Live while you’re alive

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Live while you’re alive

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I received feedback from some readers about a column I had written some time ago. I wrote my wish was to live healthily up to age 77, the average life expectancy of a Korean man, then die after being sick for just a few days. Readers pointed out that senior citizens who are about that age or older may feel that their lives are almost over. My intention was to convey my wish to remain healthy physically and mentally no matter how long I lived, but my wording caused a misunderstanding. I sincerely apologized for my imprudence.

The March 5 issue of the Donga Ilbo featured a 90-year-old man who entered the Korea National Open University this year. Jeong Han-taek is a retired professor who taught psychology at Seoul National University. Majoring in English, he is a member of the class of 2012 and is the oldest freshman among the 24 million students who have studied at the Korea National Open University since its foundation in 1972. “If there is anything you want to learn, you should start right away, and there is no need to hesitate because of your age. I will still be learning new things constantly even when I am 100 years old.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe completed “Faust” at age 82, shortly before his death. Sophocles was 80 years old when he concluded the Oedipus trilogy. Australian shot putter Ruth Frith participated in the World Masters Games in 2009, when she turned 100 years old, and set a world record. It does not matter how old you are. How you live is what counts.

There is a joke that five things an old woman needs are money, health, a daughter, a friend and a pet, but five things a retired man needs are a wife, a spouse, an other half, a darling and a mate. After the children leave the nest, men often become burdensome. If we want to avoid becoming a nuisance, we need to be prepared. A good start may be making a list of things you want to do before you die. A friend of mine has a goal to climb 100 mountains. Another is determined to master Latin and Spanish.

A funeral for Dr. Kang Young-woo, a former policy advisor of the White House National Council on Disability, was held in Washington. When he was diagnosed with late-stage cancer at the end of last year, the first thing he did was to review his finances to make donations to a scholarship foundation and to file his federal and state taxes. Jeong and Dr. Kang are valuable examples on how to age with grace and dignity.

by Bae Myung-bok

* The author is an editorial writer at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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