Preparedness, Institutional Support Needed
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — Filipinos are generally known to take care of their elderly family members and not leave them to the care of an institution or other people. An AARP study bolsters this observation, noting that 42% of Asians (with Filipinos ranking second, next to Chinese) are direct care givers to their aging parents and relatives.
In a recently concluded forum dubbed as ‘Preparing and Enjoying the Golden Years’ at the Philippine Consulate, AARP research adviser and marketing director Xenia Montenegro said that Filipinos (in the research study) showed strong family ties, strong faith, and their aspirations are mostly on wanting financial abundance not just for themselves but for their families.
According to the 2013 AARP research study, 42% of Asian Americans are more likely to care for a parent or older relative than the general population of the same age. This is followed by Hispanics at 34%, Blacks at 28% and Whites at 19%.
The study said that Asian Americans stretch care for their families across generations. Both children and grandchildren have care giving responsibilities. Seventy-three percent (study group of 45-55 year olds) feel children in the family are to care for their elderly parents, compared to 49% of others of the same age.
Seventy-two percent express guilt for not providing more care to elders, compared to 48% of others of the same age group.
Most Asian Americans in the US also live in multi-generational households, 23% among Filipinos and 14% Chinese.
“In these households, the grandparents usually pass the facility of language to the grandchildren,” said Montenegro. The elderly population (aged 50+) comprise 30% of the Filipino Americans across the country.
Philippine Consul General of New York Mario de Leon Jr. said during the forum that there are really no real programs for senior citizens. “Community organizations must be able to redirect their missions and add programs for the welfare of the old people. They were the ones who arrived here first. They paved the way for us, the second generation and the second biggest Asian immigrants in the US. We must take care of them. Time to give back to our seniors.”
So far, one organization that caters to the needs of the elderly stands out in the Fil-Am community. The PAGASA Social Foundation Inc. based in Richmond Hill in Queens provides health, recreation, and community participation among its members.
Its president Consuelo Almonte continues to actively network among community organizations to promote the organization of the seniors and gather support. “We seniors want to continue to live healthy and fun lives, with the same dignity and respect as we did when we were younger,” said Almonte one time in a separate gathering of Filipinos for immigration issues. She received approving cheers for her advocacy.
Retired Maj. General Antonio Taguba, AARP community ambassador emphasized preparedness on the part of the children to take care of their aging parents. He mentioned his own experience on how he and his siblings dealt with caring for their mother who was diagnosed with cancer and their father who was also beginning to be sick at that time. “Those were tough times, and I wish I had known better how to handle it.”
The forum, which took place in the auspices of the Philippine Consulate on October 5, 2014, may have started the ball of support rolling. It was put together by PAGASA, AARP, the youth organization UNIPRO, FAHSI, and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations Region 1.