The potential of older persons may be realised only if they remain in good health and have opportunities to pursue lifelong learning.

We often wonder whether older persons can handle the fast-moving and advanced technology in this digital era. We wonder whether an older person can use a cellphone – and much more if it is a smartphone or a desktop or laptop, or a tablet. We wonder if they even know how to browse the internet or create an account in a social media site.

The Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE) challenged all these wonderings or assumptions about older persons’ capabilities in the digital age in its recent research project commissioned to them by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Older persons – hired as enumerators, undertook a survey of fellow older persons in pre-selected areas using a tablet and an online data-gathering platform. They gathered substantive information on the insights of older persons on topics such as long-term care and palliative care, autonomy and independence, education, and social protection.

Photo by Marifer Arevalo

“Tapping older persons as enumerators was a significant methodology that was used in this research because questions covered sensitive areas, which both CHR and COSE thought would be easier to understand and open up by older person respondents if asked by a fellow older person,” said Marifer Arevalo, COSE staff and Field Supervisor of this research project.

The research project also paved the way for many realisations and learnings particularly to the older person enumerators and leaders in the research areas.

Leticia Domingo, one of the enumerators confessed, “This is the first time I participated in such study, and I have also learned issues of older person like me from the questions that I asked the respondents.”

Many selected areas are not COSE project areas, thus the organisation as well as the CHR were unknown to the leaders and older persons. Leaders from San Luis, Pampanga said that they would only worry and talk about social pension prior to this research. Now, they already learned the functions of CHR; that there is an organisation working and for older people sector like COSE; and there are other concerns and issues of older persons that they must recognize and address.

Some of the challenges in this research project are the long and difficult process that older person enumerators must remember, and health conditions of older persons. To address these challenges, COSE refreshed or re-trained the enumerators to ensure the quality, accuracy, and reliability of gathered information. Only those applicants who have good and stable health conditions were hired. COSE also devised a schedule of interview to protect enumerators’ health condition.

The implementation of this research may be a bit challenging but it has affirmed the statement of UNFPA on International Day of Older Persons in 2017 that, “the potential of older persons may be realised only if they remain in good health and have opportunities to pursue lifelong learning, which empower them to stay actively engaged in the affairs of their communities.”


Written by Hazel Ayne Garcia – Mesiera, Communications Coordinator, the Coalition of Services of the Elderly