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How to age with dignity

When you meet an elderly citizen who is quite known to you, what sort of feeling do you develop at the back of your mind? Is it a sense of respect or one of disgust? Do you feel humble while talking to him not because “he /she is aged and hence needs to be shown respect” but because you really feel that way in front of him/her?

Our reaction ultimately boils down to one simple fact – how dignified the old person is in his/her demeanor.

Dignified or a laughing stock?

In Indian traditional wisdom, it is said that as a person becomes older and older, the one characteristic he/she should develop more and more is detachment. This detachment covers physical, emotional, intellectual and social bondages. Further, attachment to the world should get converted to attachment towards God. The more one ages developing these qualities, the more dignified he/she becomes.

In the above light, we shall now see how to develop the qualities for aging with dignity:

Do not attempt to look younger than your age

Such advice may shock many women in the west, because the desire to look young and sexy far beyond youth seems to preoccupy the minds of many women (and some men, too). Remaining healthy, physically fit and fighting against obesity are fine and necessary, but fighting against normal graying of hair, wrinkles on the face, propping up the breasts by women through plastic surgery, etc. are quite unnecessary.

Behave decently with the opposite sex

 

Whatever a woman does to look far younger than her true age mostly never cuts ice in the eyes of men. When such woman tries to look sexier too, they totally lose their dignity and even become laughing stocks.

The same applies to some older men who shamelessly ogle young girls and try valiantly to come down to their levels and behave like a dog-in-heat to impress them!

A father of a girl of twenty should a display fatherly demeanor with his daughter’s friends, even though his innate and not-yet-subdued sexual urges may tempt him to behave more like a man getting attracted towards the opposite sex.

Get rid of possessiveness over children

Western society seems to be better developed with this quality than eastern society as seen in India. While parents should watch their children till they are in their teen age and be highly responsible for their conduct and character, parents should gracefully loosen their grip on their children once they become adults. Beyond that stage, their relationship with the children should become more like a trustworthy friend.

A mother’s attachment towards her children generally continues to remain strong in the emotional plane even far beyond the children’s teen age. Possessiveness is a negative force that stealthily remains attached behind a mother’s love and many times this possessiveness has a tendency to affect good conjugal relationship of her children with their spouses.

To age with dignity, parents should carefully watch their possessive mindset and allow their children to chart their course in life fairly independently once they start earning. At the same time, they need not resign from acting as a confidant and guide when the offspring seek help and support.

Parents who rejoice seeing their sons and daughters leading happy married lives and ensure excellent relationship with their son-in-laws, daughter-in-laws and their parents, too, look highly dignified in the eyes of society.

Retire gracefully

A person normally achieves most of things in life – good status in society, power and position in his/her profession, enjoying goodies, comforts and authority by the time he/she reaches the age of retirement. But, many people dread retirement because they are too attached to all these and afraid of losing their self-importance after retirement.

But the very concept of retirement has been necessary in society because the younger generation should have the opportunity to achieve higher positions and the aged ones do tend to get slack, inefficient and out of synch with modern trends in technology and lifestyle. Those who refuse to retire gracefully lose respect from the younger generation.

Retiring gracefully and charting a new, purposeful and satisfying lifestyle after retirement goes a long way in aging with dignity.

Be financially self-supporting and independent

By the time one retires, a person should be totally free from debt, should have built up enough savings and resources for supporting oneself and spouse for the rest of old age. Simplifying lifestyle, changing and economizing spending habits, etc. are to be cultivated consciously. Elders who leave debts to their children and who have to totally depend on their children’s money for their sustenance will not be able to lead a dignified life at old age.

Be health conscious but do not make a fetish about health

By proper food control, exercise and self discipline, elders should take care of their health very well. Children naturally frown at elders who keep complaining about their health. Some elders tend to read too much of literature about diseases and their symptoms and they tend to imagine existence of such ailments in their bodies.

Some elders tend to exaggerate their ill health and love visiting doctors and gobbling up medicines; they use real or imagined ailments to gain sympathy from their offspring. Such tendencies are obviously detrimental to aging with dignity.

Don’t be a bore

One of the despicable qualities in most of the elders is their pride in past laurels – real or imagined. The moment a hapless visitor greets them, they would like to catch him as a prey to talk endlessly about their past, the achievements they made, the adoration they received and the respect they commanded.

Virtually every old person believes that the world was so good and great in yester years and everything has changed topsy-turvy in the present generation. Many old persons never get tired of fining fault with others. Old persons feel they are qualified for giving unsolicited advice and the younger generation takes to their heels upon encountering such persons.

Obviously, any old person who talks less about himself/herself but is an avid listener to the younger generation gets respect and love from them.

Contribute to social welfare

The post-retirement period is best for reformatting your lifestyle and making it tuned more toward the welfare of society. By taking part in church/ temple oriented spiritual activities or by associating oneself with non-governmental philanthropic activities, a retired person can spend his time and energy fruitfully for the welfare of society.

