Salute to seniors
Today the country celebrates “Centenarians Day,” but senior citizens still quite a distance from this milestone also have a reason to whoop it up, as we also mark the beginning of “Elderly Filipino Week.”
“National Respect for Centenarians Day” is observed every first Sunday of October by virtue of Republic Act No. 10868, or the Centenarians Law of 2016. Makati Rep. Luis Campos Jr., the deputy minority leader, says the occasion is being launched to “salute all Filipino centenarians for their longevity, and for their lives of service to family, community and nation.”
In Makati, says Campos, the city government gives everyone who has reached the 100-year threshold and beyond a one-time gift of P100,000 and a plaque of recognition. A total of 42 Makati residents have received the recognition since 2013, he says. But he points out that this amount is on top of the P100,000 from the national government through the Department of Social Welfare and Development. He says the total budget for the recognition of centenarians is P180.5 million for 2018, which is enough to cover the rewards due to 1,895 Filipinos turning 100 next year.
Certainly, P100,000 is nothing to sneeze at. But at this stage in their lives, recipients of the recognition would need to budget most of the amount for their healthcare needs, including hospitalization. And even at their advanced age, many 100-year-olds must still need to share their bounty with children and grandchildren, who may still depend on them for assistance such as for food, education, shelter, and even healthcare.
All the more for parents and grandparents who have reached “elderly” senior status. Even as they may have retired from employment or active income-earning, many are still counted on to provide assistance to the family. And with the phenomenon of overseas Filipino workers, with many families losing both parents to work abroad, grandparents often become the “caregivers of last resort,” tasked with looking after their grandchildren.
Which is why, says Campos, at the start of Elderly Filipino Week the nation must “applaud elderly Filipinos who, due to changes in family structures, have become even more valuable to the preservation of our values and traditions.”
Because of the need to stand as guardians for their family members at home, many elderly Filipinos “have opted to stay productive economically not only to help support themselves but also to support their financially struggling children and grandchildren,” says Campos.
As a consequence, he adds, “countless old-age pensioners are also spending their social security benefits to help pay for the schooling and other needs of their grandchildren.”
I’m sure that the seniors, when asked if they think this continuing financial burden is worth the trouble, would reply positively, if not always enthusiastically. After all, being able to contribute to the welfare and wherewithal of their families is a point of pride for many older Filipinos who may be starting to feel useless when they stop actively pursuing their means of livelihood.
It is, in a way, a means of recapturing the position of respect and veneration they once enjoyed when the needs, wants and desires of family members lay completely in their hands.
But then, time will come when, despite their active pursuit of the means to help the next generations live a better life, seniors will feel burdened by age, ill health and debilitation. Filipino culture deems that it’s the responsibility of children to step up then and look after the care of their parents who had raised them.
But it should also be part of the state’s mandate to look after the needs of those who had, for most of their lives, worked to the bone to provide for their families. Which is why the tributes to centenarians and older folk must be matched as well by real benefits and solutions.
Correction to Friday’s column on Dennis Labayen, whose work in international community development was recognized recently. I mentioned that Dennis and his wife Lorna have two daughters, Kweet and Yllah. I missed making mention of their youngest, Lea or Lei. Sorry for that, Lei.
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