[FOUNTAIN]Longer life means more time to fill

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[FOUNTAIN]Longer life means more time to fill

“I just turned 85.” “Oh, I am 93. But don’t mind my age. Who cares these days?”
Maybe, we will exchange this kind of greeting 10 years from now. According to the “2002 Life-table” by the National Statistical Office, the average life span has considerably increased and we no longer celebrate longevity as a blessing. Now, we value “biological age” more than actual age.
People are more interested in living a healthier, happier, and more satisfying life than how long we can live. The Western world, which experienced an aging society before us, came up with a concept of “active aging.” It refers to the passionate devotion and efforts to change the growth process of the body beyond the struggle to merely postpone death. Soon, we may see a personal ad from an outgoing, septuagenarian widow with a biological age of 40 looking for a boyfriend.
However, the future is not entirely rosy. Life span has increased, but the retirement age remains the same. No matter how you enjoy retired life, a prolonged vacation could be more painful than pleasant. If bored senior citizens roam around the parks and streets and society ridicules them as the “surplus survivors,” the society cannot function right.
Writer Jeon Wu-ik, who died a few days ago, lived alone in a humble old house in North Gyeongsang province as a farmer in his later years. He wrote, “I learned from the autumn leaves about letting things go and from the frozen pine leaves of the winter about keeping the faith even in the extreme circumstances.” As he watched the colorful autumn leaves and setting sun painting the mountains and rivers with beautiful colors, he wrote, “I hope I don’t end my life ugly, if not as beautiful as the nature.” His collection of letters, “What’s the Fun of Living Happily Alone?” is filled with insightful lessons he learned from his secluded life.
Mr. Jeon was interested in keeping life smooth. “Living a smooth life is to be faithful to the cycle of the nature and the tasks of history. But the flow of the world is getting distant from nature and spans more around the momentary, personal life than the history.” Rather than his name, he wished to be designated as “eonnum,” meaning an anonymous person. Just like the freezing, winter wind blowing into our hearts, he asked, “What’s the fun of living long?”

by Chung Jae-suk

The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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