For the elderly, the best gift we can give is time

Gabriel Achacoso
What can we give the elderly this Christmas if not our compassionate time and care?

What do you want for Christmas? Is it a new luxury bag, a pair of branded shoes or a diamond watch?

Most of us want these items. They sometimes define our class in society. However, there are those who want something more valuable: our time.

At the St. Joseph’s Golden Home in Cagayan de Oro, Lola Josefa (Sepha) sits near the glass door. Alone and silent, her eyes are fixed outside. I imagine her wondering how vibrant life beyond the fence is.

On the other side of the room is Lolo Josef. He is seated on a bench that gives him a good view of the garden. He appears to be reminiscing his better days when he was young and active and surrounded by cheerful people.

It is a dull afternoon. There are no visitors and only the routine activities consume the remaining hours of the day: Divine Mercy prayer at 3 pm and dinner at 5:30 pm, then it’s time to hit the sack.

WAITING. Lolo Josef sits at the St. Joseph's Golden Home in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo by Gabriel Achacoso

‘Old home’

Lola Josefa and Lolo Josef are just two of the 14 elderly people living in St. Joseph’s Golden Home Foundation Inc. (SJGH),  a non-profit charitable foundation which serves as a home to indigent and abandoned Filipino men and women, aged 65 years and older.

Unable to speak and write, both of them were named after the nursing home when the social workers of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) failed to trace their background and families.

Run by the Sisters of Missionary Congregation of Mary, the institution is one of its kind in the city. Since it was put up on September 5, 2003, it has already helped and housed more than 25 indigent and abandoned elderly people, some of whom have been laid to rest.

‘Seniors’ in the Philippines

The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) reported that in 2010 there were approximately 6.4 million senior citizens or people aged 60 years old and up in the Philippines.

NSCB also noted that there were 0.8 million and 1.0 million poor senior citizens in 2003 and 2006, respectively, which comprised 4.0% and 4.7% of the poor population for the said years.

The same report also named ARMM, Region IX and Region VII as the regions with the highest poverty incidence (with an income below the poverty threshold) among senior citizens in 2006; with 34.3%, 31.0%, and 29.5%, respectively.

The rights of senior citizens are enumerated in R.A. 9994, otherwise known as the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010. It strengthens the constitutional mandate of the state towards its elderly people; to value their dignity; and to respect their rights.

However, not all senior citizens get to enjoy what is due them; some are even deprived of their rights. They are neglected, abandoned and worst, abused by their own families.

The elderly in SJGH are examples. Some of them were abandoned by the very persons whom they thought would care for them in their twilight years.

Care wanted

Boredom is inevitable in nursing homes like SJGH. Aside from the lack of facilities and programs to keep the elderly stimulated, the institution is largely unknown, even to the city’s residents.

“We are hoping that many people will visit us; share their time and organize activities that will help entertain our elderly. It will help ease their loneliness and boredom” said Steve Sacal, the resident nurse of SJGH.

“Groups are preferable but it doesn’t mean we discourage individuals,” he continued. “Our elders do not need much material gifts. The time you will spend with them is enough to make them happy” he added.

Aside from visits, the institution has made a wish list that fits in a small piece of paper. It contains everyday commodities that will help the elderly live a better life such as milk, sugar, biscuits, cooking oil, coffee, shampoo, body soap, detergent soap, dishwashing soap, diapers, toilet paper, alcohol, bleach, soy sauce, vinegar, and rice.

The institution is also in need of a big cooking pot, a frying pan, a kettle, tables, plates, spoons and forks, chairs, a ladle, a blender, a toaster, an electric air pot, basin and pail, and cleaning materials such as mops.

As for the medication of the elderly, SJGH needs help to acquire Amlodipine (10mg/tab), Losartan (50mg/tab), Aspirin (80mg/tab), Simvastatin (40mg/tab), ISMN (30mg/tab), Essentiale forte, Celecoxib (200mg/tab), Trimetazidine (35mg/tab), Captopril (25mg/tab), Chlorpromazine (50mg/tab), Fluimucil (600mg/tab), Arcoxia (120mg/tab), Memantine (10mg/tab), Carbamazepine (200mg/tab), Metoprolol (tartrate, 50mg) and multivitamins with Iron.  

Remember the elderly

In what we call the jolliest time of the year, and when most of us will celebrate Christmas with our loved ones, there are still unfortunate people who need our care, time and attention. Just like the elderly at SJGH.

Why do Lolo Josef and Lola Sepha keep on staring out the window? I am uncertain. Maybe they are wondering what’s beyond the fence; or they could be reminiscing their better days. Or maybe they are just waiting for us to visit them. –


St. Joseph’s Golden Home Foundation, Inc., is located at Clemente Fernandez Extension – 18th St. Nazareth, 9000 Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. You can reach them through this number: (088) 856-3755. You may also send them your message at their email address: or through their Facebook page.

Gabriel Achacoso works as a teacher in Cagayan de Oro City; a human rights advocate and blogs at #GoiNextDoor. Follow him on twitter @gabrielachacoso.

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