Excerpt from Observer column - Mon 11 November 2013 by Jean Lowrie-Chin: I write this column from Barbados, where one of the country’s top seniors advocates, Ed Bushell, head of the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) has invited representatives of similar organisations in the region to collaborate on the way forward for our growing population of older persons. Having heard the staggering membership numbers for those organisations that are over 20 and 30 years old, I know that our 3-year-old CCRP Jamaica has a lot of listening and learning to do. BARP has over 37,000 members while TTARP has over 27,000 members with a full-time secretariat.
According to 2011 population figures from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, we have an over-50 population of 503,300 persons. Jamaica is blessed with an active National Council for Senior Citizens chaired by the phenomenal Syringa Marshall-Burnett, but the growing number of elderly requires even more resources. There are also several active community based seniors groups and national pensioners groups – our challenge is to harmonise the Jamaica seniors network. Our united voices are needed now more than ever.
Jamaica adopted a National Policy for Senior Citizens in March 1997 with the strong advocacy of then NCSC Chair and current CCRP Jamaica Chair Prof. Denise Eldemire-Shearer, noting the recommendations of several international conferences since 1990. Let us respect the principles on which the Policy is based:
1. Individuality – acknowledge the diversity in our population of older persons.
2. Independence – help older persons maintain a maximum degree of independent living.
3. Choice – ensure they participate in decisions affecting their lives.
4. Accessibility – no discrimination in availability of service.
5. Role Changes – special needs based on role changes commonly seen in later years.
6. Productive ageing – All seniors should be able to live socially and economically productive lives.
7. Family Care – Home is the best place for older persons – institutional care should be a last resort.
8. Dignity – Senior citizens are entitled to receive services and benefits so as to maintain human dignity.
This column shared the cries of some of Jamaica’s elderly from a Conference held to mark the International Day for Older Persons on October 1. The disrespect for and neglect of our elderly is a direct result of the breakdown of family life. While we applaud Government for adopting this policy for older persons, we must now ask them to collaborate with our Church groups to develop a policy to promote wholesome family life – this will help to protect our elderly, and reap rewards of social and economic well-being.