The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has reminded the state of its responsibility to older persons, who are among the most vulnerable sectors of society in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which the Philippines is a state party, provides clear standards on the obligations of the state on the right to health, social security, and the highest attainable standard of living of older persons. The ICESCR urges the government to:
• Ensure adequate and appropriate guidance to frontline workers are to be made available;
• Make health care facilities, goods, and services are available and accessible in sufficient quantity
• Provide crisis intervention services for mental health and psychological support including the use of ICT tools;
• Combat ageist policies and ensure health interventions are non-discriminatory;
• Intensify information dissemination efforts targeted to older persons;
• Ensure adequate and appropriate food relief;
• Ensure access to safe water, sanitation, and hygienic conditions;
• Adopt policy measures to buffer the economic impacts of COVID-19 to older workers in the informal sector and other poor older persons;
• Expedite the distribution of social pension through alternative modes;
• Ensure inclusion of older persons in the Emergency Subsidy Program;
• Avoid sweeping and overly broad restrictions on movement;
• Harness the role of civil society and non-government organizations; and
• Promote inter-generational solidarity.
The CHR gave this reminder as the 30th Anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons was observed on October 1. The theme for this year’s observance is “Pandemics: Do They Change How We Address Age and Aging?”
CHR Commissioner Karen S. Gomez Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on the Rights of Older Persons, hopes to raise awareness on the special health needs of older persons and promote healthy aging.
“It is important to perceive and comprehend the specific dangers that older persons face in the current circumstances and to guarantee that older persons are not left behind,” she said.
Some older persons have a weakened immune system, so they are more susceptible to infectious illnesses. Another reason is social and economic status, which affects their access to medicine and healthcare.
Even without the current pandemic, Dumpit revealed that some older Filipinos are economically vulnerable. The official poverty estimates stated that 16 percent of older Filipinos are poor and a much larger proportion of older Filipinos live in a situation of economic insecurity just above the poverty line.
“This makes access to health care facilities, goods, and services particularly difficult,” she said. “With reports claiming incidents of domestic violence and neglect increasing during quarantine periods, a vast number of at-risk older persons – particularly those with advanced ages, disability, and who are care-dependent – will be endangered.”
In light of the International Day of Older Persons, Dumpit hopes that all Filipinos will give older persons the love, respect, and dignity they deserve regardless of their social and economic status.