Column for MON 12 March 2018 - Excerpt
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Seniors have strength in numbers
Once again, the scenes repeated themselves last Monday – elderly folks being assisted to polling stations for by-elections. The world over, seniors take their role as electors seriously and here in Jamaica, they are an important part of every campaigner's canvas. It is high time that seniors realise their power and ensure that policy-makers give respect and reward to those who have built and continue to make great sacrifices for this country.
Thanks to the work of Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer, the National Policy for Senior Citizens was tabled in the House of Parliament on March 12, 1997 by then Minister of Labour, Social Security and Sport, Portia Simpson-Miller. (https://www.ifa-fiv.org/wp-
content/uploads/2012/11/061_) Jamaica-National-Policy-for- Senior-Citizens.pdf
This comprehensive policy led to the expansion of the National Council for Senior Citizens and the introduction of the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme. Corporate Jamaica has also stepped up, offering discounts and special facilities for senior citizens. While it is understandable that former Prime Minister Bruce Golding has described the fast-growing population of elderly as a 'ticking time bomb' for our economy, Jamaica's seniors are also realizing that there is strength in their numbers.
At last Friday's launch of the Central Jamaica Chapter of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons, dynamic seniors, several of them returning residents, discussed the issues that require focus. They were encouraged by award-winning family physician, Dr Owen James, a Board Member of the organisation, to come together and be of one voice for the matters that affect their well-being and security.
First, there was the matter of Property Taxes, as they noted that several Caribbean neighbours offer tax relief to seniors who continue occupying their homes, acknowledging the substantial amounts paid over decades. What a contrast to our local situation where a 99-year-old man in St. Elizabeth was hauled before the courts last month for failing to pay Property Taxes.
On the matter of security, the Central Jamaica citizens noted the valiant efforts of the Police, and several said they were members of Neighbourhood Watch groups. The returning residents are also members of Percival LaTouche's association, which has provided timely guidance to those seniors who are considered easy prey to unscrupulous persons. They expressed faith in Jamaica – Gloria and Keith Wellington noted, "We are happy to be back home, and we have no intention of living anywhere else."
The residents continue to enjoy touring, mentioning some great experiences in St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon – among them the St. John Bosco weekend entertainment spot where the school's catering trainees serve excellent food; YS Falls, Little Ochie, Jack Sprat, Black River Safari, and Milk River Spa.
Comfortable accommodation for the elderly was a hot topic. Mrs Jean Anderson is calling for developers to create complexes in Central Jamaica similar to the Women's Club in Kingston. Plans are to invite members of the Jamaica Real Estate Developers Association to their next meeting. Dr Guyan Arscott has mentioned the potential of the 90-plus-acre property around the Milk River Spa. This spa boasts one of the richest mineral springs in the world – such developments would not only be welcomed by residents, but also provide a big boost for health tourism.
The executive members of the CCRP Central Jamaica Chapter are: Mrs Sadie Johnson, pharmacist; Mrs Sonja Allen, retired nurse; Mrs Patricia 'Pesh' Campbell, retired teacher and Mr Leighton Ritch, retired executive of Alcan. We are sensing a new and exciting phase of engagement and advocacy of and for Jamaica's seniors.