How old is old?
First and foremost I would like to start by throwing out the question of how old is old. Do you consider yourself as old at your current age? I remember very well my feelings when I was in primary school. When I was 10 years old my mother was at her early 30s. To me, then, my mother was relatively old. But now at my mid 40s, I do not even feel old. By the way ageing is actually a progressive state beginning from conception and ending with death. So who is old?
Whether you are old or not could be viewed according to chronological age, physiological changes or based on one’s perception. Globally, chronological age has been used to demarcate whether one is old or young. Imagine, if we do not use chronological age, how do we decide who can register for school, who can have driving licence, when do we retire? World Health Organisation (WHO) considers 60 as the cut off point to consider one is old, whilst 65 was used by the developed countries such as the United States, United Kingdom because they have far too many older people.
Physiologically we can determine the changes that normally occur when one is old. For example by looking at skin turgidity, wrinkles, arcus senilis (whitish ring around the pupil) in the eye, reaching menopausal state, loosen and aching joints and so on. But always remember that ageing is NOT a disease.
The most acceptable determinants especially by sociologist is ageing viewed by perception. You may be 60 or 70, but you may not feel 60 or 70. What should we really feel like when we reach 60 or 70?. There is no hard and fast rule about it. Perhaps even if we are 45, but if we have all the chronic diseases and it’s complication, we do not have to wait until 70 to feel ‘old’. You can be 80 plus, but if you are fit and have no or minimal illness, you may feel younger than your chronological age. I do not know how Tun Dr Mahathir feels, but looking at him now, and how he carries himself, I can bet that he do feel as if he is at his chronological age.
The lesson learned behind this issue of are you old or not is to aim for active and productive ageing as well as to make sure that we take care of ourselves in order to minimise chronic illness and it’s complication. We want to ‘compress morbidity’, meaning that, since death is determined by Allah swt, and it will not be delayed even by one second, what we can try to change is the morbidity prior to the time. We can compress the duration of illness we may suffer before we die by practicing healthy lifestyle as early as possible. As an example one may suffer from the outcome of a stoke secondary to uncontrolled hypertension for many years before he or she dies. But if from very young, we practice healthy lifestyle, we can avoid the hypertension. If the hypertension is because of old age plus familial, we can avoid some complication by making sure that the hypertension is well controlled and hence avoiding or delaying the stroke. When the prophet Muhammad s.a.w went for ‘israk mikraj’ he travel on an animal called ‘buraq’ (animal transport from heaven). On stopping, the angel asked him why did you tie the buraq. Rasulullah said he wanted to make sure that it will not run away. The angel told rasulullah that he do not have to worry, it will not run away since he is the prophet. But rasulullah said, we must be caution in whatever we do, then only we leave it (tawakkal) to God. Therefore we must not say that God has already determined when I will die and what illness I will suffer, hence I just accept whatever will happen to me. We must always try to do the best in our life before we ‘tawakkal’ to Allah swt.
Dr Rahmah Mohd Amin