At the age of 84 Kimani Maruge went to school for the first time, when the Kenyan government introduced free primary schooling for all in 2004. At the age of 80 Yuichiro Miura reached the summit of Mount Everest in 2013, becoming the oldest person to scale the world’s highest mountain. At the age of 79, former Japanese prisoner of war, John Lowe decided to pursue his lifelong passion for ballet. By the time he turned 90, he was dancing professionally. Upon reaching her late 60s, Ruth Flowers decided to become a club DJ. The British artist released three singles and went on to perform during the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Despite their phenomenal achievements, in Pakistan such elderly men and women will often be called crazy.As a society, we live by some invisible law which states that the activities you are permitted to do shall be directly determined by your age. The elderly must behave like elderly people should. This entails staying at home (within their rooms), praying, and looking after any grandchildren they may have. And if an elderly person decides to do something other than this, someone will stare, shake their head in disapproval and say ‘inkay toh Allah Allah karnay kay din hain’ (these are their days to pray). But what does faith have to do with age? You can be just as religious at 18 as you are at 80. And where in Islam does it say lock your elderly inside their homes? There is no doubt Islam mandates respecting the elderly, but this respect must be distinguished from suppression. Surah Al-Isra states: ‘Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour (Quran 17:23)’. Compelling an elderly person to believe that they no longer have the right to enjoy simple things in life is in no way respecting them. Why is an elderly person choosing to marry seen as scandalous? Why is an elderly person choosing to be happy and full of energy so uncomfortable for us as a society?Elderly people may walk slower or have difficulty hearing but they are still alive and have the right to lead a normal lifeBeing old is not an illness. But the way we constantly compel a person over 60 to behave, it might as well be listed as an illness in medical books. Data published by the WHO in 2018 states that the life expectancy of men in Pakistan is 65.7 years, while the life expectancy of women is 67.4 years. Accordingly, as per the latest census results, about 4.5% of our population is over 65 years old. While this percentage may seem small, it translates to over 9 million people upon whom society has placed subtle restrictions in the name of love and care. There is no doubt with age the body grows weaker and many illnesses begin to occur, compelling individuals to alter their lifestyles. There are indeed many things elderly people will be unable to do for fear of injuring themselves. However, there are also many things which they can do, but choose not to do as they have been convinced by society that they are too old for such activities. For example, once a woman crosses into the ‘old’ age bracket, she loses the right to wear bright colors or fashionable clothing, because in Pakistan we have created a fixed image of what an elderly person should look like- grey, feeble, almost faded.Elderly people may walk slower or have difficulty hearing but they are still alive and have the right to lead a normal life. Falling into the elderly category shouldn’t mean putting a pause on things which bring you happiness. Age shouldn’t be a barrier to learning and experiencing new things that your body is capable of. As long as an individual is alive, they are never too old to follow their passions. The fear of looking foolish needs to be tossed aside. It is never too late to pick up new skills-be it learning a new language or learning how to use an iPhone. The elderly need to stop believing that they are no longer capable of serving any purpose in this world; you are not excess baggage. Our senior citizens can also play a positive role in society within their capacity and continue to enjoy life. Being confined inside four walls of even the most luxurious home with nothing to do is unhealthy.The elderly should be encouraged to participate in society in any way which brings them joy and makes them feel useful. Retired doctors can take out an hour or so to provide basic counsel at clinics being run by NGOs. Grandparents can spend time reading at schools for underprivileged children. There is no denying that aging is an unavoidable experience, but it doesn’t have to be a tedious one. The writer has a Masters in media with a distinction from the London School of EconomicsPublished in Daily Times, March 16th 2019.