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Filipino Seniors in the Netherlands act to age more gracefully

By Marlene A. Macatangay
Utrecht-The Netherlands
June 6, 2016


“Matatanda na kami.”
“What will happen when we grow older?”
“Bilisan natin, nasa boarding gate na tayong lahat”.
“I don’t want to push your wheelchair.”

June 4 – 2016-Utrecht: Twenty-one Filipino seniors came together to talk about ageing graciously in the Netherlands.

The initiative to have a day by and devoted to seniors in the Netherlands began in 2014 when a small group of seniors met in Rotterdam with the Seniors’ Group of Stichting Bayanihan.  Due to the busy schedule of those concerned, it took sometime to put the idea into action. 

Today, it happened. Seniors?  The group identified these to be 55+ years old. However, a few attendees were between 50-54 years old.

Work of Nature
Everyone accepted the fact that ageing is a natural process. Yes, we are ageing but the question is: How do we age gracefully?

In the three workshops held , ageing gracefully has been defined as:
-        respecting one’s self and  others;
-        concern and care about the community;
-        driving to continue to go on, live on;
-        enjoying life;
-        feeling young – mentally, psychologically;
-        meeting challenges;
-        being beautiful as you are now.

Lolo and Lola or Opa and Oma

Definitely there is a difference where one is getting old, whether one is becoming a Lolo or a Lola in Philippines or in a foreign country, like here the Netherlands. 
Participants in the different workshops agreed that the Dutch society is structurally responding to the needs of its seniors. Specific instructions and organizations were created for the sole purpose of caring for the aged.

As migrants, our situation is totally different.  A number of fears facing the seniors have been identified.  The following are some of them.

“Our children will leave us.”
The fear of isolation. Our children will lead their own lives and they will not be staying with us forever.  This situation could lead to depression and other mental illnesses.

“I’m treated as a third class citizen.”
The lack of respect. In the Philippines, the older people are highly respected. They are being listened to and revered.  Here, the elderly is ignored.

“You’re old and expensive.”
Unemployment.  Several women shared their experiences of being rejected after a job interview. The age discrimination in the labor force is hardly talked about but it definitely exists.

“Aches here, there and everywhere.”
Physically getting weak. Where to go to get help and treatment is vaguely known.

At the end of the Day… ACTion.
Keep in touch. During the plenary session everyone present saw the need of a structure to really age gracefully.  A group will continue to exist to coordinate activities to continue the discussion.

Whatsapp/Facebook. One clearly defined need is social network. It was proposed that the group come up with a way to be able to stay in touch with each other. The question still to be answered: How do we use today’s technology? The computer and the smart phone?

Pass on our stories. We have the responsibility to teach our children our cultural heritage. Why don’t we write our experiences and publish them?

Immediate ACTion. The next get together will be hosted and organized by the seniors in Brabant, Gelderland and Limburg.

Our dream
Could we not have our own Filipino bejaarden home like the other ethnic groups (Surinamers, Indonesians, Moroccans, Turks, Chinese) here in the Netherlands?

This was already initiated and started by the group Tahanan. But the number of Filipinos required to realize this was not met. We are spread all over the country and as a migrant group we are really small in numbers. And sadly, we recognize the urgency of having this at a later time, when the most of us (if not all) are not functioning wholly anymore. What do we need to do to transform this into reality? For now we dream on and who knows…

The following are the members of the core group which organized the first get together of the Filipino Seniors in the Netherlands: Cora Alarcon, Yvonne Belen, Myrla Danao, Nora van der Does, Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza, Marlene Macatangay, Salome Panoy,  Cesar T. Taguba

See related article:
Stichting Bayanihan (Netherlands) Launches Bayanihan Seniors Group
·        Stichting Bayanihan Seniors (The Netherlands)  get well informed on elder abuse

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