“Though they say life begins at 40, for senior citizens, life’s adventure begins at 60.”
When someone reaches the age of 40 we often hear it being said that “life begins at forty,” welcoming him or her to the youth of old age. The phrase was the title of the book written by Walter B. Pitkin in 1932. It was published at a time when there was a rapid increase in life expectancy, from being 40 years before to around 60.
The phrase “life begins at 40” was also the title of a 1935 movie by Will Rogers, a song by Sophie Tucker in 1937, and a John Lennon song not commercially released. It also features in a number of international and local movies, including the comedy movie starred in by the legendary Eddie Garcia and Eddie Rodriguez in 1984.
Due to scientific and medical advances, life expectancy at birth in the 21st century has considerably increased. In the Philippines, the life expectancy at birth in 2019 is 75.51 for female and 67.26 for male (Statista, Aaron O’Neil, July 15, 2021). There is also a growing number of healthy Filipino octogenarians who look forward to receiving their centenarian gift of P100,000 when they reach the age of 100 (Republic Act 10868).
Those who are in their late fifties are excited to get their senior citizen identification card when they reach sixty. With this, they can avail themselves of the benefits and privileges of being a senior citizen. Some of them continue to actively pursue their businesses and professions; and engage in endurance exercises such as brisk walking and jogging, dancing, swimming, biking, playing tennis or basketball. This was definitely not the case two decades ago, when reaching 60 meant leading a sedentary life.
The desire to give senior citizens a good quality of life was made clearer in Republic Act 9994, otherwise known as the “Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010.” Under the said law, the benefits and privileges of senior citizens were enhanced to support “the improvement of the total well-being of the elderly and their full participation in the society” and “to motivate and encourage senior citizens to contribute to nation building.”
Senior citizens are entitled to a 20-percent discount and to an exemption from paying the value-added tax (VAT) when purchasing generic or branded medicines and drugs. It also covers the purchase of vitamins and mineral supplements which are medically prescribed by an attending physician for prevention and treatment of diseases or injury (Article 7, Section 1 [a], Implementing Rules and Regulations, R.A 9994).
The discount and VAT exemption privileges shall also apply to the purchase of eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures, prosthetics, artificial bone replacements made of steel, walkers, crutches, wheelchairs, whether manual or electric-powered, canes/quad canes, geriatric diapers, and other essential medical supplies, accessories and equipment by or for senior citizens (Article 7, Section 1[b]).
Medical and dental services and diagnostic tests subject to the 20-percent discount and VAT exemption include X-rays, computerized tomography scans, and blood tests requested by a physician for the diagnosis and/or treatment of an illness or injury, among others. The professional fees of attending physicians in all private hospitals, medical facilities, outpatient clinics and home health care facilities are covered by this benefit (Article 7, Section 1 [c]).
When done in government hospitals, medical facilities, outpatient clinics, and home health care services, all of the aforementioned services shall be provided free of charge to senior citizens (Article 11, Section 3). Republic Act 10645 has ordained the mandatory coverage of all senior citizens by the national health insurance program, or PhilHealth.
The Joint DTI-DA-DOE Administrative Order No. 17-02 provides a 5-percent discount to senior citizens for the purchase of basic necessities and prime commodities separate and distinct from the 20-percent discount provided under Republic Act No. 9994 and its implementing guidelines. Basic necessities include rice, corn, bread, eggs, fresh pork, beef and poultry, milk, vegetables, fruits, noodles, coffee, salt, soap, LPG, and kerosene, among others.
On the other hand, prime commodities include flour, processed and canned meat, dairy products, onions, garlic, vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, fertilizer, pesticides, poultry and livestock feeds, school supplies, cement, GI sheet, and hollow blocks, among others. These are goods not considered basic necessities but are essential to consumers.
Fare for domestic air and sea travel shall be subject to the senior citizen discount and VAT exemption. The same discount and exemption will apply to senior citizens availing of public railways including the LRT, MRT, and PNR, buses (PUB), jeepneys (PUJ), and taxi and shuttle services (AUV) (Article 7, Section 2). The same applies to hotels and similar room or lodging accommodations, including other amenities offered by the hotel.
