Empathize, sympathize with the elderly

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THE Philippines observes Elderly Filipino Week on October 1-7, 2014. Every year the government must hold this observance because of a Sept. 26, 1994 presidential proclamation whose aim is to increase the people’s awareness of the needs and concerns of “the older persons’ sector.”

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As usual it is the Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) department that leads the observance since it chairs the National Steering Committee, which consists of partner agencies and senior citizens’ associations. The celebration’s theme this year is “Ang Nakatatanda ay Yaman, Katuwang sa Pag-unlad ng Bayan, Pangalagaan kanilang Kapakanan.” [The elderly are a treasure, partners in national progress, protect their interests.]

This year’s activities include: a walk for life; a forum on social Protection for seniors; “Dalaw Kalinga”– visits to “Visitorless”, indigent, sick, older prisoners; a forum on social pension; a forum on inclusive disaster risk reduction; and a photo exhibit.

The elderly sector comprises 6.8 percent of the Philippine population. It is an integral part of Philippine society. The State has a responsibility to protect elderly citizens.

Republic Act (RA) 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, provides more benefits and privileges granted to older persons. They are entitled a 20 percent discount on the purchase of certain goods and services, a special 5 percent discount on prime commodities and basic necessities, and a 5 percent utility discount on electric and water consumption.

Many stores, specially drugstores, find ways to refuse to give these legally required discounts. They don’t give discounts if the Senior Citizen’s ID is issued by another city, despite the law stating that the OSCA ID is nationally valid. In fact the new law requires stores to give discounts to seniors who have no OSCA ID if they can show a passport or a driver’s license or any other official proof that they are 60 years old or older.

RA 9994 also entitles eligible indigent senior citizens to a social pension of P500 monthly. This government social pension program for indigent seniors is being implemented by the DSWD.

The DSWD also manages four residential care services located in Quezon City, Rizal province, Davao City and Zamboanga City. In these residential homes, caregivers attend to older persons who have been abandoned and neglected by their families.

There are also group homes for older persons that provide community-based alternative living arrangement and senior citizens centers that provide recreational, educational, health and social programs designed for the enjoyment and well-being of the elderly. The DSWD provides technical assistance to local government units in the management of the senior citizens centers.

These efforts to increase awareness of the elderly and appreciation for them as contributors to national progress are commendable.

There should also be a campaign to make owners, builders and the management of restaurants, malls and other public institutions–including government offices and churches–of the needs of the elderly and even young people who use wheelchairs. Many of these buildings have no ramps for wheelchairs. Where there are ramps that allow wheelchair-bound seniors to enter buildings, the wheelchairs are blocked by two- or three-inch high dividers on the floor at the entrances and between rooms. Most churches and chapels have steps on their entrances and no ramps for wheelchairs. It only shows that the minds of many mall, department store and restaurant owners, managers and builders–as well as bishops, parish priests, Protestant ministers and government officials–have yet to recognize the humanity of wheelchair-bound persons.

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