By: KH Helmy Ali*
Years ago, about five or six years before the pandemic Covid-19 hit the world, I tried to play futsal (indoor football) and I was about to enter 60 years old at that time. I thought I would still be strong enough to do it. Since, when I was in high school I was a member of a football club in Makassar, South Sulawesi. However, after only about 5 to 10 minutes of playing, I could not catch my breath, my sight blurred, my head was spinning, and my knees could not even stand and hold my body. Slowly I stop playing and sit on the side of the yard to gather my strength. The people gathered around me when they saw my face was pale. Playing futsal at my age was not that easy. Although I can continue my game by managing my movement, I would never want to play futsal ever again. Especially now, I am 69 years old and about to enter my 70th.
I think several changes occur when entering the age of 60 in human life that is called elderly. The physical changes in human life following the increase of age are the wrinkle of the skin and the decrease in body weight. Besides, the movement and mobility are getting slow, and brain cells and muscles lose some functioning that is difficult to synchronize. As a result, several jobs and activities could not be performed effectively. At this stage, it is known as the age of retirement. On the other hand, the aging people still want to show their existence, to be recognized, and to be useful, but in the meantime, they have limitations following their growing old. During this stage, several problems may emerge.
Supposedly, when we are born our brain has been perfectly established; but somehow needs to be reassembled as they are not well connected and need several years ahead to reassemble. Reassemble means developing further by giving meanings through experiences and doing things repeatedly. The experts suggest that we need to keep learning from our experiences, by readings, and many others. For this stage, I also spend my time to keep learning.
We can keep reading many books and listen to many stories. I am sometimes amazed by the ulema (muslim scholars) who are at their old age – about 80 to 90 years old – remain has a good memory. Their short-term memories may decrease but their long-term memories are still intact. I wonder because of their habit of reading, especially the Holy Qur’an every day; and every week they completed their readings. They simply read it, not memorize it. They may even have memorized the whole Chapters of the Qur’an, but they keep reading it regularly, letter by letter, and verse by verse for about 6.200 verses of the Qur’an. They read the Qur’an continually even though they already learn it by heart.
* The author is the Chairperson of the Supervisory Board of Rahima