senior citizens

Golden Sunset: A home for retirees at the foot of Mount Makiling

Philip M. Lustre Jr.

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Golden Sunset: A home for retirees at the foot of Mount Makiling
The assisted living facility operated by Fe Tolentino-Zosa extends a more holistic community-based approach into caring for senior Filipino retirees

LAGUNA, Philippines – A multimillion-peso retirement facility at the foot of Mount Makiling is mainly for Filipino expatriates, who have returned home for good and are trying to reestablish themselves in their country of birth.

“It’s an assisted living facility,” says Fe Tolentino-Zosa, chief executive officer of Golden Sunset Elderly Home Care Services, the retirement facility, which a group of retired corporate citizens has put up to cater to Filipino retirees who have immigrated elsewhere but chose to return and retire here.

Zosa’s group operates a half-hectare facility beside the campus of the state-owned University of the Philippines (UP) in Los Baños.

Golden Sunset has a more holistic or community-based approach. Zosa stressed that the facility, being community-oriented, converts the residents into a community for quality and effective living.

Zosa said its community-centered orientation empowers the facility to give the residents what she called “assisted living” that centers on personal care, including preventive care and medication, social events, meals, housekeeping, laundry, and keeping track of their needs and requirements for maintenance medication.

Although the Golden Sunset facility falls under the concept of residential care, it should not be mistaken for a nursing home that provides hospice care for the sick and terminally ill, Zosa said. Elderly care emphasizes the social and personal needs of retirees, who wish to age with dignity and grace while requiring assistance for daily activities and healthcare.

It emphasizes the twin virtues of empathy and compassion to its professional staff of caregivers and other hands who attend to Golden Sunset residents. Zosa said she envisioned setting up the facility in memory of her mother Gregoria Tolentino, who died at 96.

She said her mother became a widow at a young age but did not remarry to raise her six children, of which -Zosa is the second to the youngest. Zosa did not have a course related to social work  or medical care for the elderly, but she finished BS Accounting, graduating magna cum laude, at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas (UST). 

A CPA, she held various positions related to finance, but established the facility as her way to pay tribute to her mother. She worked in established firms like IBM Phils. And Meralco, where she retired.

Filipinos are known for their devotion to family. Like other Asians, Filipinos generally take care of the elderly in the family. But times are changing. Some families are learning to institutionalize their elderly to the professional care of a nursing home or home for the aged which provides “clinical” or “skilled” care by licensed nurses and therapists.

PROPERTY. Aerial shot of Golden Sunset’s assisted living facility. Golden Sunset

On the other hand, home care like what Golden Sunset offers provides “non-clinical” or “non-skilled” care by professional caregivers – so the distinction goes, Zosa said.

Zosa said that sometime in early 2000s, she thought of putting up a community-oriented facility for Filipino retirees based abroad, who have decided to return home and settle here for good. It is not easy for them to relocate here even if they have the wherewithal to reestablish themselves back home.  When possible, they prefer a community-oriented facility because they can live with their dignity and personal pride intact. Besides, they want to interact with other people.

She cited the cases of returning residents who have chosen to return home for good but their children are based in other countries. These parents do not want to live in the countries where their children live mainly because they could hardly endure the cold weather especially during winter.

She also cited the case of an American national, who has chosen to take residence in the facility, and a Filipino couple who have never been to a foreign country. The facility started operations in 2022 even as it  undergoes continued facelift and construction.

Golden Sunset occupies a half-hectare compound. Its uniqueness lies in the extensive vegetation of the area which enables the residents to enjoy a quiet and relaxing environment. Each of its three buildings is subdivided into eight apartment units. The facility has a swimming pool and two gazebos where residents could gather.

One of the structures has a rooftop that can hold bigger social events. The facility also has units where visiting family members can use when stay while there. The cost for the units are not that prohibitive, according to Zosa. Golden Sunset has plans to expand its services as the firm continues to institutionalize its facilities.

The facility employs a number of highly trained caregivers, who have developed the skills to handle senior citizens, including those who seem to be difficult, Zosa said. They are given competitive salaries, which could be a factor why they have chosen to stay in the facility despite the changing dynamics of the caregiving business.

The retirement business, she said, will continue to grow as more retirees of Filipino descent and their partners return to the Philippines to enjoy their retirement here. Moreover, the Filipino culture of hospitality, warmth, and compassion is always a compelling presence. 

The lush Mt. Makiling here is proving to be not exclusively for students, artists, academics, and Boy Scout members, but for returning retirees as well. Mt. Makiling is a sanctuary for retirees, who have retreated to the verdant surrounding of this mountain resort to enjoy their twilight years in peace and solitude. –

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