Do not forsake the elderly

Published November 25, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.”

Citing this biblical passage from Psalm 71:9, Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. called for the establishment of a geriatric hospital and more benefits for senior citizens.

In pushing for measures to care for the elderly, Abante cited the Longitudinal Study of Aging and Health in the Philippines (LSAHP), showing that “Filipinos aged 60 and above are far less healthy and economically secure than the younger, working-age Philippine citizens.”

The study was presented at the recent “Policy Priorities for Dignified Aging Webinar,” organized by the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department.

To underscore the urgency of his call, the congressman said indicators in the LSAHP study “reinforce the case for better care, increased benefits, and special programs to address the concerns of our senior citizens.”

“In the twilight of their lives, our senior citizens should be able to rely not just on their families, but also on the state. Having served as productive members of society, they have earned the right to rest, retire, and live the rest of their days free from sickness and stress,” he said. “I feel that the greatest concerns of most of them that need to be addressed with urgency are financial assistance, mobility, medical and health care, and recreational and health activities, which may ultimately address the issues of stress and depression among them.”

Abante has filed House Bill No. 191 (Geriatric Health Act) that calls for the establishment of a National Center for Geriatric Health and Research Institute as well as regional geriatric specialty centers in DOH-retained hospitals. Aside from this, Abante also filed HB 4543 (An Act Increasing and Expanding the Benefits Granted to Senior Citizens).

The Manila solon’s move is aligned with the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing, a global collaboration that “seeks to reduce health inequities and improve the lives of older people, their families and communities through collective action in four areas: changing how we think, feel and act toward age and ageism; developing communities in ways that foster the abilities of older people; delivering person-centered integrated care and primary health services responsive to older people; and providing older people who need it with access to quality long-term care.”

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2021–2030 the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing after the World Health Organization (WHO) observed that “people worldwide are living longer,” noting that one in six people in the world will be aged 60 years and above by 2030.

On the domestic front, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, said that in 2020, Filipinos 60 years old and above comprised 8.5 percent of the population, or 9.2 million — more than 50 percent higher than the 4.5-million elderly population in 2000.

We express hope Congress would heed the Manila congressman’s call because of its social impact, it’s a response to the UN’s global collaboration, and its biblical implication.

We need to care for the elderly.