Connect with us


The inevitable condition of ageing



The best answer to the moan/groan/complaint/resigned sigh of getting old is to quote the fundamental truth of life as pronounced by the Buddha – jaati, jara, marana translated to: birth, decay, and death; or birth, aging, and death. There is absolutely no turning back the clock of aging, so we might as well accept the fact with equanimity.

The Britannica article on old age and its social consequences starts thus:

“Old age, also called senescence, in human beings, is the final stage of the normal life span. Definitions of old age are not consistent from the standpoints of biology, demography (conditions of mortality and morbidity) employment and retirement and sociology. For statistical and public administrative purposes, however, old age is frequently defined as 60 or 65 years of age and older.”

Why I write this Sunday on ageing is because of a new naming practice in Japan which I gathered from a Wall Street Journal article titled In Aging Japan, under 75 is the New

‘Pre-old’. That’s good news, isn’t it, to the oldies who read me?

Japan hikes its term ‘old’

‘Pre-old’ and ‘late-stage elderly’ is the terminology suggested by both the Japan Gerontological Society and the Japan Geriatrics Society, which say the 65 to74-year range now should be called “pre-old age.” The government says the idea is worth looking into and has modified its annual White Paper on the Elderly to make clear it isn’t necessarily calling people in their 60s elderly.

“Japan is by far the world’s oldest nation, with more than 29% of the population 65 or older, compared with 17% in the US and 21% in Europe… The birthrate is still falling and immigration has nearly ground to a halt with Covid-19. Linguistically, however, Japan is at the forefront of change. Millions of people have learned they no longer are old, but merely ‘pre-old.’” The writer goes on to cite examples. “Isao Oshima, 82, of Nagano would be considered elderly even under the revised definitions or perhaps ‘late-stage elderly’, a term used currently for those 75 and older.”

Nagano, site of the 1998 Winter Olympics, used the new definition to reduce the proportion of its population classified as elderly to just 16%, from 30% under the old definition, making it one of the youngest cities in Japan. And thus the article quotes persons like a woman of 64 – Ms. Kobayashi – who makes crafts and prepares lunch boxes, getting up at 3.00 a m to get to her workplace. Her husband, Yuichi, 67, retired from a factory job, is far less energetic than his wife but works part-time in a department store and says that he is determined to outlive his grandfather who died at 67 but looked a frail 80 years.

Referring to Ms Kobayashi, “The good news is that so long as she stays in Nagano, she won’t be elderly next year, or even in 2030. The city, eager to keep its older residents active, has redefined the word so that only those 75 and older qualify to be labeled ‘elderly.’ ‘I think it’s a natural move, because people in their 60s are much younger than I had imagined before,’ Ms. Kobayashi said.”

As in the U.S. and other developed nations, Japan has been nudging up the age at which pensioners can receive full benefits. In April, a revised employment law took effect, telling large employers they should offer workers a place until they turn 70, up from the previous government-sanctioned retirement age of 65. The government says that this is meant to protect the right of people to keep working and isn’t a stealth way of making everyone work full time until their 70s.

A part-time farmer 38, also in Nagano says he plans to work through his 70s as many Japanese farmers do. “We say here that a person in his 40s or 50s is still a child with a runny nose, and people in their 60s and 70s are in the prime of their careers.”

The situation in Sri Lanka

“In between 1981 and 2012, the proportion of population aged 60 years and above has increased from 6.6% to 12.4%. The median age of the Sri Lankan population has also increased from 21.4 years to 31.0 years for the same period, which is much higher than other countries in the South Asian region.” (from Internet)

Some contend that our grandfathers and great grandfathers lived much healthier and longer lives, proposing the stress of the present rat-race was absent and they ate better and healthier food – less or no flesh and fowl; more home grown vegetables and fruit. Yes, pandemics were also absent and nature did not step in as now with disturbance to monsoons, sudden droughts and floods. But those long lived persons were rare cases, while the norm is that people now stay healthy to around the 70s and many pass their 90th year, able and active.

