The aged in particular observe this annual pilgrimage to the island of Kusu, an hour's boat ride from Singapore. Legend says Tua Pek Kong; the god of prosperity once performed a miracle here. The island itself is not much bigger than the temple and worshippers come with offerings of chicken, pink dyed eggs, fruits and flowers and pray for luck, health and prosperity.

The Aged In Singapore: Veneration Collides With The 20th Century

Singapore December, 1971 If you have the feeling Big Sister up there is watching you, she is. She also has her eye on the Pheng family and recently signified her approval to granddaughter Swee Lan’s marriage. Last week, everyone turned out for her birthday party. And, in general, Mme. Pheng Kum Sing is in the forefront of all family festivities and decisions. Symbolically, of course. The grand old lady died five years ago. Nevertheless, she is venerated – and saluted daily with burning joss sticks and red candles – in a manner few elsewhere enjoy while living. The house is a simple, atap-thatched roof hut in a Chinese kompong or squatter’s settlement seven miles from downtown Singapore. Fire is an ever-present danger and rain filters regularly through the flimsy, patched wall. Four family members sleep in a small room on a railed, oriental-style, four-poster bed. Grandma enjoys a niche of her own near the family altar – a bracketed wall shelf, which greets you at eye level as you enter the main door. There, beside

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Women and men chatting

The Aged In India: Myth and Despotic Mother-In-Laws

New Delhi, India   December, 1971 It was King Yayati, according to Indian epic, who borrowed his son’s youth for 1,000 years, only to return it willingly. “What I have realized,” he said, “is that there is no end to desire. Gold, cattle, women and food you seek and attain, but the satisfaction each affords is short-lived since you lust for more and more of them. After a thousand years of enjoyment, the mind craves for further and fresh enjoyment.” Children sit wide-eyed as the village storyteller continues the tale in the tone reserved for immortals. “I want to end this phase of life and turn to God,” said Yayati. “I want to live without the duality in mind of victory and defeat, profit and loss, heat and cold, pleasant and unpleasant. These distinctions I shall eradicate from my mind, divest myself of all possessions, and live in the forests amidst nature, without fear or desire.” And so he did. For 30 years, he subsisted on water – as gods are wont to do –

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In Poland, there are no handouts for the unproductive, not even if aged. One works at any job. Above, selling obwarzanki or hot pretzels; or farm products at the Wroclaw market. Below, a great-grandmother still baby-sits; an aged Mona Lisa cleans government offices; and one old-timer has a shoe-polish concession at the Hotel Bristol, Warsaw.

The Aged In Poland: God and Worn-Out Babcias

A peasant from Cracow kneels transfixed before the bejeweled altar portrait of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. Her black-babushka-covered head is one of hundreds bowed toward the revered icon-purportedly painted by St. Luke and possessing miraculous powers. Scores of pilgrims stream to this Polish Lourdes daily in prayerful hopes of cures or consolations. Crouched near the farmwoman is an aged nun, a former princess, who annually walks the 138 miles from Warsaw. Here and there bob Polish-Americans, distinguishable by permanented grey curls and drip-dry clothing. Over 100,000 persons converge on Ascension Day alone, jamming buses, trains and roadways. They represent all ages, men as well as women, from all walks of life. They come to baptize the newborn, remember the dead, and petition for the sickly. Their tributes form a bizarre mosaic on chapel walls: Thousands of scholastic, sports and military medals and occasional Communist Party decorations. Suppliants cram into the church to stare entranced at the image for hours. It is as though one could will by osmosis the transference of magic qualities from

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Mrs. Gagliardi and her son, Dr. Mario

The Aged In Italy: Mamma and the Spiritual Umbilical Cord

It is known as the land of momism. As the home of Oedipus, the sacrificing mamma and the brooding mother hen. One talks of a cocoon of maternal over protectiveness. Simply said, Italy is “la mamma.” Whether she is 45 or 70, the mother commands Madonna-like adoration. In fact, complains Corriere della Serra, the Milan daily, there is too much mamma. That’s why, it moaned in a classic editorial, Italy scored so poorly in the last Olympics. Mamma tells her son not to practice so hard or he’ll sweat and catch cold; to stay at home and take it easy. And down goes another would-be gold medal winner. In the rural and tradition-bound south, mother and honor vie for first place in men’s hearts, with almost oriental intensity. Children and wife come after. Middle-aged men hail each other at the piazza bar or tavern with “How’s mamma?” (accent on the first “a”). The northern, more westernized and temperamentally cooler son may be less demonstrative. Mother stands about fourth after job, wife and children. But conscience

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The “Youth” Doctors

Bucharest, Romania Clarena/Montreux, Switzerland September, 1971 If you can promise man youth, fortune and glory are yours. The world’s rich and famous will flock to you and pay you homage (and many dollars). And the sensation-hungry international press will help you advertise. Preferable prerequisites are a gimmick (a mysterious-looking vial of “rare” liquid will do and a medical degree (for the comforting aura of legitimacy). Also important are a clinic (with impressive, gadget-filled “research” laboratory), and personal allure and credibility. A man who possessed all these in good measure, and was the best known, most fascinating and controversial “youth” doctor, died this month in Burier, Switzerland. Even the selective Time magazine granted him a Milestones mention. It read: Died. Dr. Paul Niehans, 88, the Swiss surgeon who won both reputation and fortune by trying to lead his celebrity patients to the fountain of youth; in Montreux, Switzerland. In 1931 Niehans developed his so-called “cellular therapy,” in which particles of lamb embryos were injected into the patient; he claimed that the treatment would retard the aging

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