The fun and funds of bonus years
WHEN SAINT John Paul was still a pope, he issued a letter to the elderly, quoting the Old Testament to assure them that once a person attains the age of 70, he/she lives on his/her bonus years. He said the bonus years are God’s gift to man. I have been enjoying more than a dozen bonus years now, and I am grateful to God, to my family and to society in general.
Indeed senior citizens in the Philippines enjoy many privileges, foremost of which are the “senior’s discount,” plus the VAT (value-added tax) exemption, on many goods and services, like meals in restaurants, medicines, transportation fares, cinemas and other entertainment events.
Certain restaurants, like the buffet chains of Buffet 101 or Vikings, offer as much as 50 percent in discount for seniors who are aged 75 and above. Again, I feel lucky and grateful in this regard.
In supermarkets and grocery stores, the discount is 5 percent on purchases for essential food and some household items. But there is a limit to the discountable amount of this kind of purchases—P1,300. A fellow senior citizen complained that even though he had bought P5,000 worth of groceries, the amount of discount was pegged at P1,300 only. In such situations, the clever thing to do is to break down the purchases into different batches worth P1,400 each in order to get a maximum discount. One supermarket outlet in BF Parañaque good-naturedly suggested this to me.
Other privileges that senior citizens enjoy are the priority attention or special consideration from service providers; and special lanes, areas or seats reserved for them—as required by law. In MRT trains, the first coach is reserved for seniors, persons with disabilities and pregnant women. Even women who do not fall under any of the three categories offer their seats to the elderly—which shows how our young accord the elderly with respect. In the Balintawak-Baclaran line of LRT 1, there used to be a uniformed security guard who rode the train, politely asking younger passengers to give their seats to senior citizens.
The latest of the seniors’ benefit is the automatic PhilHealth membership which the law grants citizens who are 60 years old and above, even if they have never paid any amount to PhilHealth before. All they have to do is register with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
My wife and I just recently returned from the United States and had the opportunity to compare the benefits enjoyed by seniors there and here. In California, they do not have the 20-percent discount on food purchases, and neither do they have any VAT exemption. Some restaurants there offer certain discounts for seniors, but the discount is arbitrarily set by management. One restaurant we went to offered a discount on seniors’ meals, but the volume of food served was also “discounted”! But they are more meticulous in giving seniors the privilege of being prioritized when they are in queues.
The BIGGEST advantage elderly citizens in America enjoy, which seniors in the Philippines do not, is in healthcare. Out there, the country’s universal healthcare provides most seniors free hospitalization, and free medicines (except the easily available generics). My wife and I are grateful we enjoyed these perks, being dependents of our son Marlo who is a US citizen.
American seniors who get sick and cannot take care of themselves are required to be confined in a hospital. If hospitalization is not needed, they can stay in a home for the aged, or in a palliative care institution, or in an “assisted living institution,” or a hospice care institution, depending on the gravity of their condition. Health authorities there want to ensure that the sick or elderly are adequately cared for, especially when they cannot care for themselves.
When my brother Job, a neurologist who practiced in New York and retired in Las Vegas, suffered dementia after his retirement, he was told to stay in an assisted living facility, although his wife is a nurse. He had a seizure before Christmas. We were lucky to see him on Dec. 29 last year as he was gone the next day. I am grateful I was able to talk to him, and although he could not talk anymore, he could still hear me (doctors there said hearing is the last sense to go) and he responded through mouth signals to my prayers for him.
While we can say there is more fun for seniors in the Philippines, for which we should be grateful, the reality is, there are more funds for the caring of seniors in the United States.
Mafeo R. Vibal, 82, is a lawyer who worked at the House of Representatives until 2013. He wrote the book: “How Bills Become Philippine Laws.” At present he is a legal counsel of the Philippine Hospital Association, which is composed of some 1,850 private and government hospitals. He is also an active elder in Couples for Christ.