The rewards of being a senior citizen in the Philippines
Age, though a mere number, can feel like a terrifying, ticking time bomb for many. “Stop this train,” many youngsters would say, quoting American singer-songwriter John Mayer in their desire to stay young and seemingly invincible.
Growing old, however, try as we might to stop it, is inevitable. One will eventually start to feel pain in their joints, watch out for their sugar level, and frequent the hospital or the clinic.
But growing old should not look or sound as bad as it seems, not when one is accorded with benefits that come with age because while life starts at 40, the perks pour in at 60.
In the Philippines, the elderly are entitled to a 20 percent senior citizen discount and exemption from value added tax (VAT), as mandated by Republic Act No. 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010. It is applicable to almost any necessity that comes to mind: transportation, food, accommodation, recreation such as the movies and museums, as well as burial and funeral services. They also benefit upon retirement from agencies such as the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System, and Pag-IBIG. They receive priority treatment, too, in all government offices and commercial establishments via special lanes especially dedicated to them.
All senior citizens, even without the required Member Data Record (MDR), automatically receive PhilHealth coverage in accredited healthcare facilities. This means that their medical supplies and services will be subsidized by the government. In case of hospital confinement, they also need not pay for their bill, thanks to the No Balance Billing Policy.
While life starts at 40, the perks pour in at 60.
Those who reach the age of 100 will also receive a gift of P100,000. Lawmakers pushing for amendments to the Centenarians Act of 2016 could immediately award this incentive to 80 and 90 year-olds.
Apart from country-wide benefits, perks for the lolos and lolas of Metro Manila vary from city to city, too.
In Quezon City, the elderly are given an Office of Senior Citizen Affairs (OSCA) card, which comes with the following perks: free parking in select establishments, free use of pay restrooms, free access to two films every Monday and Tuesday.
Resident senior citizens pay 18 percent less for medical and dental services within two weeks of their birthday. On housing for QC residents 10 years and up, they are not required to pay a transfer tax when selling their house and lot and they will have a new home within the next 18 months.
Centenarians in the city will also receive P10,000 cash incentive, P1,000 for every succeeding birthday, monthly allowance of P1,000, and another P1,000 every Christmas.
In the country’s capital, Manila, senior citizens are also entitled to an OSCA card, which provides free healthcare supplies and services, free movie passes on Mondays, Tuesday, and Thursdays, P500 on their birthday, and occasional city tours.
They are also exempted from number coding schemes, with free parking benefit in the city. The local government also holds activities like landscaping, vegetable planting, aerobics, and gateball in Rizal Park.
Parlor games, haircuts, massages, and general check-ups are available at local daycare centers, too. Centenarians are gifted with P100,000 cash incentive and an additional P10,000 for every succeeding birthday.
In Makati, turning 60 means joining the Tribe of Senior Citizens. They can apply for a BLU card, which will entitle them to number coding scheme exemption, cakes on their birthdays and 50th wedding anniversary, free groceries during Christmas, free access in movie theaters, P100,000 cash incentive for centenarians, burial assistance worth P3,000, and P5,000 for World War II veterans.
They can also enjoy leisure tours around Metro Manila, with free food and accommodation, as well as free access to monthly “Aawitan Kita” concerts at the University of Makati.
In Taguig, a Center for the Elderly provides wellness, rest, and relaxation to senior citizens. The establishment is home to numerous facilities such as a therapy pool, saunas, a massage room, a ballroom, a reading lounge, a theater, and a rooftop garden. A pantry, clinic, and restrooms for the differently-abled are also available for use.
But perhaps the most rewarding perk of being a Filipino senior citizen is this: the still-thriving tradition of families being responsible for and taking care of their elders.
This is an idea that remains firmly rooted in Filipino society today, which is why older people usually spend their days with their families, instead of being in a home for the aged.
Because while the elders deserve all the monetary and complimentary perks they receive, nothing is more rewarding than the presence of loved ones who consider it a privilege to take their turn at caring for the ones who cared for them when they were young and unable to fend for themselves.
This article was first published in the September 2019 issue of the Philippine Panorama.