Nelson Didulo has been involved all his life in civic organizations from YMCA International to Vancouver Folk Festival, to United Confederation of Filipino Associations in Canada.
It is no surprise that at age 77, he is very busy with at least six civic organizations, including a community neighbourhood house, a couple of bowling associations, and several senior organizations, one of which he leads.
Didulo is chair of the South Vancouver Seniors Hub Council (HUB) of the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, where seniors lead, govern, identify needs, and organize activities for and with seniors.
"Isolation is one of the main challenges seniors face. They face financial and physical abuse," says Didulo. Typical example of financial abuse is when relatives borrow money from seniors and don't pay them back, or when a joint account of a senior with a relative is depleted without the senior's knowledge.
To address these challenges, HUB hosts dialogues on elder care, informational workshops on elder abuse awareness; seniors’ benefits; community socials such as health fairs and picnics; at-home services for seniors such as shopping shuttle, yard service and medical appointments assistance; advocacy for seniors' dental care, pedestrian safety and transportation.
In the case of physically abused elders, Didulo feels there is a need for respite housing for abused elders, of which there is none currently.
Didulo’s experience is that "Filipino Canadian seniors are doing very well. Most of them have assimilated the Canadian way of life...volunteering at events, participating in local politics...some emerging as community leaders." Many Filipino seniors enjoy HUB activities such as the Wednesday wellness exercises, hula dancing and socials.
That said, Didulo believes there is work to do in helping Canadian Filipino seniors better understand and practise Canadian culture and values, and come out of their cultural cocoons.
"Some Canadian Filipino seniors who arrived in Canada after their working years have a tendency to approach life with a 'what's in it for me mentality. They fail to look at how their interactions could benefit those around them," says Didulo. As a result, they do not participate. This is true more of Filipino male seniors than women, according to him. Asked why that is, Didulo believes "male seniors may be more timid in seeking social interaction and asking for help in say navigating the system. The communication gap may also be a factor. They would rather do the activity at home than in the group," he explains.
Another issue for Canadian Filipino seniors is that "not enough physical exercise may make them age faster than necessary".
HUB partners with the Filipino Seniors Brigade in programs such as workshops on gardening, crocheting/knitting, and cooking for seniors in assisted living.
Didulo’s advice for a happy retirement:
- Plan your retirement early, between 50 -55 years old, if not earlier. Plan for it physically (lead a clean life), financially (save for it), and emotionally (make sure family is taken care of so you are not worrying about them).
- Be involved in the community early so you can continue with your community networks and help people in retirement.
- Join Canadian organizations.
(Nelson Didulo worked in engineering for over 50 years in the Philippines (Westinghouse), and Canada (Amon Investments, and Bentall Corporation, among others). He has provincial certificates in refrigeration technology and gas technology. Didulo landed in Vancouver in 1970 with wife Belen, has two children and two grandsons. He has been volunteering for 40 years.)