Are we losing our sense of family?



Are we treating our elderly right?

By Rose de la Cruz


Filipinos are widely- known as family-centered and particularly loving and caring of their lolos and lolas, unlike the Westerners who stash their elderly to the care of staff in homes for the aged. In fact, even the young, those in junior and senior high school in Western cultures are being encouraged to leave the safety of their parental homes in favor of independence.


Recent years, however, showed that more Filipinos are adopting the Western practice. They, too, have learned to rid themselves of the responsibility of caring for their old family members because they find the elderly as inconvenient and irritating to care for, never mind the sacrifices, heartaches and difficulty that their senior members have gone through in raising them. Are we losing our sense of family.


Many homes for the aged have sprouted in the country—majority of them privately-owned but accredited with the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Some (no matter their noble intentions) operate illegally until they are discovered.


Technology has often been said to have widened (not narrowed) the age gaps between the youth and the senior citizens. The youth are hooked to their gadgets and communicate only with their family members via the internet. To be fair though, technology has also helped connect those who have been separated so long from their elderly members and caused the reunification of the family, somehow.


But for majority of the old people who have been abandoned or left to wander on the streets by their young family members, a reunification has become an illusion as others would say, just a part of the imaginations in their advanced age marked by Alzheimer’s disease.  


For those who show care and attention, these are mostly volunteers (civic groups and civic-minded individuals) and social workers (who get paid to do the same).


In the San Lorenzo Ruiz home for the elderly on Lancaster St. in Pasay City, a congregation of nuns called the Little Sisters of the Poor (after its founder, St. Jeanne Jugan of France), care for 40 senior citizens aged 64 to 103. (The oldest member, who prefers to sleep than move around, dreams of reaching 240 years old, confided Sri Lankan nun, Sr. Noeline Bridget of the Trinity to this writer. Their wards were mostly begging on the streets, roaming aimlessly and living on scraps.


Though many companies visit these homes—on special occasions like Christmas and the Lenten season with photo opportunities with the wards for publicity—the elderly find real happiness in just the touch,  the voice and the little presents of those who are equally poor but make an effort to save up to help them, said Sr. Noeline, adding that these poor but generous hearts are the ones that bring tears (of happiness) to their eyes (and to them as well).


Talking to a couple of them, the elderly people still bear much positivity and hopefulness in their hearts. They are also more prayerful (thanking God for the extra years in their lives and for their care- providers and the generous benefactors, esp. the poor ones). They always look forward to the daily rosaries and masses, as if each of these “events” are their last, observed Sr. Noeline (who is the regular “beggar” of the Little Sisters, literally going from house to house, parishes to parishes and even companies for the subsistence of the facility).


SM Group gives continuous care


Apart from the over P200,000 check donation given by Sunshine Place of the Felicidad T. Sy Foundation of the SM Group, last week, the group continued to pour blessings on the Little Sisters of the Poor facility in Pasay through 40 bags of personal hygiene stuff, canned goods and prescription maintenance medicines last November 18.


The cash donation stemmed from Coloring Lives II exhibit of Sunshine Place last October 29— from art works done by the more affluent and artistically-gifted members of this senior hub ranging from acrylic, diamond and porcelain paintings and Ikebana-Sogetsu works that they sold to visitors to be given to the Little Sisters of the Poor. The exhibitors who formed part of the fundraising, dubbed seniors helping seniors, were Gloria Sun- Pe, Meliza Gonzales, Loida Tan, Vicky Pollisco, Rosalinda Lim Ng and Neny Regino mentored by Fidel Sarmiento, Mee Lee Casey, Robert Fernandez and Tere Boisier.


Regino said that aside form the financial donation, the group (in interaction with some of the wards of San Lorenzo Ruiz elderly home using their bare hands and art students) made a 4 X 8 feet mural that now adorns the lobby of the home for the elderly, adding life, color and a cheery atmosphere to it.


The elderly home was inaugurated on December 17, 2005 by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and is one of two homes for the elderly ran by the Little Sisters of the Poor, the other one is in Pangasinan. The 5-storey home in Pasay City was built through the proceeds of the sale of the elderly home in Singapore, which has become a very rich nation so there was no need for the facility there, explained Sr. Noeline.