RECEIVING a senior citizen card is not a ticket to a life of dependence and forgetfulness as the elderly can still become assets to the economy, according to a study conducted under the Philippine APEC Study Center Network of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).
In a policy note, University of the Philippines-Cebu College of Social Sciences Associate Professor Ma. Rowena V. Mende said allowing Filipinos to flourish later in life can reduce health expenses of the government and increase productivity.
Mende said senior citizens aged between 60 and 75 who are still able and willing to work “remain a valuable human resource.” This improves their individual agency making them flourish even in their twilight years.
“The main idea is to keep older adults active, productive and engaged. This is in line with the policy framework by the World Health Organization dubbed ‘Active Ageing’, which aims to inform discussion and formulate action plans to promote healthy and active aging,” Mende said.
“Ultimately, this will positively impact the nation as a whole, as the economic burden brought about by aging will be mitigated, perhaps, even avoided,” she added.
Mende explained, citing data from available studies, that flourishing among older adults means they are people who feel good and function well; experience positive emotions; enthusiastic about life; and contribute actively and productively to the world.
With this, Mende measured flourishing levels among 165 older adults aged between 60 and 88. The levels of flourishing were measured according to the seven-point Flourishing Scale and the 10-point Secure-Flourish Index.
The Flourishing Scale measures eight dimensions—meaning and purpose; social relationships; engagement; contribution to others’ well-being; competence; goodness; optimism; and respect for others.
The average flourishing scale score of the respondents was 6.125 out of 7. The highest was in respect for others at 6.38 out of 7, while the lowest was in contribution to others’ well-being at 5.89 out of 7.
For the Secure-Flourish Index, it measured six items—happiness and satisfaction; physical and mental health; meaning and purpose; character and virtue; social relationships; and financial and material stability.
Based on the results, the average Secure-Flourish Index score of the respondents was at 8.2752 out of 10. The highest score was in meaning and purpose at 8.997 out of 10; while the lowest was in financial and material stability at 6.6515 out of 10.
“First and foremost is to have positive perceptions of being old. It will be to everyone’s advantage if this is cultivated as early in life as possible. Perhaps, depictions of the elderly in textbooks, television, movies and social media can be changed from being frail and forgetful to being agentic, capable and wise,” Mende said.
“Another important insight from these results centered on retirement issues, considering that older adults usually encounter financial declines. This study shows that satisfaction with finances leads to higher levels of flourishing,” she added.
Mende explained that one side of retirement needs psychological preparation since people who used to work all the time might “struggle with feelings of needing to be productive when he or she retires.”
This means, Mende said, it is important to determine activities individuals can engage in after retirement. Institutions, organizations and companies can include retirement assistance in their employee development programs.
This, she said, may not necessarily involve financial assistance but could be extended in the form of educational activities such as seminars and workshops.
“Flourishing is an important contributor to the lengthening of older people’s health span or the period that a person is healthy—not just alive. In turn, lengthening the health span may help ease the economic burdens not only of families but the nation as a whole,” Mende said.
In January, a consultant of the PIDS said the poorest senior citizens should receive more under the country’s monthly social pension for the elderly in order to lift them up from poverty.
In a policy note, PIDS consultant and associate professor at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila Jennifer D. Monje said the poorest lolos and lolas should get P1,000-worth monthly pensions from the government from the current P500 a month stipend.
Monje said these recommendations were based on a study made by PIDS Senior Research Fellow Jose Ramon G. Albert. She added this is just one of several proposed changes to improve the social pension for senior citizens nationwide.
Monje said Albert’s recommendation proposed that the monthly assistance of P500 could be given to those low-income but not poor elderly or those with incomes between the poverty line and twice the poverty line.
Albert also proposed a social pension of P750 a month to be given to poor but not subsistence poor seniors or those with incomes between the subsistence poverty threshold and the poverty line.
The elderly who are among the subsistence poor should receive the largest social pension of P1,000 a month. Subsistence incidence in poverty is the proportion of the population who could not provide for their basic food needs.