Ageing Is Not for the Faint-hearted


By Dr. Jun Naraval, OpinYon Mindanao

My mom, Lucidia, was almost unstoppable from narrating her childhood days at Cortes St., Davao City. This is where her family and the Dutertes crossed path.

Her father, Gov. Domingo Braganza, ascended to the post as Governor of the undivided Davao (1936-1937) when then Gov. Generoso passed away during his tenure of office.

Cortes was the center of Davao. I got from her that the Dutertes lived, for a while, at their cousin’s house, Isoy (Eliseo) and Ching Braganza, when Pres. Rody’s family migrated to Davao from Cebu.

Both my mom and Pres. Rody, represents their generation’s great past and a future that looks like a weather-beaten tungkod (staff) particularly for elderly women. More of them survive their husbands and live to fend on their own.


Ageing population, the percentage of the population aged 60 years and over, is becoming one of the mega demographic trends in the Philippines.

In 2015, they comprised 16.7% of the population. The sheer number of the elderly estimated at 17.5 million is sufficient to jolt us of the burden of illness that our old folks are suffering from.

Think of cataract, arthritis, deafness, cardiovascular conditions, depression and other debilitating diseases multiplied a million over coupled with an ineffectual health care system and front line health providers with weak skills in handling the problems of the elderly.

It’s a disaster. Abuse committed by family members is also pervasive.

Not only is their labor participation low from the bias of companies to recruit younger and stronger staff mostly in their productive age.

It is also a fact that those that are 70 years and over were born during the post-war period marked with scarcity of schools which means so many of them have lower education and lesser skills to work.

It is no surprise why most of the elderly are plunged into poverty.


The Philippines have more than enough laws and policies. But why are we in this state? Coordination of the different departments tasked to address the needs of the elderly is ineffective, but also excruciatingly slow.

Monitoring of the status of the elderly and the linkages and continuum of care from families and communities to institutions towards a more targeted support is random. For what little they have with their pension has to be allocated to support their children’s children.

We have, of course, heard about entertainment benefits for the elderly i.e., cakes, free access to movie houses, which I think are good, but the poor, debilitated and depressed elderly could hardly enjoy.

Imagine yourself eating cake when you could barely buy medicine to control your diabetes? Visualize yourself watching a movie but your mind is not in it but thinking of where to get the next meal?


It is not just about doing something, but it should be doing the right thing. At the crux of it is that as duty bearers (government, those in authority) and family members, we never subscribe ourselves to the belief that information and services, love and care are rights deserved by the elderly and not something done out of charity or “awa.”

So when bereft of this belief, we tend to hem and haw, do the usual, and apply failed strategies but expect different results. We need a new approach to our ageing population.

At the rate of the Parkinson syndrome-like tremors, lack of coordination and speaking difficulties to address the ageing population, indeed, to be old in the Philippines requires one to be made of steel to survive.

I am glad that my mom is tough enough and she has, at least, a family support system. But it doesn’t hold true to many of the ageing people who, almost always, clench a worn down and weathered staff expected to break at any time.

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Thursday, 05 December 2019
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