Don’t worry, be happy


I AM 67-year and 113-day old today. My next birthday will only be in November. I am just in the mood to do some arithmetic, considering there is not much else to do, being “caged” under the movement control order.

The last time I wrote something about my age was an article “I am a full-fledged senior citizen today” published on my 60th birthday in 2013.

Ironically when I started writing for a column that lasted 13 years in another newspaper, the first piece was titled “Pain of aging and fast becoming the yesterday man”. I was 48 when I wrote that article, published in January 2002.

But why talk about the pain of ageing at a relatively tender age of 48? It was triggered by a CEO of a company who rejected an application for a loan for my agriculture venture.

He was someone whom I knew a long time.

“You are still young and you have many fruitful years ahead of you, ” he wrote in a note accompanying the rejection letter.

You can’t afford to be philosophical at that age. It was about survival when you have mouths to feed and five schoolgoing children. For someone famously removed from the post of editor of a newspaper in 1998, living with a stigma of being someone’s “righthand man” wasn’t easy.

I may have faltered in many other things in life but there are things that kept me going even in the worse of times: My readings, my writings and my outdoor adventures. I was never a sportsman. Despite my name that can literally be translated as “champion” I fared badly in athletics and sports.

But I had the stamina to run long distances in my younger days and I spent a lot of time climbing hills and mountains.

I don’t run but briskwalk now, but I still find time climbing, jungle trekking and spelunking.

Age is just a number, some would argue. The truth is, at 67, the body does feel like an ageing one, despite my gallant effort to ignore it.

Adnan Othman was in his late 60s when he attempted to cycle all the way to the Beijing and London Olympics.

Tan Sri Khalid Yunos could have been one of the oldest men to have climbed Mount Everest. He had to turn around at 7,200 metres, 1,648 metres short of the peak in 2007. He was already in his 70s back then. The late Royal Professor Ungku Aziz was still jogging at 80.

Jack LaLane the legendary fitness guru died at the age of 97. He lived a full life bringing fun to exercising.

Jane Fonda is still going strong and gorgeous. A Nepal minister, Bahadur Sherchan made it to the top of Everest at the age of 76. Fauja Singh was 100 when he completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 8 hours and 25 minutes.

Joe Biden was 78 when he took his oath as the 46th President of the United States of America. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 95, is still sharp and to his nemesis, as formidable and as dangerous as ever.

The good news is the average global life expectancy has risen in the last 25 years.

In terms of ranking, Malaysia is at No. 63, with an average age of 76.0 years (78.2 years for women and 74.1 for men).

Our immediate neighbour Singapore is at No. 4 with an average life expectancy age of 83.7, (85.7 for women and 81.4 for men).

Japan has always maintained the top spot, with an average of 84.5.

The Japanese have always been credited for their balanced diet, lifestyle and regular health screenings.

But having said that, Japan has another problem. It is perhaps the only country that registers a population decline – more deaths registered than births in a year.

Perhaps George Burns was right, “you can’t help getting older but you don’t have to be old.”

He was a fun person and he made fun contagious and hip.

People mostly don’t think of ageing as a fun time.

Yes, age slows us or limits us physically. There are things we can’t do anymore. (My youngest daughter reminded me that the hugely popular Korean boy group BTS is not for a Beatles fan like me).

At this age, you attend more funerals than wedding receptions. The general topics of conversation among friends are the fear of dementia, Alzheimer’s and stroke, grandchildren and lost of libido (though not necessarily in that order).

Some have gone overtly religious, there is always the mention of God in every other sentence.

I hope to live long but with reasonably good health.

I read somewhere the number one longevity secret is keeping happy. I will keep that mantra at heart.

Johan Jaaffar was a journalist, editor and for some years chairman of a media company, and is passionate about all things literature and the arts. And a diehard rugby fan. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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