Contrary to what society would have us believe, growing old is a wonderful thing. For one, it means you’ve enjoyed fairly robust health for decades. Secondly, with age often comes a great deal of wisdom, all thanks to hard-earned experience.
Hence, we Filipinos have always respected and sometimes even revered our elders. Many of us grew up in Lolo or Lola’s care. Many Filipino migrants abroad also don’t entrust their children to anyone other than their own parents. (Hence, the popularity of AU parent visas.)
On the other hand, the elderly aren’t without their own set of unique challenges. Apart from health and financial issues, there’s also the matter of social isolation.
Social Isolation Among Filipino Elders in Australia
As per the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are about 3.8 million senior citizens Down Under. Those 85 years old and over currently account for 2% of the population, with the proportion projected to increase to 4.4% by 2057.
Filipino elders make up a portion of the aforementioned numbers. Many of them suffer from social isolation, which is the absence of social interactions, contacts, and relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and society.
There are several factors that can make elders feel especially isolated. First, there’s job loss or, more commonly, retirement. Second, there’s the loss of loved ones or friends to death and disease. Lastly, many senior citizens report feeling too ill or infirm to participate in society like they used to.
It can be especially hard for Filipino elders living in Australia. Language and culture barriers can prevent them from successfully assimilating into their adoptive country. Many also hesitate to talk about their struggles, either to spare their families from worrying or so as not to be a burden to their children.
Organizations That Can Help
Fortunately, there are people committed to addressing this unspoken need.
The Unified Filipino Elderly Association (UFEA), for instance, facilitates various activities specifically for Filipino senior citizens in Australia. These include karaoke events, musical performances, and dinners. Health and wellness programs, particularly physical exercises and seminars on technological know-how, also figure into the equation.
Furthermore, the UFEA sometimes conducts home visitations, either at houses or nursing homes.
Another notable organization is the Philippine Australian Seniors Social Club (PASSoc). Their aim is to promote elderly well-being via weekend socialization.
PASSoc club members typically get together on the first Saturday of every month. Dancing, singing, storytelling, and feasting on Filipino food are often on the itinerary, and give the elders something to look forward to.
“For many seniors and grandparents looking after their grandchildren, Saturday is the only day for us to go out and enjoy,” shares PASSoc member Virgie Pineda.
As a final note, support for the elderly should come from the immediate family. Our grandparents and parents toiled for years to give us comfortable lives. Spending time with them and making them feel valued and loved really is the least we can do.