Senator Francis Tolentino
Worldwide, the number of people aged 60 years or more is steadily increasing over the past several years. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects 2.1 billion people beyond age 60 by the year 2050. In the Philippines, statistics on the elderly point to the same direction, with senior citizens comprising 16.5 percent of the total population by year 2050. Data from the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) also revealed that Filipino elderly lifestyle, despite the increasing advocacy for healthy living, is bending towards the unhealthy axis, with four out of 10 elderly Filipinos engaged in binge drinking and about half of their total population identified as physically inactive.
Given these statistics, we see the clear need for a dietary and nutrition program that will address the current and emerging nutritional needs of elderly Filipinos. From the same 2018 ENNS referenced above, obesity and high fasting blood sugar was shown to have steadily increased among Filipino senior citizens from 2015 to 2018, with these health conditions of course attributed to malnutrition and undernutrition as well. While our national nutrition program remains steadily in place and is constantly recalibrated to meet the needs of Filipinos across all age groups, a more intensive intervention on elderly health and nutrition is perhaps timely, especially in light of the statistics we have mentioned in the foregoing paragraph.
Proper nutrition is extremely vital in healthy ageing, which is by the way also among the priority thrusts of the World Health Organization as outlined in its Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020-2030 plan. The shared goal of the world is to “develop and maintain the functional ability that enables well-being in older age.” While ageing cannot be withheld nor reversed, the need for a tailor-fitted elderly nutrition program established and strengthened by legislation and policy formulation, remains increasingly compelling and relevant. Having devoted their lives and energies to help build and strengthen the nation, and having offered their share in community development and growth, it is only but fitting to acknowledge and return the favor to our elderly population by ensuring that their health and well-being are guaranteed and nurtured.
Along this line, I have filed Senate Bill No. 1799 or An Act Providing for a Comprehensive and Strengthened Nutrition Program for Senior Citizens just last Jan. 30, 2023 for the purpose of safeguarding the health and well-being of our senior citizens through a health and nutrition program specifically designed to meet their elderly health and nutrition needs.
The book of Job, in chapter 12 verse 12 says: “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old.” May this remind the Filipino youth of the valuable wisdom and lessons that can be learned from the elderly, if they can continue to go, grow and glow old.