Personally I disagree with the above contention that modern change and advancement have been detrimental to people’s health as long as they know the dangers and take precautionary or corrective measures. As regards health, medicines and advances in surgery and investigation make for prolongation of the life span.

Retirement in Sri Lanka

The retirement age varies in public and private sectors, and many now work after official retirement on temporary or consultancy basis. The age of retirement as recognized by the EPF was 50 for women and 55 for men. In November 2020, the then Finance Minister, PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, proposed doing away with different ages and making it 60 years for all. (Life expectancy for men is 72 and women 77).

A strong argument of mine is that retirement at 60 years is an absurd cut off point. Speaking for women, I am certain, we are able to give of ourselves more to jobs and careers from 55 to 75, for some even longer. Child bearing, menopause, emotional stresses due to marriage and children are mostly done with and over, leaving the woman better adjusted and less a victim to debilitating emotions. Hence her increase in wisdom through experience and commitment to her work outside of home makes her a better worker.

We too should adjust nomenclature like Nagano has done. Women definitely show signs of age earlier than men. Very unfortunate but true. Apart from biology, even perceptions are prejudiced against women. A man is usually said to grow mature, statelier, even more handsome as hair turns salt and pepper, and face lines are identified as those of greater personality. Absurd! The middle of most Sri Lankan men is overlooked in these prejudiced judgments. The moment a woman’s hair begins silvering and she is averse to colouring it, she is labeled old and very soon she is ancient, even senile. These last two terms should be banned.

I end with three quotes I consider apt. Ingrid Bergman, that wonderful woman of passion and ability said: “Getting old is like climbing a mountain; you get a little out of breath, but the view is much better!” So true since a woman is now more on her own – widowed earlier or out from under the wing of husband /brother/son and more independent and so, much more herself. Jimmy Buffet (not the philanthropist but an American singer-writer, actor and businessman; 1946 -) declares “Wrinkles will always go where smiles have been” meaning, I suppose, that smiles convert themselves to wrinkles so why worry, as smiling was a good habit. John Lennon said “Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.” Plenty of philosophy in that, especially because friends and happy association keeps one young. The times to remember and reflect over are the good times enjoyed and not the bad suffered; in short optimism, good thoughts and fellow feeling keep one young though advancing in years. An encouraging remark dished out is: You are as old as you feel. Never mind your biological age. So true!

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


UK support for govt.’s pragmatic reconciliation process



Lord Ahmad with GL

By Jehan Perera

The government would be relieved by the non-critical assessment by visiting UK Minister for South Asia, United Nations and the Commonwealth, Lord Tariq Ahmad of his visit to Sri Lanka. He has commended the progress Sri Lanka had made in human rights and in other areas as well, such as environmental protection. He has pledged UK support to the country. According to the President’s Media Division “Lord Tariq Ahmad further stated that Sri Lanka will be able to resolve all issues pertaining to human rights by moving forward with a pragmatic approach.” The Minister, who had visited the north and east of the country and met with war-affected persons tweeted that he “emphasised the need for GoSL to make progress on human rights, reconciliation, and justice and accountability.”

Prior to the Minister’s visit, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had announced in Parliament that his government had not violated nor would support “any form of human rights violations.” This was clearly an aspirational statement as the evidence on the ground belies the words. Significantly he also added that “We reject racism. The present government wants to safeguard the dignity and rights of every citizen in this country in a uniform manner. Therefore I urge those politicians who continue to incite people against each other for narrow political gains to stop doing so.” This would be welcome given the past history especially at election time.

The timing of Lord Ahmad’s visit and the statements made regarding human rights suggest that the forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, commencing on February 28, loomed large in the background. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will be presenting a written report on that occasion. A plethora of issues will up for review, including progress on accountability for crimes, missing persons, bringing the Prevention of Terrorism Act in line with international standards, protecting civil society space and treating all people and religions without discrimination.

