A pleasant surprise about the culture in Panama was the respect given to the older folks.
I’m from the USA and my profession is health care,. I’ve taken care of countless seniors and I’ve seen the general attitude that they are old, full of problems, needy, and no longer useful. Even people in their 50’s and 60’s have a hard time finding jobs, and their considerable experience, wisdom, and work ethic isn’t always respected.
We arrived in Panama with Joel’s mom (92 at the time), and immediately saw the respect in people’s eyes for her, and for us for taking care of her. There were greetings, pats on the shoulder, offers of seats, and any sort of help that could be offered. Much of it couldn’t be put into words but it certainly could be felt.
Lately, we have had a bunch of errands. One was getting our drivers licenses renewed and since Joel is over 70, a doctor had to sign off that he is physically and mentally fit. We walked into Hospital Chiriquí, made our needs known to security guard who directed us to an internal medicine doctor. We were seen immediately, and after a short exam and $45, we left with the required document.
We went back to the drivers license office, which was nuts! They had been closed on Saturday, so the guard thought that all the Saturday people had now come in on Monday, and it didn’t help that some of the staff was off on lunch break. After over an hour waiting in line we made it to the desk for the first step. Then, we waited maybe two minutes for Joel’s name to be called by two people, one for his picture and vision test, and the other for the hearing test. Why so fast, when there were obviously quite a few others ahead of us? Because he’s jubilado (retired, and apparently because he’s over 70 since that didn’t happen with me and I’m 67). The picture/vison test lady got him first, and then the hearing test lady did her thing. He didn’t hear any of the high frequencies in the test and thought he couldn’t possibly have passed, but she said he was fine.
Then, time to pay. $16! (mine was $36, and a non-retired person is $40.25) That took only a minute, and then his license was ready only a couple minutes later. So, even though the place was packed and the line was outside the door, once we got through the initial line the waiting time was almost nothing. And, while we were waiting a young guy got up and gave me his seat like it was the most normal thing in the world.
I also had to go to the bank, and it was also nuts with a line well out the door. The security guard at the door wasn’t letting people in but looked at me – jubilada? Si. OK, go in. The line for the tellers was very full but there was only one person ahead of me in the jubilao line and my business was done in no time, and with a smile from my new bank friend Madeline who has seen me each day I’ve come in.
Now all the pressing errands are now done, thank goodness. I figured we have been out 7 of the last 9 days for either errands or band gigs. I saw a joke on Facebook – What did you used to like to do that you no longer like to do? – Leave the house. HA! Yes. I do not plan to leave the house tomorrow. We have a couple more things but they can wait a couple days.
Retired people also get many financial perks in Panama – discounts on health care, travel, restaurants, hotels, movies, etc. etc. A Google search will provide details if you’re interested. But, that’s a subject for another day. Today I’m grateful for the time not spent waiting in lines, and the feeling that my silver hair as earned me some respect. Thank you Panama.