Filipinos, Singaporeans ponder on aging, sustainability, tradition

By Jerome L. Duque (TAU-ELIA)

Demographic changes have pushed countries to reevaluate their fiscal resources to respond to shifts in the healthcare and insurance sectors. Even infrastructures must be suited to respond to the specific needs of an aging population.

Higher Education Institutions, especially those from graying economies, are urged to lead nations in their preparations for such a future. To explore how Singapore and the Philippines can address these concerns, Temasek Polytechnic (TP) launched Befriender’s Program and collaborated with Tarlac Agricultural University (TAU).

The e-community project benefited 15 elderlies from Lions Befrienders Active Ageing Centre. Students from TAU and TP engaged the beneficiaries in a series of virtual meet-ups. TAU’s global ambassadors namely: Junerene A. Pontanilla, Jose Zalde B. Samson Jr., Colleen Joy A. Seril, Bren Noah M. Nieto, Wendell S. Cabico Jr., and Arjay A. Aguinaldo interacted with them by conducting discussions on aging-related concerns, sustainable development, Filipino culture and geography, and prospects in Filipino-Singaporean relations.

Ms. Seril, an editor of the university’s student organ, The Golden Harvest, recalled enjoying the activities facilitated by TP’s translators. “We felt the appreciation of our lolos. It seems that even our simple smiles made them happy already,” Ms. Serial remarked. Mr. Cabico, councilor of the Supreme Student Council, attributed this to their isolation from their families and friends. “I can’t help but tear up every time I’m talking to them. The experience made me value my grandparents more,” he added.

The TAU delegation also expressed their desire to adopt the program in Tarlac and to promote Gerontology, particularly among TAU students. TP is a post-secondary institution in Tampines, Singapore that implements an industry-focused curriculum.

The latest data from Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook reveals that while the ASEAN remains to be a young region, some Southeast Asian countries are facing a looming demographic crunch due to rapidly aging populations and low birth rates.

Thailand and Singapore had the highest median age in ASEAN with 39.0 and 35.6, respectively. Although this is relatively lower than Japan’s 48.6, one of the world’s highest, both countries are still expected to feel the pressure of decreasing productivity and augmenting social protection expenditures in a few years. Thus, reforms are needed in many key areas.