A million ways to honor seniors | Inquirer Opinion

A million ways to honor seniors

/ 05:03 AM May 20, 2023

In many societies in the world, especially in Asia including the Philippines, aging confers a special, elevated status on those who manage to go beyond the average individual life span.

Among Filipinos, the average life span is 72.12 years of age, relatively young compared to, say, the Japanese who live up to, on average, 84.62 years in 2020. And so, for a Filipino to reach the venerable age of a hundred years old is cause for celebration among family members, friends, neighbors, and the community. Longevity comes with the added benefits of respect, even reverence, the care of relatives, and the recognition of one’s endurance and, it is hoped, wisdom born of experience.


Today, the benefits of aging for Filipinos stand to go beyond the intangible rewards of admiration and affection. With a vote by an overwhelming majority of its members, the House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill increasing the cash gift for Filipino centenarians who reach 101 years old from P100,000 to P1 million. The measure applies to Filipinos, whether living here or abroad, and grants as well a gift of P100,000 to those who reach the age of 100, as well as P25,000 to Filipinos who reach the age of 80 and 85, and 90 and 95. All of them will also receive a letter of felicitation from the President.

The National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC) is tasked to implement the measure.


Two of every 100,000 Filipinos are centenarians as of 2020, and majority of them are women, figures from a study of a UK-based care home marketplace indicate. During a House committee hearing last year, former social welfare secretary Erwin Tulfo reported that there are 662 Filipino centenarians in the country.

So far so good for our “super seniors.” And yet many questions and concerns remain. One cannot overstate the need for urgency to have the measure enacted into law and fully implemented before the remaining centenarians pass away. But knowing how slow and sluggish laws are put into practice here, quite a number of years may pass before the benefits are fully distributed and accounted for.

And while seniors enjoy a measure of respect from society, there is still quite a number who suffer neglect, consigned to the care of untrained caregivers, or sent to homes for the aged where they are for the most part forgotten and ignored. Indeed, there are sordid tales of families, unable or unwilling to care for their elderly, who surreptitiously abandon their aging, sickly relatives in hospitals or care homes, hoping that somehow their relatives will be taken care of.

Even the cash grants, no matter how generous, pose a threat to the welfare of the very old, maybe even provoking unfortunate behavior on the part of the younger generation to somehow take advantage of the windfall, thinking the healthy and productive better deserve the money than one who is about to leave this earth. It is difficult, after all, to tell how greed and envy could curdle even the most loving of relationships.

This is where the state could step in beyond simply allocating funds for seniors. What, for instance, is the experience and expertise of the NCSC in administering a huge fund and ensuring that the money reaches the intended beneficiaries and is used for their acute health needs and their comfort in their twilight years? Will the funds be transmitted quickly and conveniently, or will seniors have to jump through hoops (as they do today for their Social Security System or Government Service Insurance System pensions) to access what is theirs by law?

In addition to providing cash grants, perhaps the government, through the Department of Health, could provide free or subsidized health-care services to those over 80 years old. This could also include rehabilitative services, such as occupational therapy, group activities like mild exercise, dancing, singing, and field trips, dietary support, even psychological counseling.

We Filipinos have long prided ourselves in the way families care for the frail, faltering, aging, and ailing among us. Living in a multigenerational household provides ready support when needed to senior members. But other family members, especially the very young, benefit as well from the counsel of their elders, as well as an awareness of where they are rooted, who their ancestors are, their place in history, and the lessons learned through a lifetime of loving and sharing.

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