“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” — Job 12:12

Sadly, I admit that these are the only culinary delights I have mastered at my age. I know how to do roasts, but I have not been gifted with other gastronomic flair. Maybe this is because I am not obsessive about food and I lose my appetite when I cook.

At present, my daughter prepares our dinners as she needs to apply her knowledge on health and nutrition, so I am spared from the major task of cooking. Also, as we were growing up, my dad has been always been our home chef and even now at 84, has full command of the kitchen when our families gather. He said that as young as ten years old he was sent errands – marketing, budgeting and cooking, happily assisting his mother in the kitchen. He can concoct dishes so easily while I get stressed just thinking about it. I plan to document all his dishes in a book, which I might call “Sito’s No Frills Dishes”.

Learning a new skill is now part of my fight against dementia. I facilitate a monthly program for AFCS (Australian Filipino Community Services) for our seniors with special needs and have supported Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria for two years in their Memory Lane Café program. I am taking up cooking/baking as a new skill as I have extra time now since I “retired” myself from formal work. My chicken adobo (depending on my mood) and my brownies have been well received by my family so this is encouraging.

Growing old gracefully is a popular maxim, but can be a challenge. We try to defy ageing in various ways, but the signs are there – wrinkles, arthritic pains, foggy brain, slowing down to one task at a time, waking up several hours a night … at 59, these are now becoming very much a part of me. I never thought I would be 60 in September!

St Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” I take this to mean that for our remaining years, we focus on what is essential – and this might include not being locked into the negativities of life. We can no longer afford to be unforgiving, proud, joyless, selfish or fiercely ambitious, worldly to the point of being merciless, judgmental, grumpy, complaining, a know-it-all. There must be in us the wisdom, humility, simplicity, kindness, great understanding of human conditions and serenity that growing old brings.

I have also discovered that I no longer have to do great work, only great love as St Therese of the Child Jesus always advocated. I no longer have to define myself by the accomplishments or achievements that my performances bring – only a gentle, nurturing and appreciative attitude for the blessings of each day, no matter what it brings.

In terms of forgiving, we like to see getting older as giving us the capacity to do it quicker – clearing the decks of old grievances, freeing ourselves from outdated thinking as soon as we can. This seems to bring a new lease of life. We open up pathways by guiding with love and inventiveness. We humbly realise that nothing is permanent, so no need to fret. We can also easily hand over leadership to others, for we can love without clinging, and we leave room for others to be themselves without hasty judgement. We are aware of the seasons of growth and decay. We see beyond shadows. We have come to realise that God has called us to a special purpose and it is okay not to be perfect. We respond to His call with purity and obedience, trusting that we are anchored to Him as our hub, and we can sing a song, even if it is off-key without condemnation. We see old age not as a stop or as a hazard, but as a continuous journey into a self-fulfilling and renewing voyage of completion, a pilgrimage into that day, finding fullness with the God we love and have served.

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