It used to be that growing old posed a grim prospect. If only getting on in years could be put on hold or even stopped.
Used to be the scene was that of the elderly with closed eyes on a rocking chair in a dark corner of the room trying to remember what can’t even be remembered. Of endlessly puttering around the house, sweeping and dusting again what has been swept and dusted minutes before. Of arranging plants in the backyard garden one way one day and rearranging them another way another day. If only the roses and the bromeliads, ferns and azaleas could talk!
No more, however, these funny and pitiful images! So where have the senior citizens been going and what have they been doing?
On February 12, 2010, the government together with non-government entities, other stakeholders and senior citizen groups came up with The Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010 (Republic Act No. 9994) and since then it’s been fun for senior citizens!
The tumba-tumba is now collecting cobwebs. Rocking on it gathers no memories anyway. The pretty queen red rose and her equally pretty court stay put (and sighing in relief) as they were arranged weeks back. The broom and the dusting rag are closeted, seeing duty only when things get really dirty around the house.
That done and behind them, senior citizens from our little barangay (but could also be true with the elderlies of other barangays) would flock, without fail, on Mondays and Tuesdays, to Fisher Mall nearby. A picturesque group in retro togs with some of the more hip dressed to the times – Keds sneakers, Uniglo tees, American Eagle baseball caps, big round shades – lining up and raising eyebrows and knowing grins around, at Elar’s for platefuls of lechon. Or, sitting down for tall glasses of halo-halo at Razon’s. Then going up (Look, no hands on the escalator hand rail!) to see Nadine Lustre and James Reid coo at each other on the movie screen and try to live again those moments when just a light, even accidental, touch of their fingers made their hearts skip a beat.
Twice a week, on Thursdays and Saturdays, it’s Sumba time. The covered basketball court near the palengke would be filled by enthusiasts, mostly senior citizens. In jogging pants with the more daring in shorts, they swayed and turned and stretched and danced to fast-paced music, sweating out tension-freeing sweats. And unwanted poundage as well.
They are not tied to the house anymore. They have gone out and formed neighborhood associations of senior citizens. In our little barangay there were initially four (4) groups which eventually became a coalition. A wise move for greater and louder voices to get the ears at City Hall and the government to listen and act on their concerns.
Besides the eagerly awaited free movies, senior citizens are now entitled to mandatory Philhealth memberships and the privileges thereof, free medical and dental services in all government facilities, educational assistance through scholarships and financial grants.
No more Kim getting a slice of a senior citizen income.
No more elderlies groaning from aching old bones queuing with the rest of the younger ones transacting business at commercial establishments as they are provided with ‘priority lanes.’
No more age qualification (discrimination more like it) for employment as it is now not being ‘over-the-hill’ but about ‘capacity and desire to work.’ Why not if I can still hack it?
Perhaps the flagship of the Senior Citizen law is the 20% discount provision for its practicality and usefulness in the daily lives of senior citizens. Isn’t it nice they only get to pay a good less of the costs of medicines, services and transportation they avail of? And surely, the hefty discount doubles the enjoyment of a plateful of lechon and a tall glass of halo-halo!
Of course, there would be some kind of ‘resistance’ as in that instance when a resto famous for its finger-licking- good fried chicken refused to honor the 20% discount because what was ordered by the missus was ‘to go’ or ‘take out. The courteous but adamant resto manager didn’t reckon the sweet smiling ‘utsukushi roba’ (Japanese for ‘ beautiful old woman’) could raise such a tantrum! After a li’l standoff, friendly it was, however, the 20% discount was given and to subsequent ‘take out’orders. With a smile ‘to go’ everytime.
In our little barangay senior birthday celebrants are gifted with cakes, sometimes with Five Hundred bucks to boot. In Makati, because of politics, the tradition turned into an issue between opposing politicians. How we on the sidelines would have guffawed, stomped our feet and clapped our hands in glee if it had escalated into a cake-throwing-in-your-face Cake War!
Also in our little barangay a resident reaching the age of 100 years receives a check for P100,000. I wonder if I would get to live that long. Or, if I could still appreciate the significance or value of having survived the years. Still, the good thing is that the One Hundred Thousand bucks would come in handy once I kick the bucket.
Photo credits: liveinthephilippines.com