The UK government has consistently taken a strong position on human rights issues especially in relation to the ethnic conflict and the war which led to large scale human rights violations. The UK has a large Tamil Diaspora who are active in lobbying politicians in that country. As a result some of the UK parliamentarians have taken very critical positions on Sri Lanka. Lord Ahmad’s approach, however, appears to be more on the lines of supporting the government to do the needful with regard to human rights, rather than to condemn it. This would be gratifying to the architects of the government’s international relations and reconciliation process, led by Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris.


In the coming week the government will be launching a series of events in the North of the country with a plethora of institutions that broadly correspond to the plethora of issues that the UNHRC resolution has identified. War victims and those adversely affected by the post war conditions in the North and livelihood issues that arise from the under-developed conditions in those areas will be provided with an opportunity to access government services through on-the-spot services through mobile clinics. The programme coordinated by the Ministry of Justice called “Adhikaranabhimani” is meant to provide “ameliorated access to justice for people of the Northern Province.”

Beginning with Kilinochchi and Jaffna there will be two-day mobile clinics in which the participating government institutions will be the Legal Aid Commission, Office for National Unity and Reconciliation, Office for Reparations, Office on Missing Persons, Department of Debt Conciliation Board and the Vocational Training Authority to mention some of them. Whether it is by revising 60 laws simultaneously and setting up participatory committees of lawyers and state officials or in now launching the “Adhikaranabhimani” Justice Minister Ali Sabry has shown skill at large scale mobilisation that needs to be sustained. It is to be hoped that rather than treating them as passive recipients, the governmental service providers will make efforts to fulfill their need for justice, which means that the needs of victims and their expectations are heard and acknowledged.

It will also be important for the government to ensure that these activities continue in the longer term. They need to take place not only before the Geneva sessions in March but also continue after them. The conducting of two-day mobile clinics, although it will send a message of responsiveness, will only be able to reach a few of the needy population. The need is for infusing an ethic of responsiveness into the entirety of the government’s administrative machinery in dealing with those problems that reaches all levels, encompassing villages, divisions, districts and provinces, not to mention the heart of government at the central level.

The government’s activities now planned at the local level will draw on civil society and NGO participation which is already happening. Government officials are permitting their subordinate officials to participate in inter-ethnic and inter religious initiatives. It is in their interest to do so as they would not wish to have inter-community conflicts escalate in their areas which, in the past, have led to destruction of property and life. They also have an interest in strengthening their own capacities to understand the underlying issues and developing the capacity to handle tensions that may arise through non-coercive methods.


Many of the institutions that the government has on display and which are going to the North to provide mobile services were established during the period of the previous government. However, they were not operationalized in the manner envisaged due to political opposition. Given the potency of nationalism in the country, especially where it concerns the ethnic conflict, it will be necessary for the government to seek to develop a wide consensus on the reconciliation process. The new constitution that is being developed may deal with these issues and heed the aspirations of the minorities, but till that time the provincial council system needs to be reactivated through elections.

Sooner rather than later, the government needs to deal with the core issue of inter-ethnic power sharing. The war arose because Sinhalese politicians and administrators took decisions that led to disadvantaging of minorities on the ground. There will be no getting away from the need to reestablish the elected provincial council system in which the elected representatives of the people in each province are provided with the necessary powers to take decisions regarding the province. In particular, the provincial administrations of the Northern and Eastern provinces, where the ethnic and religious minorities form provincial majorities, need to be reflective of those populations.

At the present time, the elected provincial councils are not operational and so the provincial administration is headed by central appointees who are less likely to be representative of the sentiments and priorities of the people of those provinces. In the east for instance, when Sinhalese encroach on state land the authorities show a blind eye, but when Tamils or Muslims do it they are arrested or evicted from the land. This has caused a lot of bitterness in the east, which appears to have evaded the attention of the visiting UK minister as he made no mention of such causes for concern in his public utterances. His emphasis on pragmatism may stem from the observation that words need to be converted to deeds.