Develop detachment

This is one sterling and singular quality that makes an old person respectable to everyone. As you grow older, detach yourself from the attractions of money, wealth, possessions and antiques. Detach yourself from expecting respect and reverence from others.

 

Detach yourself from expecting others to keep you informed of all the family matters and issues. Do not expect others to consult you and seek “your valuable counsel” for everything. Shower love on your grandchildren without expecting anything in return from them.

Engage yourself in developing spiritual qualities through religious austerities, by practicing yoga, japa (chanting God’s name), meditation, etc. Make sure to understand that engaging in such activities are meant to elevate your spiritual stature to a higher level and they are never meant to build your egotism to project yourself as a “highly pious and spiritual old person who has to be revered by all.”

Aging is the reality of life and it culminates in death one day. How to age gracefully and with dignity is one of the challenges of life that everyone should face and succeed at.

The dire need for using discrimination (Viveka Buddhi)

                                          Meditation with Amma at Amritapuri beach

29th September 2012- Saturday

Saturday is not the day of Amma’s Satsang at the beach. But Amma, out of her compassion to meet the inmates, which she does on every Mondays (at evening at beach), Tuesdays at Kali Temple and Fridays (at evening at beach), perhaps wanted to compensate her absence on Friday. The whole of Thursday (27th September, her birth day) right from 9:00 AM till the next day 10:10 AM, Amma had spend more than 25 hours at a stretch at the Special birthday venue at the University grounds. Right from 3 PM on 27th she was giving non-stop darshan to several tens of thousands of devotees.

Leaving behind all the stresses and strains like a child play, Amma was at the beach on Saturday, and she was at her jubilant best too.

After the usual Ma-Om Dhyanam session of about half-an hour duration with the inmates,  Amma continued with the current subject of discussion that has been going on for the past 2-3 satsangs. It was about the importance of spiritual seekers saying “no” when the situations demands (and “yes” under different circumstances) based on viveha (discrimination)Amma was emphasizing that an earnest seeker should always be vigilant; he should always have shraddha (watchful awareness) and he should know what is right to do and what is not.

Amma said just to please someone or to get acceptance in a company or by succumbing to peer group pressure, if an youngster says “yes” to smoking, it may lead him to other vices one after the other — drinking, drugs and what not and his whole life may get shattered.

For the past several satsangs, Amma has been reiterating the dire need for shraddha and viveka buddhi for the Ashramites. You may be a very nice person otherwise, but if you are not vigilant enough, you may get into trouble.

Amma started hilariously describing a recent happening in the Ashram, with her dramatic facial expressions and actions that created peels of laughter in the gathering.

Amma said that a few days ago, a mentally disturbed person came to the Ashram with a purported desire of settling down as a Vanaprastha householder in the Ashram. His worried wife and mother too were there together with him in the darshan queue. Even before he could open his mouth before Amma, the wife wanted Amma not to concede to his request because she has lots needs and desires to be met in the outside world. Amma reassured her that She would never take people just like that and started probing deeper into the man’s troubles. It was reported that he seemed to behave as though mentally disturbed, after a recent bout of fever, but Amma suspected a deeper and long existing ailment in him that caused his quirky behavior.  Amma suggested a thorough medical check-up for him and assured them that everything will be alright sooner. Amma made him sit behind her for a while.

Amma mentioned that after Amma retired to her room after darshan was over, the person suddenly got very violent; he was shouting at his wife, started spitting at her and behaved uncontrollably.  Lots of people gathered around, including some brahmacharis, who wanted to intervene with good intentions. One Ashramite, assuming that the man was under fits, started frantically searching for a iron piece to be given in his hands (as there is a common erroneous belief that people affected by fits get calmed down when they grip a piece of iron). And lo, he could only locate a knife and without thinking a second time, he thrust the knife into the hands of the man in fits!

More chaos! (When Amma narrated this with her gestures, the whole gathering at the beach was rolling with laughter). Then a group of brahmacharis somehow managed to pin down the violent man and snatch the knife from his hands.

And there, adjacent to the man was Brahmachari S, who was always known for his calmness and serenity, who was never seen expressing anger or outward emotions. And people saw him for the first time with eyes bulging out in anger and tell-tale facial expressions of pain, anguish and rage. Reason?

In an over enthusiastic attempt to prevent the man from spitting at others, he had put his hand over his mouth and the man caught the bramhmachari’s fingers with his teeth and was applying his full jaw pressure on the fingers; Brahmachari S- could not do anything to wriggle his fingers out from the man’s vice-like grip of the jaw and that pain and anguish came through his facial expressions.

Amma, in her inimical way, with a doze of exaggeration perhaps, was emoting the facial expressions of the brahmachari to the utter entertainment of the croud!

Amidst all these fun and frolic, Amma made sure to drive home the point that one requires viveka Buddhi to handle such situations. How foolish it was to thrust a knife in the hands of a mentally disturbed person! How inappropriate it was to close the mouth of the person who seemed to be under the grip of fits!