When people grow old, they either have the option of being cared for by family or being cared for by the homes. In making that choice, there seems to be a cultural pattern or tradition that is prevalent. In most Western countries, where the values of youth, self-reliance and individualism are held in high regard, the latter is chosen most of the time. In Asian countries however, like that of China where the concept of ‘filial piety’ means showing obedience, deference and respect to your elders are honoured, taking in the elderly is a common practice. The significant number of the elderly in the Philippines population is not ignorable. In the Philippines, 6.8% of the 92.1 million household in 2010, make up the senior citizen sector. Among these, females (55.8%) outnumber the males (44.2%). The ageing index of the country was computed to be at 20.3% in 2010.
This means, that for every five children under 15 years old, there is one person aged 60 years and over. But to add to add to this, these elderlies once contributed to the government’s institutions and their contributions should not be overlooked even though they seem to be well past their primes. They say, wisdom comes with age. Perhaps then, this paper, that serves to analyse the perceptions and receptions of the elderly, will contribute, not only to what today’s youth and the next generation could give back to the elderly but how the community and the country, could age with the elderly, both in years and in wisdom.
The discussants and interviewees have varied backgrounds from Quezon City, to San Juan City and Makati City – almost all have children, most are still married and some of them still live with their children and grandchildren.
LIVING ARRANGEMENTS: The Female Prowess Most of the respondents preferred to live with their daughters who are not married. If the latter is not fulfilled, they still prefer to live with their daughters over their sons. The respondents did not like being taken cared of by those that are married already because of: a) the inlaws b) the children and b) the husband.
On an FGD, a male discussant said, “Ngayon nga ang hirap nung may asawa kasi kapag kapwa babae hyan, mahirap magkasundo.” On an FGD, a female discussant said, “Nawala na ang atensyon sa magulang at sa anak na lahat.” On an interview, a female interviewee said, “Mag-iiba talaga may asawa. Susundin niya ung asawa niya.”
Despite the reasons they gave however, the underlying tradition brought about by the masculine dominated post-colonial Asian Catholic values puts an expectation and/or pressure on the female children as most of the respondents, when asked, prefer to live with their daughters going with the answer,
“kasi babae eh”. The fact that no further explanations were offered by some suggests that it is understood what being a woman entails. Another discussant said “eh mga anak ko kasi mga babae kaya spoiled din ako sa mga pasalubong at alaga nila”, implying that girls are generous and caring. Not only is it given in this case, but expected as well, because the respondents chose their female over their male children.
Birth order Like the sex difference in the perceptions of the elderly when it comes to the living arrangements they prefer, the birth order has a relevant count in the Filipino household. The eldest is looked up to to fulfil the cumulative responsibilities of the children, although it does not take precedence in choosing the female as the caregiver of the parents. The eldest might be a man and it is expected of him to marry whenever it’s the right time. Although the eldest is usually the bearer of the responsibilities with regards to family woes, he is expected to look at the family in a macrocosm (from his own family born out of marriage, to the family of his siblings, and to the family he was born out of), thus making way for the woman in the family to focus on the microcosm picture of taking care of the elderly. Birth order is of relevance because they have the power to influence one of the discussions of the constantly persist in the family when an elderly is involved. Money
A few respondents said that inheritance is a hard topic to discuss because the children drag in the birth order when the discussion is opened. “Mahirap pag-usapan agn mana. …Ako ang eldest, dapat sa akin and ganito, ganyan.” “Dapat pag-usapan na. Mahalaga ang pinag-uusapan ang mana, para hindi na magkagulo.” Although a few wish to evade the discussion that may break up the family, others pointed out that the earlier it gets talked about the lesser the trouble it would cause. Thus, the perception between the birth order and the money involved in the inheritance is of question. However, only one respondent answered straight as an arrow when asked the question. “Siguro kung meron man doon yun mapupunta sa makakatulong pa sa akin.” Taga-payo/Nanghihimasok
Whereas they passively recognize that they should take an active role in the inheritance and in their living preferences, when asked about their other roles inside within the four walls, the elderlies answered that they take a passive stance knowingly. They usually do minimal household chores for the family. Taking care of the apos also came with the list especially when both the parents are working. The role of taking care of the grandchildren seems to be a practice that is accepted by the community. The help however extends still when they offer advice to the family although most of the respondents say that their takes on the matter merely serve as guides. “Mga important decisions, ayokong makialam.” Important decisions to be made are not sometimes consulted and/or offered but most of the respondents have indicated that their children should know what they are doing and that they are only there to guide but not to commit what grandparents are usually accused of: nanghihimasok or overstepping on family matters.
