Productive Ageing

I recently came across this news snippet that tremendously inspired me. Shri Dr. CR Rao, 102, Padma Vibhushan awardee and a prominent Indian American mathematician and statistician, was recently awarded the 2023 International Prize in Statistics, the equivalent to the Nobel Prize in the field, for his monumental work 75 years ago that revolutionized statistical thinking.
“In awarding this prize, we celebrate the monumental work by C R Rao that not only revolutionized statistical thinking in its time but also continues to exert enormous influence on human understanding of science across a wide spectrum of disciplines,” said Guy Nason, chair of the International Prize in Statistics Foundation.

n 1920 Rao was born to a Telugu family in Hadagali, Karnataka. After his schooling in Andhra Pradesh, he completed his post graduation in statistics from Andhra University and then completed his Masters in statistics from Calcutta University. He earned his PhD and DSc in statistics from the University of Cambridge, In the later 1960s he returned to India and founded the Department of Statistics, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata.

Dr. CR Rao retired from service in India when he was 60 years and immigrated to the US where he currently resides with his daughter and grandchildren. There at the age of 62, he joined as Professor of Statistics, University of Pennsylvania. He became a naturalized US citizen at 75 years and received the National Medal for Science, a White House honour at 82 years.

In an interview, Rao remarked, “In India, no one asks after retirement what do you plan to do? Colleagues respect; power and not scholarship!”

Dr. Rao’s life and career is exemplary and worthy of emulation. A life like Dr. Rao’s symbolizes passion, poise, and purpose. How do we mead a meaningful life filled with purpose? I am often advised by “well meaning” friends and well-wishers that I should “slow down; take thins easy and not keep running around!”

Personally, I have been inspired by late G. Venkataswamy, the well-known ophthalmologist, my teacher and mentor, and another teacher and mentor late Dr. Sarada Menon, both of whom continued to lead productive and fulfilling lives until the end.
Current neuroscience has also discovered that funding meaning and purpose in life though our vocation educes the incidence of plaque formation in the brain that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s. Recent research in gerontology also talks about productive ageing—how can we continue to find meaning, joy and fulfillment through our work even as grow older? With age, emerges the richness of wisdom and mellow experience. We need to share this with the rest of the world… Isn’t it time we countered ageism—the stereotype that assumes that elderly people have nothing substantial to contribute.

The lives of Dr, CR Rao, Dr. G, Venkatswamy and Dr. Sarada Menon have shown us that this is possible. All it takes is passion, purpose, and persistence.
Here is a beautiful poem on ageing:

Age is a Quality of Mind

“Age is a quality of mind:

If your dreams you have left behind,

If hope is cold

If you no longer look ahead,

If your ambition’s fires are dead,

Then you are old

But if from life you take the best,

And if in life you keep the zest,

If love, you hold.

No matter how the years go by,

No matter how the birthdays fly,

You are not old.”

gvrao #saradamenon #gv #mathematician #PadmaShri

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