One thing that sets Filipinos apart from other cultures is the fact that our family ties go beyond the usual mom-dad-and-siblings combo. And no, just because you have reached the legal age does not necessarily mean that you’ll be moving out.
It is normal to see 3 or 4 generations living under a single roof, with cousins, titos (uncles) and titas (aunts) joining the mix sometimes.
This is one aspect of the Filipino family system that a lot of foreigners fail to understand.
This is also one aspect of the Filipino family system that proves to have a huge impact on how Filipinos in Australia view residential aged care.
Understanding the Filipino Family Culture
One huge factor that affects, and possibly, dictates the way Filipinos view aged care is ‘utang na loob’ or debt of gratitude. Simply put, this term means that if someone does something for you, it is only right to return the favour.
So just imagine how much weight Filipinos put on the way their parents took care of them since birth!
Because of this, you see kids taking care of their parents as they age even if they already have families of their own. Leaving them at a retirement home somewhere is seen as an ungrateful act.
Filipinos also want to feel important and useful as they age. Where other cultures look forward to retirement and possibly doing nothing else but travelling, playing golf, or going fishing, a lot of Filipinos resist the inevitable aging process.
Instead of booking cruises and looking for cheap deals on flights, Filipino senior citizens (as they would prefer to be called) would rather take care of their grandkids.
Instead of playing a few rounds of golf, they would rather stay at home, clean the house, mow the lawn, and stand guard in case something happens (yes, they’re paranoid like that).
Resistance to Residential Aged Care
This is why Filipinos are resistant to residential aged care, something that is normal for other cultures. Even if you see a lot of Filipino carers in Australian aged care facilities, this does not mean that they accept the concept. Apart from doing their job, they only believe that it is only right for aged people to get the best care possible especially when they have reached the age of frailty.
Although there are a handful of Filipinos who have actively taken part in residential aged care programs, the numbers are not rising further. A lot of Filipinos in Australia still believe in the same customs that they were taught since they were kids, and the fact that a lot of them have become permanent residents has not changed the way they think.
Understanding Residential Aged Care
Of course, one other fact that affects the common Filipino’s resistance to the thought of aged care aside from the cultural differences is the lack of understanding as to what is actually involved.
Residential aged care offers everything that a senior citizen needs – accommodations, meals, personal assistance even in simple tasks like bathing and getting dressed, plus a whole lot of social activities.
Although the government hands out accreditation for these facilities, they do not exactly own these places. Aged care facilities may sometimes be run by church groups and non-profit organizations, or owned by private individuals and groups.
From a modern individual’s point of view, there’s nothing bad about aged care facilities. After all, they have everything that they need right at their disposal, and they even have a whole group of people who would probably be interested in the same things.
However, tradition is still stronger for a lot of Filipino households, even those who consider themselves as forward-thinkers when it comes to other things.
For now, it will all be a matter of mutual respect – Filipinos respecting the fact that other cultures have their own beliefs and priorities, and foreigners respecting the way we care for our family.
Special thanks to Joel de Oliveira for the main image.
I am a mother, a wife and a technology loving Filipina who loves reading hi-fiction books (dragons!) , good stories, dancing, laughter, lying on the grass and eating balut. I am born and raised in the Philippines and now resides in Australia but finds myself in the Philippines for at least 3 months a year. I am part of the Filipino Australian Community and have been living between Australia and the Philippines since 2007.