The Filipino Elderly as a Resource

by Jasmin B. Sorita, Master of Arts in Demography (2004)

The elderly population in the Philippines is steadily growing and is expected to increase from 3.7 million of the total population in 1995 to a significant 11.3 million by the year 2020 (NSO, 1995). It is therefore urgent to prepare the Filipino citizenry for a productive ageing experience with their needs met and essential services delivered. With this, it is important to dispel the myths associated with ageing that they are a burden and dependent by emphasizing the positive contributions of older persons in the family and the community.

The study aims to provide quantitative and qualitative evidences to show that the Filipino elderly are a resource for individuals, family, community and society. Specifically, the study: 1) provides a brief demographic and socio-economic profile of the elderly; 2) Identifies quantitatively and qualitatively specific ways in which the Filipino Elderly have actually and potentially been making substantial contributions; 3) Classifies the specific ways into constructs that reflect the level, and degree of being a resource; 4) Compares the elderly potential and actual usefulness in order to recommend areas where the elderly can contribute.

Findings of the study are as follows: there were more female that male elderly. Most of the elderly lived in rural areas than urban areas. Majority of them have been married at some point in their lives, although remarriage is men resulted in having more widows than widowers. Majority of the elderly had at least an elementary education. Self-assessment of the present health status of elderly revealed that most of them regarded their health as average. More urban residents than rural counterparts were aware of government programs irrespective of age and sex.

The Filipino elderly still have a high regard for themselves. Majority of them did not view themselves as a ‘burden’ to the society. The elderly viewed the society tending to have eroded in the traditional respect for old members of society as majority of them reported that they fell the younger generation have lesser respect for them. More than half of the Filipino elderly currently worked for a living, the main household income earner and owned the house and land that they were currently residing in. They are likely to retain their ownership over these properties until the late ages of 80 and over or probably after their death.

Material and financial support to children and grandchildren were still very much evident at the time of the study and were also extending support to siblings and other relatives. The Filipino elderly may be considered a resource through non-material and non-monetary support to children in ways such as taking care of grandchildren, participating in household activities/chores and acting as family advisers when members of the family are having problems. In terms of community involvement, the elderly participated more in religious activities than social activities. Religious organizations were also the most popular choice among other organizations for the elderly. Since volunteerism is not yet as popular in the Philippines as in other countries in the world, volunteer organizations were the least-participated organizations among the elderly.

The Filipino elderly are indeed a resource in six distinct ways based on constructs established by the study with the use of 18 variables available in the 1996 PES after a thorough quantitative examination. The Filipino elderly were found to be resource in terms of support to children, support to grandchildren, support to relatives and siblings, economic resource capability, property ownership and community participation.

The determinants of these constructs varied. Age, sex and education were found to be important in terms of support to children. The variables having net influence to the support given to grandchildren/household participation were age, sex and perceived health status. Age and education were found to be important only with support given to relatives or siblings. The net predictors of economic resource capability were age, sex, urban-rural residence, education and perceived health status. Property ownership as a resource held true among the urban elderly, separated/divorced, and among those with ‘perceived’ poor health status. The Filipino elderly being a resource in their community were more likely to be females, with high school education and those who had some level of awareness for government programs for the elderly. Male and female elderly varied in the degree of being a resource in the 6 resource constructs. Males more like to rate high in economic aspects while females tend to rate high in household matters.