Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Best Place to Grow Old

Can you guess where? It's Sweden. 

An article in this Yahoo news, Global study: World not ready for aging population , explores the rising problem of meeting the needs of the fast-growing number of elderly people throughout the world. Reading about the depicted pathetic plights of the elderly in the less-developing countries made me look back to my country of origin, Philippines, where the same situations apply. I remember vividly how the elderly struggle to survive sans job and pension. They usually end up living with the family of one of their kids who is more economically well-off, and being fed for the rest of their lives. Sometimes, their children go through a grueling discussion/fight over who should take care of their aged parents. And then they have to wrestle with their feelings of being unwelcome or not being treated with dignity or tenderness, which they really need.

On the other hand, I want to cite an excerpt from that news article: "However, the report found, wealthy nations are in general better prepared for aging than poorer ones. Sweden, where the pension system is now 100 years old, makes the top of the list because of its social support, education and health coverage, followed by Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada. The United States comes in eighth."

I tend to agree. My line of work allows for opportunities to observe firsthand how the elderly ones in our city are faring, since most of those I'm helping up are aged ones. My first encounter with these group of people incited in me a quick sense of recognition of the striking difference between these people and those where I came from. At 80's or 90's, the old ones here are still healthy and strong. They can manage to live by themselves in their units or villas. They can cook their own foods, do light home-cleaning jobs (note: the homes of the elderly are the cleanest I have ever "cleaned", much cleaner than the cleanest homes in the Phil.), go on a Nordic walk with friends, do some work-outs in a gym, knit, do crossword puzzles, read books, etc. I usually ask them if they have ever felt alone or lonely or bored, and their ready answer is "Aldrig!" (Never!)

That's how it goes with the aged ones here. They are well-taken care of by the government system and by their children and grandchildren who live in other cities. They have a sense of self-worth and security. As far as I have observed.

And they are glad to see me come and help them where their limitations stand in their way. They are delighted to have my company, at least once in a while.

So let me say, Long live Sweden! Long live the elderly!

But not for long, really, in this old world. For I have hopes for a new world based on these promises:

"Let his flesh become fresher than in youth;
Let him return to the days of his youthful vigor." (Job 33:25)

"And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will morning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.
And the One seated on the throne said: 'Look! I am making all things new.' Also, he says: 'Write, because these words are faithful and true.'" (Revelation 21:4,5)

These are the words of a loving Creator with wonderful purposes for his human creation. No more aging, suffering and even death. And his Words have power, for when he speaks, something happens. The above verses are just some of the few remaining promises that we are awaiting fulfillment.

For now, Sweden may be the best place on earth to grow old, and I'm happy to be here. But will I grow old here? Or will I ever grow old?

Whatever the answer is, my hope and my confidence in those divine promises keep me young even as I'm growing....

sunset in fjällen,Sweden