It is heartening to note that the traditional Asian culture which emphasizes respect for the elderly is still quite discernable in the midst of the hustle and bustle of daily life in Malaysia. For e.g., to renew or apply for a new international passport or a driving license, there are special counters set up in the respective government departments to attend to the seniors. In flying with AirAsia and some other airlines, seniors are given the priority to board the aircrafts.

However, in many other organizations where the seniors also frequent, like the post offices and banks, seniors are treated like the rest and have to wait for their numbers to be called.

But all is not lost. From my personal experience, seniors like me with grey hair, can often get away from filling forms in banks and other private establishments. What I need to do is to be humble and tell the person attending to me that I have forgotten to bring my glasses and so I am not able to do the necessary. The attendant would not hesitate to do it for me if I can provide him or her with all the necessary information.

The seniors may get away from the nitty-gritty in these business establishments because they depend on the patronage of the populace, young or old. In other areas where the seniors are involved, particularly in the pursuit of leisure, the situation can be quite depressing in the company of young acquaintances.

To me, old age does not always mean increasing isolation and loneliness. So as a senior who is still young at heart, and once freed of the hustle and bustle of business life, I began to indulge in all the things I had always wanted to do dearly, such as golfing, scuba diving, travelling and mountain trekking. These are the pursuits for the young and so invariably I have to get along with many younger people.

On many occasions, I have been slighted and marginalized by the younger people because they probably think that old is no longer gold.

I always remember how a young scuba diver treated me during a farewell lunch after our diving expedition in an island off the coast of Terengganu. It was the first time I met him and casually we got acquainted during the few days we spent on the island. While waiting for dishes to be served, this young diver started to distribute his calling cards to the other divers sitting around the same table. However, when my turn came to receive his card, he bypassed me and said that I did not require one because I had already retired! I lost my cool and after telling him point-blank that he had a bad upbringing, I left the company immediately. It was the last time I saw him.

However, every cloud has a silver lining. In another diving expedition in the Andaman Sea off Phuket, Thailand where more than a dozen divers, mostly young Malaysians, lived in and dived from a dive boat. When the first lunch was served, I waited for the rush to be over and picked from what were left behind for my meal. However during dinner, while waiting for the rush to dissipate, a young lady handed me a plate full of hot delicacies and told me to enjoy my dinner! I was speechless and devoured the whole plate though it was far in excess of my normal ration.

Subsequently, I was assisted in getting all my meals sorted out. I was very delighted as it was the first experience of respect from the newly met youngsters after my retirement.

From all my experiences, in order for the elderly to remain in circulation, it is important for us to learn that “Age is mind over matter. If you do not mind, it does not matter”!

Note: An edited version was published in Star Two on 12th Nov. 2007. 2008