The hotel amenities shall include: hotel-based parlors and barbershops, restaurants, massage parlors, spas, saunas, aromatherapy rooms, workout gyms, swimming pools, jacuzzis, karaoke bars, internet facilities, food, drinks and other services offered. The term “hotel” shall include beach and mountain resorts (Article 7, Section 3[a]).
Restaurants must give senior citizens a discount and VAT exemption for the purchase of food, drinks, dessert, and other consumable items. The privilege must be personally availed by the senior citizen, and no proxies or authorizations in favor of another person who is not a senior citizen will be honored (Article 7, Section 3[b][c]). Disputes usually arise when the companions of senior citizens insist on availing the discount themselves.
The senior citizen discount is for the “exclusive use and enjoyment” of the senior citizen and “for the senior citizen’s personal consumption” only. As such, the 20 percent senior citizen discount shall not apply to “children’s meals” which are primarily prepared and intentionally marketed for children. Similarly, it shall not apply to “precontracted” party packages or bulk orders (Article 7, Section 3[d]).
The food, drinks and other consumable items purchased by the senior citizen shall be processed separately as an independent transaction from his/her non-eligible companions to ensure that it is for his/her exclusive consumption. This also enables the computation of the 20 percent discount and the VAT exemption which only the senior citizen is entitled to (Article 7, Section 3[e]).
However, if the group of diners is composed entirely of senior citizens, all of whom present valid senior citizens IDs, each shall be entitled to a 20-percent discount and exemption from VAT. The discount shall apply to Take-Out/Take-Home/Drive-Thru orders as long as it is the senior citizen himself/herself who is present and personally ordering, and he/she can show a valid senior citizen ID card (Article 7, Section 3[f]).
For Delivery Orders, the 20-percent discount shall likewise apply subject to certain conditions: The senior citizen ID card number must be given while making the order over the telephone; the senior citizen ID card must also be presented upon delivery to verify the identity of the senior citizen entitled to the 20-percent discount (Article 7, Section 3[g]).
The discount shall also cover the fees, charges, and rental fees incurred by the utilization of services and paraphernalia in public recreation and sports centers such as sports clubs, golf courses, dancing venues, yoga centers, and martial arts facilities (Article 7, Section 4).
The same discounts are not extended to non-profit, stock golf and country clubs which are private, and have exclusive membership, and which are not open to the general public, as indicated in their Securities and Exchange (SEC) registration papers. However, should restaurants and food establishments inside these country clubs be independent concessionaires, they must grant the 20-percent senior citizen discount (Article 7, Section 4).
The senior citizen discount shall be applied to admission fees charged by theaters, cinema houses and concert halls, circuses, carnivals, and other similar places of culture, leisure and amusement such as museums and parks (Article 7, Section 5). Some local government units provide free admission to these places for senior citizens on designated days of the week, or on the senior citizen’s birthday.
In case of the death of a senior citizen, the discount may be availed of by any person who shall shoulder the funeral and burial expenses of the deceased upon presentation of the death certificate. The expenses shall cover the purchase of a casket or urn, embalming, hospital morgue fees, and the transport of the body to the intended burial site, but shall exclude obituary publication and the cost of the memorial lot (Article 7, Section 6).
The discount and VAT exemption shall apply to purchases of goods and services by senior citizens paying through credit cards (Article 8). To require payment in cash only to avail of the discount is not allowed. In cases where the senior citizen is also a person with disability (PWD) entitled to a 20-percent discount under his/her valid PWD identification card (ID), the senior citizen shall use either his/her OSCA-issued ID card or PWD ID card to avail of the discount (Article 9).
A usual problem encountered by establishments are instances when senior citizens want to claim the 20-percent discount on top of other promotional discounts. The senior citizen can choose to avail whichever discount is higher and more favorable (Article 9). In simple words, senior citizens are not entitled to double discounts.
One of the most sought-after benefits of senior citizens is the express lanes provided in all private, banking, commercial, and government establishments. In its absence, priority shall be given to them. Senior citizens cannot demand express lanes but they must be given priority (Article 11, Section 8). As such, we must not be surprised when they are given service before us even if they arrived later.
Becoming a senior citizen is a blessing, since not everyone has the chance to reach 60. They are often wiser and more experienced, but may come to experience the aches and pains of age, and the scourge of frail health along with it. However, this should not deter them from enjoying life and being useful members of society. Though they say life begins at 40, for senior citizens, life’s adventure begins at 60.