top of page

Claims about senior citizens need context

Until Malacañang clarified that senior citizens aren’t under “house arrest,” the clamor to let elderly people out of the house and return to work in areas permitted to ease the COVID-19 quarantine starting May 1 had been snowballing also on social media.

Questioning the basis for the Department of Health’s assumption on the health vulnerability of elderly people, one widely shared petition written by “Yafuibanag” or Floro R. Francisco said:

Many young healthy people got infected.

The call for action Francisco posted April 28 on Facebook also said:

Many (senior citizens) are also not qualified to receive social amelioration benefits.

It added:

Many senior citizens especially those in the 60-65 years age group are employed.

FactRakers dug up a few facts and figures to find out what “many” in some sentences meant and add context to the statement.

Republic Act. No. 7432 defines "senior citizen" or "elderly" as any resident citizen of the Philippines at least 60 years old.

The 2015 census places the elderly population at 7.55 million, 56 percent of whom are female.

Population of senior citizens by sex

Data from DOH’s COVID-19 tracker show that 27 percent or 2,200 of the 8,204 patients infected with the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) as of April 29 are senior citizens.

They include 716 patients in the 60-64 group (8.7 percent), 586 in the 65-69 group (7.1 percent), 439 in the 70-74 group (5.4 percent), 228 in the 75-79 group (2.8 percent) and 231 cases among those 80 and over (2.8 percent).

Confirmed COVID-19 cases as of April 29 by age group

While those in their sixties and older are behind other groups in terms of their share of the total confirmed cases, a different picture emerges when prevalence is taken into account.

Prevalence is the proportion of a population who have been infected with a condition or disease at a particular time.

To date, the prevalence of COVID-19 is 28 per 100,000 people in their sixties, 32 per 100,000 in their seventies and 29 per 100,000 people who are 80 and older.

Prevalence of COVID-19 by age group

Elderly people account for 69 percent of COVID-19 deaths--387 out of 558--in the Philippines. A total of 241 are men.

Data also show that the fatality rate rises as age increases.

COVID-19 deaths and fatality rates by age group

Senior citizens receiving pensions from when they used to work have been excluded from getting cash assistance under the government’s social amelioration program.

The Social Security System has more than 1.5 million retiree-pensioners, or members who have reached 60 with at least 120 monthly contributions before the semester they retired, while the Government Service Insurance System has 511,000 pensioners.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who is also spokesperson of the Interagency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease, earlier said the elderly are among the program’s target beneficiaries, but only those who are indigent, from low-income families and who have social pension from the Department of Social Welfare and Development qualify.

Based on the 2015 census, senior citizens who still work number 3.17 million, accounting for 8 percent of the 40 million “gainful workers,” as the PSA calls them, that are 15 years old and over. About 1.5 million of them are in the 60-64 group.

The mandatory retirement age for both private and government employees is 65.

Gainful workers 15 years and above by age group

The total population of the 60-64 group is 2.76 million. About 55 percent of them work.

Proportion of gainful workers according to respective age group

Like all other age groups, two in three working senior citizens are male.

Gainful workers by sex

Skilled agricultural forestry and fishery workers make up the largest occupation group among senior citizens (31 percent for the 60-64 group and 44 percent for those older), followed by those in elementary occupations (16 percent and 15 percent). About 13 percent in both age groups are managers.

Senior citizen workers by occupation group

More than 20 percent of elderly women who work are managers. Only about 8.5 percent of men are.

Female senior citizen workers by occupation group
Male senior citizen workers by occupation group

The IATF earlier recommended that persons below 21 and those 60 and above as well as those with health risk factors should stay home despite the relaxation of restrictions under the general community quarantine (GCQ) that takes effect in some places on May 1.

The uproar from senior citizens, especially those who still work, prompted presidential spokesperson Harry Roque to clarify that elderly people without immunodeficiency or comorbordities may leave their homes to procure essential goods and services and to work in selected industries or sectors or in phases.

Comorbidity is the presence of more than one distinct condition in an individual.

Metro Manila and a number of regions remain under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) till May 15.


An act amending Article 287 of Presidential Decree no. 442, as amended, otherwise known as the Labor Code of the Philippines, by providing for retirement pay to qualified private sector employees in the absence of any retirement plan in the establishment. (1992). Republic Act 7641. Retrieved from

Department of Health. (n.d.) COVID-19 tracker. Retrieved from

Francisco, F. (2020, April 28). A CALL TO ACTION on all my fellow SENIOR CITIZENS! We should be protected and allowed to move and work and fend for ourselves but NOT TO BE RESTRICTED AND ISOLATED which is TANTAMOUNT TO HOUSE ARREST!

PLEASE READ, COMMENT AND SHARE [Facebook status update]. Retrieved from

GSIS pensioners to receive pension April 2. (2020, April 2). Philippine News Agency. Retrieved from

Government Service Insurance System. (n.d.). Lowering the retirement age of government employees. Retrieved from

IATF recommends current ECQ to stay in NCR, Region III, Region IV-A, and other high-risk areas. (2020, April 24). Retrieved from

Inter-Agency Task Force Virtual Presser with Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles. (2020, April 6). Retrieved from

Philippine Statistics Authority. (2017, June 30). Philippine population surpassed the 100 million mark (Results from the 2015 Census of Population). Retrieved from

Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. (2020, April 30). Retrieved from

Senior Citizens Act of 1992. Republic Act 7432. Retrieved from

Social Security System. (2019, July 29). SSS: 2.5M pensioners receive P62B pension from Jan to May 2019. Retrieved from

Valderas, J. M., Starfield, B., Sibbald, B., Salisbury, C., & Roland, M. (2009). Defining comorbidity: implications for understanding health and health services. Annals of family medicine, 7(4), 357–363.


bottom of page