Friday, December 15, 2017
   
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Tapping the talents of older persons

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Commentary

Wendy-Phipps“Stepping into the Future: Tapping into the Talents, Contributions and Participation of Older Persons in Society” is the 2017 theme chosen by the United Nations in observance of International Day of Older Persons that is traditionally celebrated on 1st October of each year.

St. Kitts and Nevis once again joins in this global recognition of the importance and value of older citizens by staging an entire month of activities that celebrate ageing and the invaluable contributions of our senior citizens. 

This year’s theme for the celebration of International Day of Older Persons might be seen as somewhat lengthy. Nevertheless, it teems with meaning for the holistic development of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. As such, the theme is also futuristic, and requires a retrospective look at where we 

have come from, while acknowledging the critical role of our senior citizens in our ongoing development at the social, cultural, economic and political levels. The theme is therefore a declaration of the imperative for inclusiveness of our senior citizens in everything we undertake, given the various gifts, talents, skill sets, money, labour, love and sacrifice they would have invested in their families; other people’s children; their communities, jobs and churches; and the economy. 

The Ministry of Social Services, Community Development and Gender Affairs has carefully designed a series of activities throughout the month of October, with our older citizens and residents in mind. Acting Director of Social Services, Mrs Mary Ann Wigley and her team have therefore organised events such as the following: 

  Church Service – which was held on Sunday, October 1, 2017 at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Sandy Point;

  Elderly Spa Day – to be held every Thursday in October at AVEC

  Trip to Nevis (including participation in a Seniors’ March) – on Friday,
October 6, 2017

  Picnic – to be held at Frigate Bay on Thursday, October 19, 2017

It must be noted that in addition to the foregoing activities the traditional ministerial visits to, and recognition of, the oldest persons in each community would also be organised throughout the month of October. 

The Nevis Island Administration has also constructed a calendar of special events for our seniors in Nevis. 

As St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates the 2017 Month of Older Persons we should all be mindful of the inclusiveness of our senior citizens in the attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were approved by the United Nations in September 2015. These goals are also set to be accomplished by the year 2030, and take into consideration matters such as healthcare; education; protection of the environment on land, sea and in the air; governance; and strategic partnerships that are required to achieve all of the goals. However, within the context of the SDGs, the UN has identified two core objectives for the 2017 celebration of our world’s population of older persons. These objectives are as follows: 

.1)  Enabling conditions/measures that influence the readiness of older persons to participate, including securing healthcare, regular income, legal protection and access to financial services;

.2)  Creating pathways to facilitate contributions and participation in old age, including technology, education and lifelong learning, access to information, as well as overcoming barriers that exclude or discriminate against older persons.

It is evident from these stated objectives that the 193 Member States of the United Nations – of which St. Kitts and Nevis has membership – must make consistent and concerted effort to include the needs, voices, concerns and challenges of older persons in every decision that is made regarding our national development. In short, these objectives call for consultation and inclusiveness of our senior citizens in everything that we do as a Nation, if the gains of growth and development are to be enjoyed by all, including our senior citizens. 

As the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis continues on its journey as an independent Nation, every effort must be made to understand and appreciate that our senior citizens will continue to constitute a growing demographic in our population whose needs must be met specifically, not generally. The same demand is being made of every other nation on the planet. In 2015 when the SDGs were ratified, some 901 million persons in the world (12.3%) were considered as senior citizens i.e. they had attained at least age 60. It is predicted by the UN that in 2030, the final attainment deadline of the said SDGs, that the world’s population of older persons would have reached 1.4 billion which, at that time, would have exceeded the global population of young persons aged 15-24.

These statistics tell us that our world’s population is progressively ageing and that programmes, projects, and resources of every kind must be designed and invested in, thereby ensuring that the longevity, health and wellness of older persons will be of paramount importance. These considerations would become even more urgent in next 30 years or so: the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has determined that by the year 2050 older persons would represent approximately 22 per cent – almost a quarter of our global head count. 

As St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates The Month of Older Persons we must never lose sight of the fact that our senior citizens matter. We must also remember that as our people are blessed with longer lives than their ancestors did, we must ensure that they are well cared for, and are given every opportunity to live their lives in a manner that respects their dignity as Page 5 of

a human person. In St. Kitts and Nevis, we continue to be blessed by having more and more individuals attain the age of 100. By July of this year, our Nation was able to celebrate – for the first time in our recorded history – a total of 18 centenarians. For this we are truly grateful. To God be the glory, great things he has done! 

We cannot celebrate The Month of Older Persons without showing our sincere appreciation to the staff within the Departments of Social Services on both St. Kitts and Nevis. Their selfless service to our senior citizens is a testimony to the care they continue to render to our ageing population. In particular, we pay tribute to our 531 home care officers who continue to render at-home care to seniors. We also salute the staff of the Cardin Home in St. Kitts and Flamboyant Home in Nevis, along with the staff of the various private sector senior care facilities around the Federation. Commendations are also in order for our own private citizens who consistently care for their ageing relatives at home. Caring for our ageing and elderly citizens is not easy. Such care demands special sacrifice, much patience and tons of empathy – knowing one day the roles may be reversed and someone else may have to provide care to those of us who are still able-bodied once we begin to enter our twilight years. We pray for God’s continued graces on all who render care to our senior citizens. 

Let us always be mindful of the fact that it was on the backs of our older citizens that this Country has been built. Today, we are privileged to enjoy the benefits of their investment of sweat, toil, injustice and self-sacrifice in the level of development of which St. Kitts and Nevis can now boast. In gratitude for our Nation’s older persons we are therefore called upon to include them in the national conversation and consultation regarding our ongoing development, while safeguarding the rights, freedoms and privileges that they have earned. 

On behalf of the Federal Government of St. Kitts and Nevis I am honoured to declare the 2017 celebration of The Month of Older Persons officially open.

Wendy Phipps is Minister of State with responsibility for Health, Social Services, Community Development and Gender Affairs.



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