. Offsetting our tendency towards age-related health issues, for those of us seniors who are able to retire, is the fact that we probably have more autonomy and independence than at any other time in our lives. Lets make the most of it.