Deteriorating health, malnutrition, lack of shelter, fear, depression, senility, isolation, boredom, non-productivity, and financial incapacity are the most common problems that senior citizens all over the world face today. These problems can be grouped into two categories that relate to the physical and mental health and the financial capacity of the senior citizen.
1. Physical and mental health
Stability of physical and mental health is a key concern that senior citizens have to contend with as they go through their twilight years. The human body is a system that wears out with long and repetitive use; and quite easily, with neglect and abuse. Aging is a life-cycle stage where the human capacity to think, act, relate, and learn starts to falter and deteriorate. Aging breeds illnesses such as loss of memory, immobility, organ failure, and poor vision. These are critical dysfunctions that could sideline a senior citizen to a lonely and miserable life.
While a clean and discreet lifestyle in his or her prime could reduce the susceptibility of a senior citizen to dreaded post-retirement illnesses, the onset of any dysfunction is one unpredictable happening even if the person might have had robust financial health. The frailty of the human body grows with the aging process regardless of who the person is, a sure-to-come event magnifying the primacy of physical and mental health stability as a fundamental problem of senior citizens.
2. Financial capacity
Possessing sustainable financial capacity before, during, and after the inception of a senior status is both a basic problem and an elusive dream for most people. This financial dilemma is common among senior citizens who are usually relegated to an abject position of economic inactivity. Lack or absence of financial capacity creates a stressful life and invites the entry of problems other than physical and mental health issues. For instance, domestic problems in an extended family system can aggravate the problem of a financially-destitute senior citizen. Should any of the children be wallowing in a similar state of poverty, the senior citizen becomes physically and mentally loaded up with intense and continuing pressure out of being totally helpless to come to the financial rescue a grieving son or daughter.
While it may not be the panacea to aging-related problems, the value of money cannot be overstated in the post-retirement period. A financially-handicapped senior citizen, afflicted with some degenerative or serious illness, is practically on the road to an early death. A financially secure senior citizen with the same illness, however, may have a longer life to live because money can give quick and convenient access to life-giving remedies. Even with state-of-mind dysfunctions like severe depression, boredom, nervous breakdown, and self-pity, financial capacity can buy options to rejuvenate and refresh a financially-capable senior citizen, through travels, elderly recreation, social renewal, and continuing education. A poor senior citizen in the same state of mental degradation cannot afford to do the same; and more so, be back into the mainstream of society.
As can be discerned from the preceding discussions, the severity and importance of both health and financial problems is a function of the milestones the senior citizen had set up preparatory to facing the challenge of post-retirement. These milestones are: 1) Quality: what lifestyle had been lived in the past 2) Quantity: what endowments and financial fortune had been built 3) Relationships: what community of people the senior citizen had moved about and is attached with.
What is then the most important problem that senior citizens face today? Is it health (physical and mental) or financial capacity?
From a practical and realistic standpoint, I consider the inseparable tandem of health and financial capacity as the most important problem that senior citizens have to prepare and plan for. I use the phrase "prepare and plan for" because health and financial capacity becomes a problem only if the senior citizen had, in the past, been unmindful or neglectful of its future importance.
A healthful life is like a running well-oiled machine, with its vital parts continuously maintained so that it can perform normally, or at peak productivity, beyond its anticipated useful life. The onset of sudden serious health problems can be substantially mitigated, if not totally avoided. This holds true if the senior citizen, at the time of his or her prime, had led a clean, discreet, active, family-based, helpful, and interconnected life, a discipline that builds premium on fitness, integrity, peace, humility, fulfillment, and friendship.
Financial hardships can be avoided if the senior citizen, during his or her period of economic activity and utility, had deliberately exercised foresight, focus, continuous learning, perseverance, and simplicity, a discipline that consistently upholds the importance of modest needs, savings, productivity, competence, and delivering superior value to people and organizations. The idea here is to build a sustainable wealth of lifetime resources to address the financial requirements of the person across the twilight zone.
On my mother's side, my grandma died at the age of 95 years old while my grandpa passed away at 92. With no known serious illness at the time of their death, we were all of the opinion that they died by reason of old age. How did they manage to both live a long life?
With regard to their having a healthful life, both my grandma and my grandpa were vegetarians. They religiously observed full eight-hour night sleep and two-hour afternoon nap everyday. They were both active. With my grandma coming from a political family, she was all over the community interacting with people during her free time. My grandpa, who was a full-blooded Christian, was quite busy each day evangelizing on the bible with different kinds of people. As we had initially lived at my grandparents' home, I could clearly recall that there was no day that they did not have visitors, at least two to three batches of people with different stories and problems to tell and request advice for. In short, they were always interconnected with people. It was a home full of excitement, sharing, and guidance, an abode that I think was the spring of long life for my grandparents.
As to how my grandparents sustained a fairly comfortable life, even if both of them were economically inactive, was to me a story of disciplined survival worth emulating and modeling upon. The household just lived on the small pension of my grandpa plus some assistance from an uncle who was gainfully employed. But my grandma, who closely tracked and managed the finances, had the regimen and capacity to prioritize and stretch the budget in a manner that, on a monthly basis, the basic needs were sufficiently addressed and some residual money were tightly saved.
Though my grandma was a stickler of kindness and generosity to people, I never witnessed any moment that they were in the run for some emergency money. Neither had they borrowed anything from any relatives or friends. To my estimation, they had a retirement fund chest that remained intact until the hour of their death. And how did this happen? I think it was a providential blessing. Incremental assistance money, though in reasonably small amounts, regularly flowed in from people who had been helped by my grandparents, not financially, but on the resolution of their domestic and career problems.
Whenever I go on a recollection mode about my childhood and adolescent days, I am elated for being a grandson to my grandparents. Such recollection always reinforces in me the non-erasable thought that the abstract endowments of wisdom, compassion, kindness, humility, and transparency not only build a reputation of respectability and a life of longevity; but also, over time, they give finite financial returns that can bridge people to a fulfilling post-retirement life as a senior citizen.
With all the exciting, fun-filled, and encouraging lessons from my grandparents, I have no apprehension facing the life of a senior citizen. It is all how you live and love your life in the service of your family, of the people around you, and of humanity in general.