Thursday, Sep 20

Auspicious Month event makes local elderly feel loved, young

August 29, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

Not wanting anyone to be left out, a Tzu Chi volunteer helps a senior citizen dance to the tune of “It’s Nice to Know You.” The gathering of the elderly at Ayala Heights Village, Quezon City aims to let them know that they’re not alone and still capable of doing a myriad of things for society. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • In conjunction with the main event at Jing Si (Still Thoughts) Hall, Tzu Chi held a smaller event at Ayala Heights Village on August 26 in observance of the Auspicious Month. The event was attended by mostly senior citizens and their families in the first get-together of the elderly of the affluent community.

  • The event is an opportunity for parents and their children to spend time together amidst an unfortunate trend of children finding little to no time to do so because of their hectic lives. It also highlights the need for the elderly to become young at heart through Tzu Chi’s age bank.

 

For this year’s observance of the Auspicious Month, Tzu Chi celebrates life with the elderly of Ayala Heights Village (AHV).

In conjunction with the main event at the Jing Si (Still Thoughts) Hall, a smaller event was held on August 26 at the AHV Pavilion. It was held in partnership with the AHV Association (AHVA), who has long planned a get-together of the elderly of the village. The attendance totaled at 58 senior citizens and their families, some of which are parents of Tzu Chi volunteers.

The plan to gather the elderly stems from the unfortunate trend of the elderly being left alone at home by children. As they lead lives of their own, the children often have little to no time to take care of their parents. The gathering, according to AHVA vice-president Maria Mercedes Robles, aims to help the elderly feel that they’re never alone.

“As we ourselves are growing old, we like to think that, even if we reach our 60s, 70s, or 80s, our community will still find us useful and productive,” said Mercedes.

With this in mind, Mercedes recently established the Golden Circle, a civic group that caters to the needs of the elderly population of the AHV.

“The Golden Circle would like to organize activities for the elderly and make them feel they’re still wanted, loved, and needed even if they’re retired, sick, or not able to move as much,” she added.

The afternoon party featured a myriad of activities such as parlor games, basic yoga, and a vegetarian feast courtesy of Tzu Chi volunteers. As some of the elderly suffer from mobility issues, the activities not only bring smiles to their lives but also good health.

Held on the seventh lunar month (eighth in the Gregorian calendar), the Auspicious Month is a time to give thanks and rejoice for all the blessings received. In Chinese culture, it’s associated with burning joss paper, which is money for deceased loved ones to use in the afterlife. But as such practices harm the environment (i.e. air pollution), Tzu Chi iterates focus on the Buddhist aspects like love and gratitude.

 

Reversed roles

It’s a time for Tzu Chi volunteer Woon Ng and her siblings to show their love for their mother, 98-year-old Lim Wunchee. The oldest senior citizen in attendance, Lim is bound to a wheelchair and her two caregivers. Despite being busy with volunteer work, Woon always finds time to be with the person who gave her life.

“It’s by right that we should do something to pay back to them, not just on her birthday or Mother’s Day. It should be every day,” explained Woon.

Woon’s brother, Fai Co, works from home as a jewelry designer so that he can look after his mother. Upon attending the event, he realized that the role of parent and child had reversed.

“My mother is a very strong person. Whenever I really needed help, I would think of her. And she would always be there by my side,” Fai narrated.

“Now I’m an old man. I never thought that my mother would, one day, become when I was young. I didn’t know that my mother was almost like a small child right now. She’s 98 years old and I feel she needs me so much,” he added.

Fai expresses sadness over the trend of parents being left alone by their children and urges others to spend more time with their parents. Through this can children realize that their parents now need them just as the children needed them when they were young.

 

Young again

Aside from being loved, the activity also aims to make the elderly feel young at heart. For that, Tzu Chi introduced the concept of the “age bank,” where one deposits 50 years of his or her age. An 85-year-old person, for instance, will only be 35 years old after depositing, instilling a sense of youth.

The age bank is the brainchild of Dharma Master Cheng Yen, seeing as most of the volunteers in Taiwan are in their 60s and older. Inspired by the volunteers’ resolve to continue to serve, she created the first account in the age bank, depositing 50 years to be in her early 30s.

“When we think about deducting 50 years, we realize that ‘I’m not that old after all. I can still do many things.’ It gives every person the opportunity to feel young again and to feel that he or she can still do something,” remarked Robles about the age bank.

During the activity, the guests filled out a deposit slip with their name, age, and the date. The slips are then dropped into the age bank, in the form of a miniature Jing Si Hall replica.

  • Registration is handled by the local homeowners association, which has seen Tzu Chi in action in their community for years. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Interactions with the elderly began even before the program started to help them get settled in. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Maria Mercedes Robles, vice-president of the Ayala Heights Village Association, represents the community. She also co-founded the Golden Circle, a civic group catering to the physical and emotional needs of the village’s senior citizen population. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Tzu Chi volunteer Peggy Sy, the event’s master of ceremonies, goes around and asks how old an elderly will be after deducting 50 years from his or her age. Such is the premise of the “age bank,” which will help the elderly reconnect with their youth. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • To deposit 50 years of their age, the guests fill out a deposit slip with their name, age, and date. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Fai Co (left) fills out the deposit slip on behalf of his mother, Lim Wunchee. To be able to take care of his mother, the accomplished jewelry designer chose to work at home. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • At 98 years old, Lim Wunchee (left) is the oldest senior citizen in attendance. Bound to a wheelchair and accompanied by two caregivers, Lim finds comfort in the company of her children over the course of the event. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Guests stretch their arms as part of basic yoga offered by Yoga Now, a group that has partnered with Tzu Chi to promote the practice. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • The event featured several games for the elderly, one of which involves stacking these plastic cups as fast as possible. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • At the end of the event, guests drop their deposit slips in the age bank, which takes the form of a Jing Si Hall replica. They retire for the night, feeling 50 years younger. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】