EDITORIAL - Eliminating discrimination against older people

The Philippine Star

In 2016, the World Health Organization analyzed the results of a World Values Survey. Of the 83,000 people in 57 countries who participated in the study, 60 percent reported that older people were not respected, particularly in high-income countries.

The WHO analysis confirmed that ageism, or discrimination against older people, “is extremely common” around the world. It added that discrimination and negative attitudes about aging affected the physical and mental health of older people.

For some years now, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also been sounding the alarm on ageism and has called for the elimination of discrimination against older people.

In the Philippines, laws provide discounts, tax exemptions and other benefits to senior citizens or those aged 60 and above, with state-funded modest pensions given to the extremely poor. But many of the elderly, especially in poor families, suffer from neglect and abuse. Opportunities to continue earning a living also shrink dramatically with age.

This could pose a problem as the country confronts an aging population. Citing the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the Commission on Population and Development reported this week that senior citizens now account for at least 8.5 percent of the population as of 2020 – up from 5.9 percent in 2000. Popcom added that those aged 60 and above doubled to 9.2 million in 2020 from 4.5 million two decades ago.

Popcom attributed this to better health and socioeconomic conditions, including better education and healthier lifestyles. Meanwhile, the number of Filipinos aged 15 and younger is “trending significantly lower in recent years,” Popcom reported.

It sees these trends as an opportunity for economic growth, with an assured steady supply of young workers across various sectors. At the same time, Popcom is supporting proposals to provide more employment and livelihood opportunities to older people.

Workers appear to be divided on the issue. One side is happy about current retirement ages set in different sectors, while the other supports having the option to continue working without age barriers. Lawmakers are preparing measures to provide these options.

In deliberating on age-related issues, the WHO’s message back in 2016 is useful: “Like sexism and racism, changing social norms is possible. It is time to stop defining people by their age. It will result in more prosperous, equitable and healthier societies.”


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