Sexagenarians or Sexalescents?

Sexagenarians or Sexalescents?
Fecha de publicación: 
24 May 2024
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It is not yet a trendy term in everyday speech, but sexalescence has been talked about for over a decade.

Already in 2012, some people referred to the issue as “that age group of people who worked for a long period of their existence but who now, once retired, fully enjoy life and have placed a fence in front of them that repels the fear of leisure and loneliness. The sexalescence that abhors the somewhat gloomy concept of the sexagenarian enjoys the situation…”

Over time, the definition has taken on more colors, risking the assertion that it is something like a second adolescence that begins at age 60.

It actually sounds very nice. It would be great if this really happened everywhere. But... Apples and oranges! And if you forget nuances, contexts, you move far away from reality.

Those who today use the adjective sexalescent do so by mentioning it as a trend, referring to adults over 60 years of age who experience that stage of life in a different way than what has traditionally been understood as old age, third age, older adults or whatever you want to call it.

Some claim – although it has not been possible to find scientific backing – that the term was coined by the Ecuadorian lawyer Manuel Posso Zumárraga, who points out that it is a generation of adults over 60 years of age who are redefining what it means to grow old.

There are no few people who dare to state that such a term “is a true demographic – and linguistic – novelty, similar to what the emergence of the word adolescence was at the time.”

Demographic novelty for who, where?

Trying to summarize the characteristics that distinguish sexalescent, it could be outlines as follows:

-They handle technology with ease, communicating with their loved ones from a distance and enjoying their emotional independence.

-They do not seek eternal youth in physical appearance, but rather value wisdom and shared experience.

-They remember their youth without nostalgia and celebrate each new day by making plans for themselves and not for others with tenacity, audacity and vitality.

- Many are still working. Either because they have not yet retired, or because they like to work independently, in an occupation that gives them pleasure and they are familiar with. There are also those who begin studies for the mere enjoyment of learning.

-They practice sports, travel and entrepreneurship from creativity and the joy of living, knowing they are self-sufficient in every way.

It is well worth reviewing some demographic data worldwide to understand to what extent sexalescence can be understood as a significant trend at a global level, especially considering that to meet such a definition, it is imperative to have good physical, mental and also financial status, as well as with a family, community and generally socioeconomic context, which serves as support for that plenitude.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and its Report on the State of World Population 2024, of the 8 billion people living in the planet, those over 65 years of age make up 10%, with a life expectancy at birth at 71 years for men and 76 for women. In 2030, one in six people in the world will be 60 years old or older.

Of this total of elderly people, nearly 800 million, that is, approximately one in six, suffer abuse, sometimes by their caregivers. Around 14% of those over 60 years of age live with a mental disorder, while these disorders represent 10.6% of total disability among older adults.

Added to the above is that, worldwide, around a quarter of deaths by suicide (27.2%) occur in people aged 60 or over.

These are data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) on its official site, by the end of October 2023.

Thus, sexalescence does not seem to be trendy in large majorities. Growing old in Norway is not the same as in Burundi; or Germany versus Haiti.

The quality of life of the elderly in Latin America and the Caribbean is a complex issue, affected by conditions that cover health, economy, education and social security, among others aspects. In general, they do not live this last stage the same way their contemporaries do in developed countries.

Around 13% of older people in our region require the attention of a caregiver and poverty and lack of access to medical care, discrimination, and violence are also among the factors that conspire against the quality of life of these older adults. And many elderly people in this geographical area live in poverty, without access to the basic services they need to lead a decent life.

Randomly selected data portrays the above:

-Only two out of every 10 older adults have access to a pension in Colombia and 18 million are in monetary poverty.

-Last year in Argentina, poverty among older adults increased 3.1 points and affected more than 960 thousand people.

- 75% of the elderly population in Honduras are in poverty. Of the total, 3 out of 10 are in extreme poverty and 7 out of 10, in addition to living in poverty, suffer from some chronic illness.

- In Costa Rica, they estimate that 27% of those over 65 years of age live in poverty and 40% do not have access to a pension.

-One in 4 women over 60 years of age in El Salvador is impacted by precariousness and discrimination, especially in rural areas.

