Saturday, November 12, 2011

Growing Old Gracefully in a Difficult Society

The guest columnist in the Catholic Times recounts the story two American professors who had a bet with each other on estimating the average age of those living in the year 2150. One said it will be over 150; the other said no one will reach 130. They both put money in a special savings account that would go to the winner's grandchildren in the year 2150.
Those who study the subject of longevity believe that in the future the average age will exceed 80, which we are now approaching in Korea. We now have over 2000 centenarians. The writer feels that it is not unreasonable to expect the young of today to reach the average age of 100.

Living longer, is it a blessing or not? he asks. Living to be 100 is a blessing if preparations have been made so the advanced years can be enjoyed; otherwise, he feels it can be quite the opposite. Korea will enter a super-aging society by 2030, which means that one out of four will be over 65. For those who enter this period with dignity and grace it will not seem long, but for many the situation will not be bright. For the poor, sick, alienated and lonely these years will be difficult, requiring much effort if their situation is not to be intolerable.
The columnist compares Korea with the West, where 2 out of 3 retirees  see it as a time of freedom and happiness. In Korea, it is only 1 out of 3 that see it that way; for the rest, it is a time of money problems, fear and loneliness. For one to have a high quality of life in retirement not only money and health are necessary but leisure time, something considered worthwhile to do, and mental maturity.

For a person to live without anxiety, the columnist believes there are three necessities: tranquility at night, tranquility during the winter, and tranquility in old age. There needs to be, he says, more organizational thinking on how to use time well in retirement.
The columnist thinks the Church should take notice of this and get involved with the elderly in society. Society will have to find ways to deal with their failing health, inadequate finances, their often crippling loneliness in order to help them adjust to a society that pays little attention to their needs. These common problems experienced by most of our elderly are what societal welfare programs will have to consider. The Church can help with spiritual maturity and loneliness issues.

Jesus, he concludes, gave us a very explicit field to work with in service to society: the hungry, the thirsty, those to be clothed, the sick, those in prison--and now we can add another, the lonely old people of society.


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