Pamilyang Pilipino Still on the topic of how and where one lives, the topic of Hones for the Aged were brought to the floor. One verbatim account that could best collate the answers of others are worded, “Ang maganda lang dyan eh makakasama ka ng mga taong nakaka-initindi sa inyo dahil pare-pareho kayong oldies, pero ayoko atang matrap sa loob ng institusyon maski gaano kaganda.”
All the respondents who were asked about their perceptions of the Home for the Aged had negatives views and did not wish to be in a Home. A common response was the respondents’ comparison of the Homes here with the Homes in the West from: the price of going into a home, the facilities, the care received, the government support. Some were actually tolerable to the idea of a Home provided that the Home is in the US. However, the concept of Pamilyang Pilipino is still very much there as they feel that they should stick together with their families. Children taking care of their parents seemed to be a given as well as one respondent answered. “SOP dapat yun”. Another pointed out that children must be taught by their schools of the responsibility of children to take care of their elders, implying that sending them to a Home does not constitute what care is.
BEYOND the FOUR WALLS Libang Outside the confines of a house, the topic of work has been discussed with the respondents. Almost all of the respondents said that their work now is mostly for them to do something. Work now is treated as a “libangan na lamang” because they have pension, the children are no longer going to school and most of them are already working too. Work keeps them busy. “Eh kasi pag tumatambay lang ako para akong nagkakasakit,”, this thought on being idle has been voiced out by a lot of the respondents. Some respondents, especially those who are not entitled to their pension and don’t have children, do intend to still work while they still can because they do feel that they need to save. The thought of work being just a necessity and not a hobby prevails.All of them however, still say that they love their job and they try to still be good at it.
“Ang naapektuhan lang sa akin ay ang bilis sa pagtatrabaho, lalo na kapag may rayuma. Kung dati nagagawa ko ang task ng isang oras nagagawa ko ngayon ng tatlong oras, yung dedication sa trabaho, walang pinagbago.”
Organizations Besides from work, they have social groups that they participate in. Organizations seem to be hot even with the elderly. “Dati kasi wala namang ganito. Dati ung lola ko sa simbahan lang un. Ung ngayon naman, nasa brgy kami, may ganito kami, nasa qc hall kami. Kaya dumadami ung senior na nagpparticipate.” Associations seem to make the elderly’s time more fruitful. Being church group leaders and active participants make them look forward to something. Organizations offer belongingness when it can’t be found at home and/or in the workplace.
The PRACTICES of RESPECT “Para nang ang trato ng mga kabataan ay parang halos kasing edad nila ang matatanda.” The distance between the elderlies and the today’s generation seem to be closer. And whereas almost all consider this to have a negative effect, some actually disagree. In Action
If the presence of many organizations seems to be non-traditional with respect to the elderlies, the practices of respect are expected and are held in high regard as well. The respondents’ responses for respect come in two forms: in words and actions. As actions speak louder than words, most of the elderly said that the practices that they did for their grandparents, ceased to exist now. Pagmamano, a distinct Filipino trait when respecting the elderly is not practiced as much anymore. So is offering a seat during a bus ride and helping them to cross the street. With respect, it’s not what you do that counts but what you don’t as well. The presences of vices or engaging in bisyos are tantamount to disrespecting your elders.
