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Senior citizens, a force for good in the time of pandemic

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok - Columnist/CDN Digital | May 03,2020 - 07:00 AM

 

After a month and a half of “house arrest”, irate senior citizens in Luzon could take it no longer and slammed the Inter Agency Task Force on COVID-19 after it declared that the order banning them from going out of their homes remains under a relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ).

When this policy was declared last March 16 in Luzon and March 28 here in Cebu, people aged 60 and above submitted to the protocol because the elderly, especially those with existing health issues are most likely to get infected.  This is according to the World Health Organization, but according to a TV news report, the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country belonged to the 40-59 group mostly males. Figures shared by Statista showed a small difference in cases of infection between 50-59 age bracket and 60-69. 

In any case, I think the IATF could have prevented a backlash had it listened to feedback from social media. I actually joined my voice over the issue prompting a user to criticize me for spreading disinformation. Well, I refused to be baited by her insults and make the disagreement of opinion a quarrel on social media. I have no taste for hate speech so I let it pass.

The strong reactions from senior citizens forced the government to revise its ECQ exit plan. It was resolved sooner than I thought because after I blocked the user, the Inquirer and other online news outlets had already released a report quoting DILG Secretary Eduardo Año  saying, “Senior citizens who do not have younger companions, living alone, retired are allowed to go out so they can buy their food and other necessities.” For his part, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez explained that senior citizens “will not be prohibited from leaving their houses if they are going to buy essentials or seek government aid amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He was actually responding to Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez who slammed the IATF “for putting seniors under virtual house arrest by barring them to go out of their residences even if many senior citizens are physically fit to work and move around.”

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I don’t think ageism or prejudice on the grounds of old age is creeping into our government policies because there are at least nine senior citizens in the Duterte Cabinet. At 75 years old, PRRD may even be the oldest in the official family. Business columnist Boo Chanco was spot on when he tweeted that putting seniors on house arrest should also apply to seniors in government.  

I understand the new guidelines are still being finalized, but it must be said that many seniors continue to be a force for good even if shackled by the arbitrary protocol. 

For example, when the coronavirus outbreak began to take its toll on medical care workers, my Facebook friends Rudy and Louella Alix together with their younger set of friends joined forces with the faculty and staff of Cebu Technological University (CTU) — Argao, Tuburan, Danao and Carmen campuses.  The urgent task was to make face shields for the local frontliners who put their lives on the line to treat COVID-19 patients. 

The CTU group is the “industrial” partner while Louella’s “Amping Cebu,” the motley group of cash donors bought the needed materials. When pictures of their volunteer work came out on social media, they received plenty of pledges here and abroad. Louella’s media savvy and linkages in the academe, charity and social enterprises plus Rudy’s support had practically given this couple a new-found advocacy and action project. So far, they have delivered thousands of face shields to local private and public hospitals.

At the moment, they are looking out for suppliers of detergent bars which they intend to distribute to inmates of Cebu City jails. I made a pitch for the Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Pinamungajan, Cebu who has a stockpile of laundry bars. I got a friend to sponsor 1,000 bars to be delivered next week through the CTU main campus.

Senior citizens are finding the pandemic a challenge because our pre-COVID-19 activities are mostly in close contact around family, friends and co-workers. As we transition into the new normal of social distancing and protocols that go with the ECQ or GCQ, we miss this facet of our lives. 

Two weeks ago, I watched New York state governor Andrew Cuomo on cable TV talked about re-imagining society in the time of pandemic. The number of infected cases in the US has breached the million mark or one-third of the global tally. New York City is the epicenter of the coronavirus in the US.  

In the context of the rapidly evolving societies, Governor Cuomo talked about re-imagining or re-creating our lives in the areas of public health, education, jobs, and medicine because even if we flatten the curve, we can never go back to the previous normal. I will not belabor this topic for lack of space, suffice it to say that re-imagining our lives resonates with the seniors. They will continue to be relevant, creative and productive even if they are stuck at home.  

Our mantra: keep safe, stay alive and continue to be a force for good. /dbs

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