Monday, October 7, 2013

Jamaica's elders are suffering

by Jean Lowrie-Chin -  excerpt from Jamaica Observer column | Mon 7 October 2013

Seniors being served by a Food for the Poor worker
Nothing prepared me for the emotional calls from elderly Jamaicans for basic respect, basic amenities, basic rights – this on the International Day for Older Persons last Tuesday October 1.  They shared the podium at a conference organized by HelpAge Jamaica, the National Council for Senior Citizens and The Mona Centre for Wellness and Ageing. 
One lady spoke of the disrespect the elderly face in our health facilities.  While sitting in waiting areas, they hear insensitive young people saying, “Why these old people pack up the place?  Why them nuh go home go dead?”  Yes Jamaica, this is what we have come to.   

She said a lady with a hearing problem did not hear when her number was called, and sat in the waiting room all day.  Finally a hospital worker asked her rudely why she didn’t get up and ask – surely, such a person should have been approached much earlier by a concerned worker?

Miss Elaine Sinclair of Linstead spoke on the issues related to housing.  Yes, some may have their own homes but they are barely managing to maintain them.  She told us of cardboard where doors should be, tarpaulin where roofs should be. 

Mr Kenneth Hemley of The Jamaica Coalition on Rights of Older Persons, bemoaned the low pension paid to older persons by the government, and called for action against employers who were delinquent with NIS deductions.  A chart shared with us showed a sad tale of pensions:  Jamaica: US$15 per month; Barbados: US$276; Trinidad US$325.

It is good that we have launched CCRP Jamaica to advocate for seniors, but sad that our Barbados and Trinidad counterparts are so far ahead of us with membership of 33,000 and 27,000 respectively – and we see the result of strength in numbers.
Members of the Jamaica Association of Retired Principals and Vice Principals
I was honoured to speak with the patriotic members of the Jamaica Retired Principals and Vice Principals Association at Old Harbour High School, led by President Mrs. Norma Bernard-Powell, last Thursday.  When I shared these stark statistics and the importance of advocacy, several signed up immediately.  Our CCRP working team, Dorett Linton, Angela Foote and yours truly will have to keep pounding the pavement so we will have the clout to uplift the very Jamaicans who have sacrificed so much to build our beloved country.

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