To 60 and beyond

Z-FACTOR - Joe Zaldarriaga - The Philippine Star

To 60 and beyondLast week marked my 60th birthday, which means I am now at that age when I gain a “second citizenship,” as some might humorously say.  Embracing the official title of a senior citizen stands as a significant milestone in life, a privilege and a blessing not everyone experiences.

Over the past few days, I have been occupied with attending to many of the requirements for my senior citizen ID while exploring the array of rights and privileges that accompany being officially called a senior in the Philippines. These include discounts on essential needs like food and medicine, among other benefits.

While many views their 60s as a retirement threshold, I find myself reenergized, with a renewed sense of vigor to learn new things and pursue new experiences. This time around, I am better armed with the wisdom and confidence I have earned over the years.

To me, retiring at 60 and idly passing the days feels akin to a self-imposed death sentence.

The statistics, based from the 2020 census, indicate that over nine million senior citizens constitute a significant portion of our nation’s population. However, upon reaching this age, the Filipino elderly are often prematurely relegated to passive roles generally deemed part of society’s more vulnerable demographic.

Granted, senior citizens may not exhibit the same physical capabilities as that of millennials and Gen Zs, yet their wealth of experience, skills, and wisdom cultivated through the years remain invaluable. Effectively harnessed, these could serve as a catalyst for local and national development.

Consider retired professionals who possess extensive expertise and experiences – they can significantly contribute to the country by serving as advisors or consultants across diverse sectors, such as policymaking, education, finance, and business. Additionally, they have the luxury of time to be actively involved in community initiatives that are geared towards societal improvement, potentially bridging developmental gaps.

While I firmly believe that age fosters wisdom, I also find value and merit in the experiences of everyone, regardless of age.

Empowering senior citizens requires a comprehensive, whole-of-nation approach. In the Philippines, Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, safeguards the rights and welfare of this demographic.

Last year, President Marcos likewise introduced the Philippine Plan of Action for Senior Citizens, aiming to establish a more inclusive and age-friendly society, protecting the rights and privileges of senior citizens. The National Senior Citizens Commission stated that this initiative serves as a blueprint for effectively utilizing the potential of Filipinos aged 60 and above.

These government efforts are undoubtedly commendable and respond positively to the call for a paradigm shift in perceiving the elderly. Instead of being deemed as liabilities, senior citizens can become pivotal contributors within communities.

However, despite these well-intentioned programs, not all senior citizens are fully aware of their rights and benefits. This underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive and assertive government-led awareness and communication campaign, aimed at bridging these critical information gaps.

Collaboration between the public and private sectors is imperative to cultivate and promote a conducive and safe environment – one that supports and safeguards the elderly and fosters their active participation in societal activities.

The active engagement of senior citizens not only contributes significantly to nation-building, but also enhances their own well-being by recognizing their contributions and promoting inclusivity.

I also feel privileged to still be actively working and am part of a group that continues to contribute to nation building, working under the esteemed leadership and guidance of our beloved chairman, Manuel V. Pangilinan or MVP.

His exceptional leadership has consistently inspired me, and all of us working in the group, fostering an unwavering pursuit of excellence within our collective efforts.

I firmly believe that age is merely a numerical milestone, particularly upon reaching 60. Seniors, like myself, should persist in aspiring to and embracing the best that life offers.

In my senior years, I eagerly anticipate contributing further to our country’s development in any capacity that I can. Having surpassed the rat race phase even in my 50s, my focus now is nurturing the talents of those I have the chance to mentor and ensuring the success of people I work with, especially those at the onset of their careers. Guiding someone toward success brings unparalleled fulfillment and adds depth to life’s meaning.

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