By Joe Zaldarriaga

Paradigm shift

I just turned 60 last week, earning what many jokingly refer to as their second citizenship. I must admit that becoming a senior citizen officially is a significant milestone in life and I’m truly blessed, given that not everyone has the privilege to reach this stage. 

Over the past few days, I have been busy attending to many of the requirements for my senior citizen ID and have also been reading about the rights and privileges extended to the Filipino elderly, such as discounts on food and medicine among others. 

While many see their 60s as the retirement age, I, for one, have a renewed sense of vigor in learning new things and pursuing new experiences. Only this time, I am better armed with wisdom and confidence which I have earned over the years. 

After all, retirement at 60 and doing nothing is to me a death sentence. 

Based on the 2020 census, senior citizens account for over 9 million of the country’s population and yet the Filipino elderly are often immediately relegated to passive roles once they hit 60. The perspective changes -- they are now generally considered as part of the vulnerable sectors of society. 

Sure, senior citizens may no longer be as physically capable and active as millennials and Gen Zs, but they possess a wealth of experience, skills, and wisdom that can only be earned through age and if utilized effectively, can be a gamechanger in terms of local and national development. 

For example, retired professionals, with their vast expertise and experiences, can continue contributing to the country as advisers and consultants in different sectors such as policymaking, education, finance, and business among others. They can also help bridge the gap in community development since majority of retired professionals have the luxury of time to devote into various initiatives geared towards societal improvement. 

While I, for one, do believe that age makes one wiser, I find value and merit in the experiences of everyone, no matter the age. 

Of course, enhancing the role senior citizens play in society takes time and requires a whole-of-nation approach. Here in the Philippines, the rights and welfare of senior citizens are generally protected under the law, specifically Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010. 

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. also last year launched the Philippine Plan of Action for Senior Citizens (PPASC 2023-2028) with the goal of creating a more inclusive and age-friendly society that protects the rights and privileges of senior citizens in the country. 

The plan, according to the National Senior Citizens Commission, serves as a blueprint on how the government can effectively utilize the potential of Filipinos age 60 and above. 

The initiative is respectable and is a positive response to the clamor for a paradigm shift on how the elderly is viewed collectively. Rather than being seen as a liability, senior citizens can play pivotal roles in the community. 

While these government programs have good intentions, sadly, not all senior citizens are fully aware of their rights and benefits. This prompts the need for a more aggressive awareness and communications campaign on the part of government to address information gaps. 

Collaboration between the government and private sector is also a must to promote a conducive and safer community environment for the elderly -- one that promotes their active participation in societal activities. 

The active participation of senior citizens does not only enhance nation-building, it also enhances the well-being of the Filipino elderly by recognizing their contributions and promoting inclusivity. 

In my senior years, I look forward to continuously contribute to the development of our country in any way I can. This time, I no longer need to compete in the rat race as I have already passed that stage even in my fifties. I would rather help to further develop the talents of those I have the chance to mentor and ensure the success of people I work with, especially those who are starting their careers. There is no higher fulfillment than being a catalyst to help someone succeed. Such makes life more meaningful.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Mr. Joe Zaldarriaga, fondly called "Manong Joe", is a distinguished figure in the country’s corporate communications landscape. Holding the position of Vice President and Head of Corporate Communications at Manila Electric Company (Meralco), he has orchestrated unparalleled success for the utility company, winning accolades for their brand of service communications.

Under his guidance, Meralco achieved unprecedented milestones, clinching a historic 3-peat Company of the Year title at the IABC Philippine Quill Awards, scoring the only PR Team of the Year trophy bestowed at the Anvil Awards, and securing numerous honors at international and local communication awards.

Manong Joe's leadership also extends as a respected member of the Board of Trustees for the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP), concurrent with his role as Chairman of the International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC Philippines) where he also served as its President.

Manong Joe is a distinguished awardee of the medallion of honor and scroll of commendation from the University of Manila, owing to his years in public service as a communications professional. He shares his insights through columns in renowned publications, including The Philippine Star’s The Z Factor, and Philippine News Agency's ESPRESSO MORNINGS.