MANILA — Nearly half of Filipino senior citizens are still working and many face health risks due to poverty, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) and a research institute revealed this week.
Of 9.2 million Filipinos aged 60 years and above, 46 percent are still engaged in economic activity or have to work for a living, according to a report released by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) on Wednesday.
"Almost half the number of older persons are still working and unable to make ends meet for their daily living; more so, for their health needs," said former POPCOM executive director Juan Antonio Perez III.
Out of 5,985 seniors polled by the UPPI, 57 percent reported experiencing "considerable difficulty" in meeting household expenses, while 14 percent said their households experienced hunger in the past 3 months.
About 30 percent of elderly Filipinos surveyed by the institute said they were "somewhat unhealthy" and "very unhealthy." Eighty-six percent said they postpone seeking medical consultation due to financial constraints, added UPPI.
Most working senior citizens come from the younger age range of 60-69 years old at 60.4 percent, while 27.8 percent are from the 70-79 age group.
About 7 percent of elders aged 80 years and above still toil to make a living according to the 2019 Longitudinal Study of Ageing and Health in the Philippines (LSAHP). Fifty-six percent of the working elderly population are men, while 38 percent are women, it said.
Despite these figures, the elderly's economic dependence on children remains high, with 30 percent reporting children as their main source of income, UPPI said.
"With poor health and pervasive poverty, many among older Filipinos are also prone to mental disabilities such as depression—especially for those living alone and widowed early, as well as Alzheimer’s disease that requires 24/7 caring," said Perez, a medical doctor and public health professional.
“While more of our seniors are enjoying longer lives because of medical advances preventing premature death, the remaining still have to deal with a host of diseases, such as heart ailments, hypertension and stroke, diabetes, and other age-related disabilities,” he added.
As millions of elderly Filipinos struggle due to poverty, the Philippines could become an "aging society" when the new decade comes in, the POPCOM said.
By 2030, around 11 percent or 14.6 million of the Philippine population will be 60 years old and above. They would outnumber 11.6 million projected children younger than 4 years old in the same year, the agency said.
POPCOM officer-in-charge Lolito Tacardon called for comprehensive health programs for the elderly.
“Preventive programs to avoid diseases leading to disabilities should be in-place,” Tacardon said. “Our local health system should likewise be more decentralized.”
“There should be local programs for community-based rehabilitation to address elderlies’ disabilities,” the official added. “For those to be effective, local government units should be more active in widening the scope of our health systems’ services, or revisit those already operationalized to elevate their effectiveness.”