• When age matters

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    There are two bills in the 16th Congress that our senators and congressmen should consider passing because they give more benefits to the country’s senior citizens and further promote their interests.

    One of the legislative measures is Sen. Cynthia Villar’s Senate Bill (SB) 1999, which seeks to institutionalize a national long-term care program for the elderly, especially those who have been abandoned or neglected by their families. We know that there are many of them.

    Several charity and religious organizations have been running homes for the aged particularly because government agencies have not been able to take care of the elders who have been abandoned and neglected by their loved ones.

    SB 1999, or the Long-Term Care for Senior Citizens Act of 2013, seeks to create a National Long-term Care Program Framework, which shall embody core programs and services on social protection to reduce poverty incidence among elderly citizens and their vulnerability to risks.

    Social welfare programs under the proposed framework would provide “curative and preventive interventions that seek to support the special needs of elderly citizens and to reduce risks associated with old age,” to include activities designed to protect them from abuse, exploitation and discrimination.

    Elderly citizens shall also have access to livelihood programs that would guarantee a minimum income, which are designed to increase their productivity, and other poverty-alleviation programs.

    Under SB 1999, existing social insurance programs shall be modified and expanded to guarantee adequate protection of elderly citizens from loss of income and unemployment due to old age.

    “Integrated and innovative elderly-focused health and social services” shall be made available at the local level, with particular emphasis on disease prevention, health promotion and wellness of the mind, body and spirit.

    Health services shall comprise preventive, curative and rehabilitative health-care services in all government and private hospitals, local health facilities and other community-based facilities.

    The components proposed for inclusion in the program include home care and hospice for frail and dependent elderly and medical and psychological support for patients requiring it, development and provision of geriatric training at the family and community level, and mandatory Philhealth coverage for elderly citizens, especially the poor.

    Another component of the program is an “enabling and supportive environment” through home nursing, respite care facilities, counseling programs, professional guidance and emotional support, and low-cost community-based activities integrated into existing community programs, and strengthening inter-generational relationships.

    The National Long-Term Care Program for Senior Citizens shall be jointly implemented by the Department of Finance, Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units.

    The National Inter-Agency Monitoring Board created under Republic Act 9257 of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, shall take the lead in monitoring the implementation of the measure.

    The other bill is Pasay Rep. Emi Calixto Rubiano’s proposal to penalize age discrimination.

    Age discrimination in the country is rampant. Just take a quick look at the jobs ads. You see employers everywhere specifying age qualifications. Older people are barred from applying for jobs that they may well be qualified for. And we don’t even mean senior citizens here. One could easily find job ads specifying people over 30 years and older “need not apply.” Indeed, we find something very wrong when you are considered by certain industries as washed up and unemployable at 40.

    Rubiano’s bill wants to prohibit any person, group or establishment from making age a requirement for employment, placing advertisements that list age as a requirement for employment, indicating age as a preference for employment, refusing to hire a person because of advanced age and lowering the retirement age other than those prescribed in the Constitution for the judiciary, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

    It also sets a penalty of a minimum fine of P10,000 or imprisonment of a minimum of one month and a maximum of one year for those found violating the provisions of the measure.

    The penalty is without prejudice to the award of damages to the aggrieved party, as may be proven during a trial.

    There were several bills in the past Congresses prohibiting age discrimination but they never made any progress. We need this law.

    Sure, the Philippines has one of the youngest populations in the world, and with one million new job entrants entering the labor force every year, there aren’t even enough jobs for our young people.

    But considering the alarming jobs-skills mismatch in the Philippines, there may well be many jobs out there for which older workers are well qualified for if given the opportunity. We should mandate equal opportunity employment. If you are qualified, you’re qualified, whatever your age may be or gender or regardless of which school you graduated from.

    Older Filipinos who have the skills, knowledge and experience to do a certain job should not be prevented the opportunity just because they have a few more digits in their lifespan.

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