Zooming into the Philippines’ elderly
Filipinos are known to have a high regard for their elderly. And the reason why there are only 13 nursing homes in the 7,107 islands of the country is that we want them to age in their own homes. A country is considered to be aging if people aged 60 years old and above comprise 10% of the population. Projections show that by 2020, NCR and Ilocos Region will be the first regions in the country to reach 10% followed closely by Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Cagayan Valley, Western and Central Visayas in 2025( Ogena, 2006) . However, if you look closely into a city’s demographics, some is just a fraction away from 10%.
Recent local data shows that the elderly comprises 6.8% of the total population and 5.4% of them lives alone. Adding to their vulnerability, 34.9% of the total people with disabilities (PWDs) are elderly.However, an emerging issue for the Filipino elderly would be the decrease in capability of the responsible member of the family to support them with their needs. In fact by 2040, the Potential Support Ratio of the country will decrease from 15 in the year 2000 to 7; meaning that 7 people from working age group will support one elderly. (NCSB, 2010)
Programs that attend to the social, emotional, mental, physical, occupational and recreational needs of the elderly are readily available in the metropolitan. But still, there is a wide gap on whether these services actually reach this marginalized vulnerable population.Social dynamics demonstrate that even if a health center is accessible, a Filipino elderly rarely go to these facilities because they feel powerless with the long queue of younger people. Oftentimes, they would ignore mild signs and symptoms like cough because they do not want to disturb their children from their work to tag along with them to the center. Especially in a working city, elderly are left alone in their homes because the family members need to go to school or work.
How can we address this issue? The use of telehealth is a cost-effective intervention that has increased the access of the population to health, developed educational opportunities, improved the quality and equity of care and enhanced the quality of life and social support (Legare et al, 2010). Innovations on elderly health are now in place in developed countries but in a country that has not reached an aging cut-off, Filipinos still prefer the traditional trend.
Legare E et al. Telehealth readiness assessment tools. J Telemed Telecare. 2010;16(3):107-9.
Ogena N. The Low and Slow Aging in the Philippines: Auspicious or Challenging? University of the Philippines Population Institute Publication
Antipolo J. Are we an aging country? Accessed Online: http://www.makati.uhcaction.org/2011/12/are-we-an-aging-country/ December 10,2011