Monday, March 4, 2013

Seniors Centered

In the Philippines, citizens who are at least 60 years of age are considered seniors and are legally entitled to certain benefits. To avail of these privileges, they may apply for senior citizen cards which upon presentation in certain establishments such as restaurants, theaters, supermarkets, public transportation, pharmacies, and medical facilities allows them a discountusually 20%off regular prices for goods and services.  In addition, there are often lanes in these venues set aside to accommodate the elderly.  

Unfortunately, the key word in these cards is "citizen".  So these cards are not available to foreigners, even to permanent residents.  But that doesn't mean that older non-citizens are out in the cold as far as being granted age-related perks.For example, when I went to a medical center to have some lab work done, I was 34th in line.  But the clerk manning the number dispenser machine observed that I was obviously over 60 and sent me to the senior citizen window for priority service to which as it turns out older foreigners are also entitled. My number in that line was 14, so I thought I had caught a break. But it didn't turn out that way. Even though there were fewer people in the senior lane, some of them required time consuming geriatric assistance. By the time my turn came, the regular patient service area which had several service windows vs. just one for seniors was already serving number 40!  

Now when it comes to senior discounts, here's where things get really interesting. Non-citizens may sometimes get this adjustment just by asking for it and furnishing acceptable proof of age, such as a postal i.d or an I-card. I have experienced this good fortune a couple times, and in a venue where it was especially useful: hospitals. Just ask for the discount when you present your bill at the payment window.  There's nothing to lose by requesting it.  The worst that can happen is that the cashier will say no.

When I was younger and still living in the U.S., I resented what I perceived as an arrogant sense of entitlement by American seniors as a whole to special treatment from merchants and others in the private sector  just because of their age.  Often their demands were not even the result of a reduced income.  In fact I know that many of these complaining older people were comfortable.  Now that I'm elderly I still don't share that attitude that I'm owed special privileges for having lived a certain number of years, which as I see it is not a personal accomplishment but rather the result of a combination of factors many of which are beyond one's own control.

Now if it's the policy of  certain business establishments or public agencies here in the Philippines to offer a senior discount or other accommodation to foreigners, of course I'll accept it.  As I mentioned above, I might even ask for it. But if no adjustment is available, well, so be it.

I once  read about an older citizen who raised a stink at being denied free senior parking privileges by a certain mall chain in Quezon City as required by law. On one hand, I understand that he was only asserting his legal right. But on the other hand, I don't see why such an ordinance was passed in the first place.  Anyone who has a car in the Philippines can't be that hard up.  Only a small percentage of Filipinos can afford to buy vehicles, and in keeping with the local culture of dependency many of them even have personal drivers!  Furthermore, the aforementioned senior  likely come to the mall to spend money, and I don't see how the  P45  that the mall refused to waive was going to make or break him.

Similarly, when I was living in the States, I read about an older woman in California who said that she had only a small income and was upset that the restaurant chain where she ate breakfast every day didn't offer senior discounts.  Yet how impoverished could she have been and yet still afford to eat out every day?!  This story stuck with me because at the time my wife and I didn't have the means to do that even though we were working.  What less so now on our small retirement incomes? 

In short it behooves us older folks to use common sense and adjust our sites accordingly in managing our finances. But at the same time we need to get over it if we don't happen to get special treatment as seniors if the venues that we happen to be patronizingespecially for non-essentialsare not required to provide it, no matter where we live.

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