A video put out by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirms a positive approach with regard to engaging with the Sri Lankan government. In it Lord Ahmad says “the last three days illustrated to me that we can come together and we can build a constructive relationship beyond what are today with Sri Lanka. We can discuss the issues of difference and challenge in a candid but constructive fashion.” Lord Ahmad’s aspiration for UK-Sri Lankan relations needs to be replicated nationally in government-opposition relations, including the minority parties, which is the missing dimension at the present time.

Continue Reading


Yohani…teaming up with Rajiv and The Clan



I know many of you, on reading this headline, would say ‘What?’

Relax. Yohani, of ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ fame, is very much a part of the group Lunu.

But…in February, she will be doing things, differently, and that is where Rajiv and the Clan come into the scene.

Rajiv and his band will be embarking on a foreign assignment that will take them to Dubai and Oman, and Yohani, as well as Falan, will be a part of the setup – as guest artistes.

The Dubai scene is not new to Yohani – she has performed twice before, in that part of the world, with her band Lunu – but this would be her first trip, to Oman, as a performer.

However, it will be the very first time that Yohani will be doing her thing with Rajiv and The Clan – live on stage.

In the not too distant past, Rajiv worked on a track for Yohani that also became a big hit. Remember ‘Haal Massa?’

“She has never been a part of our scene, performing as a guest artiste, so we are all looking forward to doing, it in a special way, during our three-gig, two-country tour,” says Rajiv.

Their first stop will be Dubai, on February 5th, for a private party, open-air gig, followed by another two open-air, private party gigs, in Oman – on February 10th and 11th.

Another attraction, I’m told, will be Satheeshan, the original rapper of ‘Manike Mage Hithe.’

He will also be a part of this tour (his first overseas outing) and that certainly would create a lot of excitement, and add that extra sparkle, especially when he comes into the scene for ‘Manike Mage Hithe.’

Yohani and her band, Lunu, last performed in Dubai, a couple of months back, and Satheeshan, they say, was the missing link when she did her mega internet hit song – live, on stage.

There was a crowd to catch her in action but it wasn’t a mind-blowing experience – according to reports coming our way.

A live performance, on stage, is a totally different setup to what one sees on social media, YouTube, etc.

I guess music lovers, here, would also welcome a truly live performance by Yohani de Silva.

In the meanwhile, I’m also told that Rajiv Sebastian plans to release some songs of the late Desmond de Silva which he and Desmond have worked on, over the years.

According to Rajiv, at this point in time, there is material for four albums!

He also mentioned that he and his band have quite a few interesting overseas assignments, lined up, over the next few months, but they have got to keep their fingers crossed…hoping that the Omicron virus wouldn’t spike further.

Continue Reading


Multi-talented, indeed…



Thamesha Herath (back row – centre) and her disciples (students)

We all know Trishelle as the female vocalist of Sohan & The X-Periments, so, obviously it came to me as a surprise when it was mentioned that she is a highly qualified Bharatanatyam dancer, as well.

What’s more, she has been learning the skills of Bharatanatyam, since her kid days!

And, to prove that she is no novice, where this highly technical dance form is concerned, Trishelle, and the disciples (students) of State Dance Award winning Bhartanatyam Guru, Nritya Visharad Bhashini, Thamesha Herath, will be seen in action, on January 29th, at 4.00 pm, at the Ave Maria Auditorium, Negombo.

Said to be the biggest event in Bharatanatyam, this Arangethram Kalaeli concert will bring into the spotlight Avindu, Sithija, Mishaami, Nakshani, Venushi, Veenadi, Amanda, Sakuni, Kawisha, Tishaani, Thrishala (Trishelle), Sarithya, Hewani, Senuri, Deanne and Wasana.

In addition to her singing, and dancing skills, Trishelle has two other qualifications – Bachelor in Biomedical Science, and Master in Counselling Psychology.

Continue Reading