By Rey Andres
Japan’s triple calamities highlight the degree to which its elder population had to bear the brunt of difficulties and hardships that these unfortunate tragedies bring about.
Making up almost a quarter of its population, some of Japan’s golden citizens were left behind when things got pretty rough and survival was at stake. As the situations near the troubled nuclear facilities in Fukushima simmered with danger, more than a hundred elderly patients at a local hospital were abandoned to fend for themselves. Many of these helpless were comatose and more than a dozen died shortly after soldiers doing a round-up found out about them. Thousands have been reported stranded near the damaged nuclear plant who were unable to leave and had limited access to the needed supplies. They were not able to escape the onslaught of the calamities and had posed problems to authorities with their number. The elderly who were able to do so now live in refugee shelters and were unable to bring their vital medications in their rush to flee.
Japan has been known to be one of the most prepared of nations in as far as disaster preparedness is concerned. Owing to their experiences, disciple, culture and character, it is not the nature of the Japanese people to leave their elders behind to take care of themselves. Reverence for parents and the elderly had been one of the hallmarks of Japanese culture. Their upbringing and cultural norms simply would not allow the elderly to be treated harshly even in the long running economic inflation that Japan has been subjected to.
A social worker has commented that Japan is incredibly collaborative and community-based and family-based and “older people will not be left to fend for their own.” There are more than 440,000 people who have been evacuated from Japan’s stricken zone and the Word Health Organization estimates that “more than 23,000 are still looking for shelter.”
Disaster has put a heavy toll on Japan’s elderly. Japan has nearly one in four people aged 65 or over. In rural areas hit heavily by earthquake and tsunami, the population is even older as the young people have left for cities leaving behind elderly victims who are physically and psychologically in need.
The 9.0-magnitude quake that hit the northeastern coast day wiped out rural villages and towns. These are areas that suffer from rural-out migration that has left behind a high percentage of old people already in the 80s and 90s.With death toll estimated to reach the 10,000 mark, more frustrations and problems already start to unfold and maybe too much even for a disaster-prepared country to bear.
In this calamitous time, the Japanese could teach us a thing or two.
In a real tight economic situation such as the one America is facing right now, easily the least powerful and the most vulnerable become victims of budget cuts. Medical and other benefits to the elderly become easy preys for budget pruning or worst elimination.
The advent of calamities brings out the best and the worst in people with their responses these bringing into the fore the kind of stuff they really are made of. The earthquake, tsunami and the uncertainly of nuclear situations prevailing, had galvanized the Japanese people into a force strong enough to weather out the worst that still lies ahead. The pressure at the seams might be too hard, but the events appear to solidify Japan to deal with the situations.
Selflessness, discipline, commitment and determination have characterized the dedicated workers especially at the nuclear plant and are unmindful of the real dangers confronting them as they struggle to prevent a meltdown that would endanger the people.
Compared with the Filipinosâ€™ culture of respect to the elderly, like the Japanese we also take pride and joy in the manner by which we treat our elderly citizens. There are not too many home for the elderly in the Philippines and the few that exist are funded in great part by the benevolence of well-meaning individuals who could not bear the burden learning of old people being lonely and uncared for. We have become very good in the area of care-giving that what is innate and natural with us have become profitable career opportunities. Many of our compassionate care-givers have been in demand in many parts of the world.
In the US particularly, the health care industry for the elderly have become one the businesses that Filipinos are very at home with and many have made a good fortune of maintaining a string of these facilities that take care of the health needs and care of patients of many nationalities.
With the big heart of the Filipinos for the welfare of the elderly, no one will be left behind.
TOURISM CARAVAN: The show went on in tsunami-visited Hawaii last March 12 for the Department of Tourism-LA team of Director Annie Cuevas-Lim (extreme right), Deputy Director Manny Ilagan and Kit for the marketing campaign of the 6th edition of the Ambassador/Consuls General and Directors Tour in the Philippines on July 17-23. The next leg on March 17 was held in National City in San Diego where Fil-Ams filled up Benâ€™s Restaurant and Bar to listen to the presentation.
GOLDEN CELEBRANT: Nimfa Grubbs, second from right, is shown with well-wishers who joined her in celebrating a milestone in her life in Covina over the weekend. Nimfa, an artist, writer and physical buff, is the daughter of ex-Philippine publisher, the late Tara Singh, and Edith S. Singh (second from left, seated).