-According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 34.5% of people over 65 years of age have no income in Latin America and the Caribbean due to a deterioration in social protection coverage for old age. This coverage gap is the largest since 2012, highlights a technical report published last year by the ILO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean.

From this perspective, it is difficult to talk about sexalescence without making important clarifications and elaborating on details even though the increase in the number and proportion of older people is a global trend.

Shifting Approach

However, according to the official UN website there have been developments on this issue and “Population aging is about to become one of the most significant social transformations of the 21st century, with consequences for almost all sectors of society, including the labor and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as housing, transportation and social protection, as well as the family structure and intergenerational ties.”

Despite notable differences, “Older people are increasingly seen as agents contributing to development, whose ability to act for their own benefit and that of their societies must be integrated into policies and programs at all levels. In the coming decades, many countries are likely to face fiscal and political pressures in relation to public health care, pensions and social protection systems for an increasingly older population.”

So much so that delaying the beginning of the old age is being considered, even based on the self-perception of older adults themselves. “There is a surprisingly strong historical trend towards a postponement or a later subjective onset of old age,” says psychologist Markus Wettstein, lead author of an interesting study in this regard, from the University of Humboldt in Berlin.

And although it does not seem accurate to talk about sexalescence without making distinctions, it is also worth noting that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reports progress in policies and actions to promote healthy aging in the region, despite what has been described above and the challenges the world is facing today.

In its report on progress last year within the efforts for a Decade of Healthy Aging (2021-2030), it highlights that 91% of the countries that reported data from the Americas have a national policy on aging; while almost 70% have mechanisms to promote and protect the rights of older people.

Within the global collaboration initiative that the Decade of Healthy Aging entails, efforts to combat ageism stand out, which are nothing more than negative attitudes and behaviors with respect to the elderly, conditioned by stereotypes and prejudices.

Even though self-perception has been changing, as indicated above, ageism can also manifest itself from the elderly with respect to themselves.

It is not just an issue that remains in the subjective realm, it impacts behaviors related to health, physical and cognitive performance, and the longevity of the person. It also finds its echo in policies and programs in sectors such as education, marginalizing older people in their communities while potentially reducing access to various necessary services.

Sexalescent in Cuba?

Just asking the question is risky because the real life of the elderly in Cuba forms a kaleidoscope with several tones, as colorful as they are somber and they are nearly 2 million 478 thousand 87 people over 60 years of age, according to data from 2023.

In its most recent report The Aging of the Population. Cuba and its territories, May 2023 edition, the ONEI highlights that population aging is the main demographic challenge for Cuba.

But even though it is a challenge, experts believe that it should not be seen from a negative perspective since the current figures are the result of the sociodemographic development of Cubans and there are many government strategies that intervene on this matter.

So much so that in a recent meeting held last February, the Government Commission for attention to demographic dynamics, insisted on the need for a deep and comprehensive look with regard to the care of the elderly, the only population group that has grown the most in recent years.

And understanding and addressing the demographic situation that affects us demands a change in mentality, as the member of the Political Bureau and Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, urged in that meeting.

The material and financial shortages, exacerbated by the US government blockade, today mainstream any efforts on the Island, including those related to demographic issues, but Marrero Cruz has also called for an exhaustive analysis of “the causes of the non-compliance in programs and indicators with the greatest impact on the population,” while urging the deployment of strategies at the territorial and local level.

If everything were going greatly, these would not be the exhortations and it would be easy to answer yes, sexalescent abound here.

It is true that quite a few elderly people remain very active, even incorporated or reincorporated into the work environment in its different variants, and quite a few have achieved good mastery of the technologies that even facilitate teleworking.

It is also true that they are seen in parks and other public spaces doing physical exercises, that many enjoy self-sufficiency, and now, probably more than ever before, they have become an important support for families in solving daily problems, but this: At what price for their health and avoiding how many risks?

Nor can we ignore how much the migratory phenomenon taking place in the country impacts today elderly in Cuba, some of whom have been hit by loneliness and distance from their loved ones.

Everyday life, whose description is unnecessary because we are all protagonists, speaks for itself that sexalescence, with the total plenitude and enjoyment it entails, is for elderly in Cuba a goal yet to be achieved.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Díaz / CubaSí Translation Staff

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