By FRANCIS N. TOLENTINO
From the many engagements I have had as President Rodrigo Duterte’s pointman/responder to natural calamities and crises in various parts of the country, I have witnessed the grief and hardships of our fellow Filipinos struggling after every calamity to rise and rebuild their lives. There are those who lost their precious possessions due to typhoons and floods, and those who needed to flee from their homes to escape danger and or those who have tragically lost their loved ones. Amidst the drama of life during and after natural calamities, children and our elderly are the most vulnerable and should thus be given preferential attention in disaster response efforts.
However, not only disasters create stressful situations in our senior citizens. For senior retirees who benefit from GSIS or SSS monthly pensions, thinking about food expenses, utility bills like electricity and water, education expenses of children or grandchildren, and perhaps funds for maintenance medicines, may not be as frustrating as for a senior citizen short of retirement benefits such as pensions. The sad thing though is that at times, even monthly pensions are not enough to support these needs. Imagine the anxiety it brings to senior citizens who need to provide for their families, yet do not have the means to do so.
We have senior citizens who, despite being in the twilight years of their lives, cannot quit working because they have to support the needs of their families. They should not be deprived of work opportunities or discriminated because of age. They should be given equal chances to make a living.
We do not mean to belittle the benefits extended bythe national government to our senior citizens. Medical benefits are given to our elderly, particularly to those who suffer from illness and do not have the means to secure appropriate health services. What I wish to emphasize is that for Filipinos who have reached the age of 60 to 65, and whose physical and mental condition can still guarantee work efficiency and productivity, employment opportunities should be made equally available so that they may be able to support themselves and their families without having to rely solely on monthly pensions or government assistance.
From a wider perspective, the experiences and polished skills of those who have worked for longer years are essential in teaching the younger workers how to attain company goals and deliver the best work outputs. Apart from the wisdom and skills that senior workers might be able to share, they may also provide the best example of work discipline and dedication to younger members of the labor force — lessons that are essential to the success of the company or the organization which they serve.
Our culture teaches us to give our elderly the highest regard. Recognition of the vital contributions to the community that they have made, and can still make, should be part of the respect that we ought to pay them. As it is written in the Bible in Job 12:12, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” Let us honor our senior citizens by allowing them to share with us their time-fortified wisdom and character.
ERRATUM: The title of this column which came out last February 4, 2019, should have been “Elusive peace” not “Ellusive peace.”