Family is the most cherished institution in society, one that has the greatest impact on a person’s life. However, over time, the dynamics of a traditional family are changing and instead of being surrounded by their children and grandchildren, older people often find themselves left alone in the golden period of their life.

It is easy to point fingers at ‘selfish’ children but the issue is actually a complex one with no easy answers. The fact remains, however, that it’s common to come across numerous households nowadays where the children have drifted off in search of a prosperous future leaving behind their parents. Life does get lonely for these senior citizens but there are many who have found ways to bring a new purpose to their lives.

These inspiring individuals continue to lead fulfilling lives; in fact some of them have learnt to enrich the lives of others around them as well. Their efforts are commendable especially keeping in mind their 60-plus status, as we all know that is an age when rigidity creeps into the personality and any kind of change appears intimidating and is therefore, resisted.

Mrs Tazeen Faridi is an inspiring figure for the youth of today. Having played a pivotal role in the freedom movement, it was but natural for her to take up political and judicial activism with a special penchant for women’s issues. She has led an accomplished life by any standards. Aged 90, she continues to welcome each day with a renewed spirit.

She attributes it all to her upbringing. “From an early age I was taught to channelise my energies constructively. It has stayed with me ever since. There are days when I don’t do much but then, when I am motivated, I make it a point to socialise with like-minded people. It’s all about doing what pleases you most.”

With all her children settled abroad, she looks forward to visiting them and spending time with her grandchildren regularly. It takes great effort of will to retain a zest for living at an age when society expects, indeed it forces you, to hang up your boots and retire from active life. However, this is a time when a hobby can become a passion and a reason to get out of the house.

Mr Khusro Nizam, at 77, finds solace in golf. “The key to having a good life is looking after your health and having a positive outlook of life, and then the setbacks don’t bog you down. Why must the elderly retire and not lead an active life?” He poses a valid question.

Leading an industrious life gives people a sense of accomplishment — of being worthy — which motivates them and gives them a sense of pleasure. However, having nothing to look forward to frustrates them and pushes them closer to discontentment and eventually depression. This can also adversely affect their physical health.

Mrs Shaista Kaleem’s only daughter was settled abroad. When, at the age of 65, she lost her husband it meant a rendezvous with silence. “I was severely depressed and on the brink of insanity. One of my friends advised me to take up social work. I was certain that it was not going to work.”

This is what happens in most cases, our fears prevent us from realising and reaching our true potential. But overcoming these inner fears requires courage and will.

The young may easily find the confidence to boldly attack a new challenge but it is a different matter for the elderly whose spirits have suffered a lot of wear and tear through life. However, Mrs Kaleem mustered up the courage to join a school and she now spends her time teaching underprivileged children.

“I am grateful to God for this opportunity. It gives me immense joy to be able to make a difference in the lives of these wonderful children.”

She also makes it a point to keep in touch with all her friends. “As the summer break starts, I anxiously wait for my daughter’s visit and enjoy my time with my two granddaughters.”

Life is a precious entity so it’s vital to make every moment worthy of living. That is what differentiates existence from living. As Mark Twain said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it does not matter.”

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