‘Mahalaga sina Lolo at Lola sa Panahon ng Pandemya’

Published October 1, 2021, 12:54 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

Elderly Filipinos

With COVID-19 pandemic that forced Filipinos to go digital in almost all transactions even in buying basic necessities like food, the country’s elderly persons “are at greater risk of suffering from the digital divide.”

This was stressed by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as it urged the government and all Filipinos to “work together to provide elderly persons with better opportunities to improve their digital abilities as an essential means to their well-being.”

CHR Commissioner Karen S. Gomez-Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on Ageing and the Rights of Older Persons, said the commission joins in the celebration of the International Day of Older Persons and Elderly Filipino Week, Oct. 1 to 7.

In the Philippines, the Oct. 1 to 7 celebration of the Elderly Filipino Week was mandated by Proclamation No. 470 issued by then President Fidel V. Ramos on Sept. 26, 1994. The proclamation is aimed at increasing public awareness on the different issues concerning elderly Filipinos.

Commissioner Dumpit said that with the theme “Digital Equity for All Ages,” this year’s International Day of Older Persons “affirms the need for Older Person’s inclusion, access, and meaningful participation in the digital world.”

Echoing the United Nations Secretary-General’s message, this year’s theme “offers an important chance to expand opportunities across generations for the benefit of society as a whole,” Dumpit said.

She said: “Older persons have often been left more isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic as we have been forced to go digital by default. They are at greater risk of suffering from the digital divide. Therefore, we must work together in order to provide them with better opportunities to improve their digital abilities as an essential means to their well-being.”

This year’s theme for the Elderly Filipino Week is “Mahalaga sina Lolo at Lola sa Panahon ng Pandemya.”

Dumpit said the theme “offers an important message – that together we have a duty and responsibility to support older persons in realizing their worth, dignity, and human rights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Considered as one of the most vulnerable sectors of the society, each one of us must play a part in protecting our elders against the virus by observing and practicing minimum health standards and in advocating for the adoption and implementation of inclusive policies and rallying against negative societal perceptions on the sector,” she stressed.

She cited a World Health Organization (WHO) pronouncement that identified older persons “as among the sectors who are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with COVID because of physical reasons; however, this is not entirely inherent to the consequences of an ageing body.”

She said WHO stated that “some older people are more vulnerable because of social and economic reasons — socioeconomic status and source of income, living arrangements, dependency on daily support, and access to basic needs, health care, and useful information, among others.”

“With reports claiming incidence of domestic violence and neglect increasing during quarantine periods, a vast number of at-risk older persons – those with advanced age, disability, and who are care-dependent – will be imperiled,” she said.

Thus, Dumpit said, the CHR continues to call on government and other duty-bearers to ensure a human-rights-based approach in mitigating the vulnerabilities of older Filipinos amid the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure their human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

She said: “We have called for vaccine equity. The WHO has called on government to accelerate efforts by Local Government Units to vaccinate senior citizens as only 25 percent of Older Persons have been fully vaccinated as of the end of July, leaving 6.4M of the elderly at increased risk of severe illness and death.”

“We will continue to work with our legislators and policy-makers for the adoption and implementation of policies that will bridge the institutional gaps on the Older Person sector to address their physical, social, and economic vulnerability amid the country’s greatest health emergency,” she added.