Aging in Dignity

Little evaluation has been done on the implementation of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act

Seven percent of the Philippine population (or 7-8 million) are now aged 60 and above. When you reach this age cohort, you become physically, emotionally, and financially vulnerable. In response to these vulnerabilities, Congress enacted RA 9994, the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, in 2010, prescribing social services for the elderly so that they can lead less vulnerable lives and contribute to nation-building. This law focuses on the protection of indigent seniors – those who have been abandoned and frail – by providing a 20 percent discount on drugs and grocery items, free flu and pneumonia vaccines, and a monthly pension of PHP 500. It also mandates the establishment of geriatric facilities.

Little evaluation has been done on the implementation of this law, but there have been criticisms about its shortcomings. The Coalition of Services for the Elderly (CSE) estimates that only 3 million (out of 8 million) seniors receive any kind of pension (GSIS, SSS, private, or social pension), indicating the need to expand the implementation coverage. CSE also thinks the current social-pension allowance for each indigent senior of PHP 500/month is too low and must be increased to PHP 1,000/month.

The senior discount cards have been helpful, but the presentation of grocery and drug booklets (required in some localities) at the point of purchase may be an unnecessary administrative obstacle.

The continuing lack of PhilHealth outpatient pharmacy benefits for chronic ailments impoverishes many seniors and their families, more so because the prices of maintenance drugs to deal with them are prohibitive. Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and end-stage renal disease are now at an alarming prevalence in the Philippines, and these afflict mostly seniors.

Research on active and healthy aging remains inadequate. The UP-Manila Institute on Aging recently submitted a proposal on Focused Interventions for Frail Older Adults to DOH and this should address the gap.

The Philippines also has to keep with international standards, such as WHO’s Global Strategy and Action Plan on Aging and Health (2016-2020). Healthy and active aging must be given due attention; the European Union and Japan are leading in this area, and their experiences should be emulated.

About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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