In Words The long standing po and opo still seem to be in effect as no respondent brought it up. But again, sometimes, it’s not what you say, but what you don’t that could please the elders. Whereas, in some cultures, explaining yourself and whatever misconduct or shortcoming is the accepted practice to show that you respect someone who is talking to you, in the Philippines, talking back is one of the most disrespectful things you could commit. A discussant defined respect as, “Un bang pag nagagalit ako, hndi sila sumasagot sa akin.” However, not all of the respondents agreed to this. A respondent pointed out that today’s generation are not only “mas western” but are more vocal. “Ngayon kasi nagkakaroon kasi ng dialog ang mga may edad at saka mga bata. Sinasabi nila kung ano ang mali. Hindi naman lahat ng magulang tama.” The dialogue between the elderly and the youth is seen as a way of adjusting to each other’s needs. Almost all of the respondent however prefer what was practiced then, some saying, “Dati smin, isang tingin, tiklop ka na.”
Kusang Loob/Utang na Loob/Asa Respect however, encompasses not only the tangible practices. It moves in the bigger picture or dialog between the elderly and the children. When asked about the support that their children can give to them, almost all answered that they do not want to keep their hopes up. The concept of asa seems to be greatly tied to the concept of asking help. Filipinos, in general “do not want to take no for an answer”. This Ready for Disappointment mentality mentioned in Lacson, 2001, persists even in the elderlies as they would rather not ask help because, as one respondent said, “Masakit umasa.” Although almost all of the respondents answered that they are not expecting help, the concept of kusang loob is present. “I did my best to provide at nagkukusang-loob naman silang tumulong sa akin ngayon.” “Hindi ako lumalapit. Ang nangyayari, sila mismo ang gumagawa ng paraan.” The elderly do not expect help. They expect their children to understand that help should not be asked but it is expected to be offered.
Utang na Loob “Dapat tumanaw ka ng utang na loob. Hindi ka tao kung hindi dahil sa kanila.” Most of the respondents said that it is only right to give back to people who have spent on you. Because of their Ready for Disappointment, almost all did not explicitly say that it is their children who need to give back to them. They mainly pointed out the importance of giving back.
The three concepts are tied together. The elderly do not want to ask for help and get their hopes up in the fear of being hurt or disappointed. But because they feel that they’ve raised their children in a befitting manner, they should look back and “tumanaw ng utang na loob” by offering help that they won’t ask but they somehow expect to a certain point.
The RISE of TECHNOLOGY The elderly, although a stickler for the ways of showing respect, try to adapt themselves to the current generation and its technology and one respondent even attributed a practive of respect through the means of technology. When asked to define respect, she said, “Kinakamusta ako sa text.” “Kahit papano gusto ko updated ako sa mga pinag-uusapan ng mga bata, sa pinapanuod at ginagawa nila. Mabagal man ako makaintindi niyang ipad-ipad ng mga batang yan pero ngayon atleast natuto na akong mag email at magchat sa facebook.” This answer should be looked at a bigger picture however because unlike the other respondents, this respondent came from one of a city with a thriving business. And with that, the respondent is more surrounded by people who aggressively take part in the fast and changing world.
The enthusiasm of the respondent was echoed by most of the respondents. Some practices of respect which could not be performed by the children were unknowingly blaming technology or the children who were born into a generation that is very technology-dependent. “Dati kasi pag dating ni amang may dala silang slippers (a Philippine tradition where the children brings the father the slippers on the premise that he needs to relax after a long day’s work), eh ngayon tutok na sa TV.” “Malakas kasi ung impluensya ng napapnuod. Imbis na making sa lola. Kasi may gngawa, kasi nagkkomputer.” “Nagsasalita ka ng salita mo, un pala may nakasaksak na earphones dito.” One of the respondents also noticed the reaction of the children towards technology when the elderly tries to involve themselves with the onhand technology. “Tapos pansin ko lang siguro na maikli ang pasensiya ng mga bata..lalo na pagtechnology ang tinatanong mo.”