Finding Comfort in the Twilight of Life: Growing Older and Happier
Located in Chiayi, in Taiwan’s first dining hall exclusively for seniors, several gray-haired grandmotherly ladies are busy serving food. Even at seventy to eighty years of age, these lovely elders still want to work at the cafeteria while they still have the physical strength. For them, it’s a nice diversion from lonely days and a way of physical rehabilitation. Perhaps more importantly, they’re getting the affirmation they deserve, feeling valued by society and peers.
Elders who actively interact with others tend to lead more unique, enriched lives as they enter their twilight years. These elders also show that they can be a powerful workforce to the nation while the local birthrate is low. Recently, the Ministry of the Interior announced that the proportion of the elderly population over the age of 65 in the country has already reached 14.05%. Taiwan has officially become an “aged society.” Compared with other Asian countries, Taiwan’s elderly population ratio is second to Japan’s and about the same as South Korea’s. In another eight years, Taiwan will become “a super-aged society.”
Faced with the severe challenges of an aging population, such as long-term care and the sharp decline in the workforce, the government is currently implementing “The 10 Year Long-term Care Plan 2.0,” hoping to build a quality, affordable and universal long-term care system. The goal is for all to be able to obtain quality services while living with dignity in their later years. The Ministry of Labor will also gradually promote an employment law for the middle-aged and seniors, hoping to address the impending labor gap.
Although aging is nature’s law, elderly people are often pigeonholed by labels and stereotypes placed on them by society and culture, to such an extent that some people would do anything they can to avoid aging. The founder of ADLers, 30-year-old Chung Meng-Hsiu, believes that the aging process is natural and shouldn’t been taken too seriously. He believes that aging shouldn’t carry any negative baggage and that there is no significant difference between being old and being young. He reminds the elderly not to be confined and left to deteriorate physically or mentally. If they want to continue their journey in life travelling and exploring the world, there is always a way to get them to their destination.
The British government believes that the elderly are not defined by age and by physical health, and the elderly are no longer seen as one demographic but as groups of people with diverse needs and traits. Elders are categorized as healthy, borderline-healthy, disabled or senile. The most important thing is that no matter what category they’re in, society no longer regards age as the only factor in senior care and instead focuses on ensuring their quality of life.
Aging is a gentle and slowly evolving process of life. Unpredictable challenges and risks can always bring about growth. People often become more diverse and wise in their thinking, and are like the elders in the seniors’ dining hall who maintain a positive attitude towards life. “Each and every day of my later years, I can become a newer version of myself!”