~ Hon Senator Wendy C. Phipps ~
Minister of State with Responsibility for Health, Social Services, Community Development and Gender Affairs
Fellow Citizens and Residents of St. Kitts and Nevis:
“The Journey to Age Equality” with hash tag “60+ Counts” is the theme selected by the United Nations (UN) for the 2019 celebration of the International Day of Older Persons which is observed on October 1st of each year. As is customary, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is joining the global celebration of the International Day of Older Persons. As usual, the Department of Social Services on St. Kitts has gone a step further than the UN in developing an entire programme for the Month of Older Persons, which is a month-long programme of activities to showcase, acknowledge and applaud the efforts of our senior citizens in the development of our Country. This year, the month of activities runs from Sunday, September 29th to Thursday, October 31st.
The selection of the theme “The Journey to Age Equality” takes into account the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, Goal #10: Reduced Inequalities. The focus of SDG 10 is that of addressing inequalities wherever they exist and reversing them as far as possible by the deadline date of the year 2030. The UN Member States recognise and acknowledge that inequalities are present in many spheres: these inequalities are often based on factors such as age, gender, geo-political identity or socio-economic status. For the 2019 celebration of the International Day of Older Persons the focus is on old age inequality – with a commitment to ending it where it exists and preventing such practices in the future. In essence, via concentration on SDG 10, St. Kitts and Nevis – and all other UN Member States for that matter – are making the bold statement that discrimination based on age will never be tolerated, and that senior citizens have the right to economic, social and political inclusion in the life of their families, communities and countries.
According to the UN, the global population of people aged 60 and over is expected to have dramatically increased from 901 million to 1.4 billion between the years 2015-2030. This telling prediction – over just 15 short years – is a strong indicator that our world’s population is ageing at a rapid
rate. The data also tell us that Governments and civil society must realise ‘the urgency of now’ and begin to put in place – if they have not started to do so already – effective and sustainable programmes, projects, safety nets, and other necessary mechanisms that ensure healthy ageing for all. Such ageing in place must transcend religion, gender, geographic location, disability, economic power, and geo-political or social standing. If not, world leaders would have failed to secure a decent life for the 60+ generation – on whose shoulders global development would have taken place.
With longevity becoming more common the world over, there is an imperative to ensure that younger demographics are actively engaged in the productive sectors of the economy through either entrepreneurship or employment in the general workforce, so that there is sufficient revenue base to support the needs of retirees via taxation or social security programming. In addition to that, the world of work should also expect to see the employment rate rise among senior citizens who are past the traditional retirement age. This increasing number of persons from the 60+ generation in the work force will be due to several factors, including the following: (1) the fact that some seniors possess skill sets in high demand and short supply, in fields where some younger employees are reluctant to work; and (2) the fact that a
growing number of seniors do not have the luxury of either adequate pension plans, personal wealth or investments so that they can retire by age 60.
The UN’s selection of “60+ Counts” as a sub-theme for the 2019 observance of the International Day of Older Persons is also instructive. For us in St. Kitts and Nevis the slogan “60+ Counts” can be interpreted as a mantra that embodies what all UN Member States are called to do for the good of their senior citizens. This mantra bellows the following key actions that must be taken at the national, regional and international levels:
- Drawing attention to the existence of age-related inequalities among the 60+ generation;
- Insisting that safeguards and corrective measures be put in place to prevent old age discrimination and inequalities in the future and to reverse them where they exist now;
- Developing policies and programmes meant to improve the lot of persons aged 60 and over, including but not limited to (a) life-long learning; (b) re-training and re-tooling of seniors so they can remain productive and relevant in the job market beyond the traditional retirement age; (c) universal health coverage; (d) improvements in labour regulations that support and protect employment for older
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workers; and (e) social protection. Such policy formulation should also make room for meaningful consultation with representative groups of persons over age 60.
- Researching, analyzing and adopting international best practices geared at eliminating old-age inequalities and shattering related stereotypes.
The Ministries of Social Services on both islands have thoughtfully developed a special series of activities for our Nation’s senior citizens throughout the month of October. In St. Kitts, Deputy Director of Social Services, Mrs Mary Ann Wigley and her hard working team of Social Assistance Officers and Home Care Officers have organised activities such as the following:
Church Service – which will be held on Sunday, September 29, 2019 at Antioch Baptist Church in Buckleys;
Appearance on weekly “Working for You” programme – Wednesday, October 9, 2019 on ZIZ Radio & Television;
Boat Ride Along the Coastline – Thursday, October 24, 2019 aboard The Party Boat;
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Staff Social Evening – Friday, October 25, 2019 at Serendipity Restaurant; and
ZIZ Radio Talk Show on Alzheimer’s Disease – Wednesday, October 30, 2019 with panelists being Chief Medical Officer, Dr Hazel Laws; Nurse Nydia White of the Outpatients Department of JNF General Hospital; and Deputy Director of Social Services, Mrs Ann Wigley.
Meanwhile, on Nevis, an equally exciting month of activities has been planned by the Hon Eric Evelyn and his team, including:
Church Service – which will be held on Sunday, September 29, 2019 at Jessups New Testament Church of God;
Health Walk – Tuesday, October 8, 2019;
Visit to Caribbean Cinemas in St. Kitts – Thursday, October 17, 2019;
Seniors’ Pageant – Saturday, October 18, 2019; and
Gala/Tea Party – Thursday, October 31, 2019 at Government House.
I should also state that in addition to the preceding activities planned for both islands there will also be the customary ministerial visits to, and recognition of the oldest persons in each community throughout the month of October.
As St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates the 2019 Month of Older Persons I encourage all of us as citizens and resident to be mindful of the fact that the recognition of our senior citizens cannot be complete without giving due credit to their caregivers around the Federation. Whether in a domestic or institutional setting, these caregivers can easily be taken for granted. They consistently render care and attention to our seniors without counting the cost – even at the expense of their own health and the welfare of their families. It is for this reason why the Federal Ministry of Health strongly advocates the imperative of caregivers taking proper care of themselves. This is because of the heavy physical, emotional and psychological toll impacting caregivers as they render long-term, consistent care to our senior citizens who are no longer able to look after themselves. All of these special persons, be they homecare officers, nurses, relatives or friends, will be of little help to the seniors for whose care they are responsible if they do not take care of themselves first. As such, the Ministry reminds all caregivers of senior citizens that they should get adequate rest, practice eating a proper diet, have regular medical check-ups and schedule personal time for themselves. Doing otherwise could eventually result in failing health, and premature ageing and death if their own self-maintenance needs are unmet.
The Federal Government salutes all of our Nation’s caregivers at our state and private sector-operated senior care facilities, and in the countless private homes where similar care is being provided. Our Government thanks them sincerely for their service and labour of love to our senior citizens. Caregiving to seniors will increasingly be an in-demand skill set in the near future – given our ageing population. This therefore, makes senior/elder care a growth industry. Given the previously mentioned prediction of the world having some 1.4 billion senior citizens by the year 2030 this means that for the first time in world history the senior citizen head count would have exceeded the global population of young people aged 15-24. In addition to this, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has already estimated that by the year 2050 – just one generation post the SDGs – older persons would comprise approximately 22 per cent of our global population.
As St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates The Month of Older Persons we must consistently remember that our senior citizens matter. We must also remember that our people are now blessed with living longer than our ancestors did. We must ensure that senior citizens are properly cared for, and are given every opportunity to live their lives in a manner that maintains their dignity as human beings. We are privileged today to enjoy all of the benefits of their investments of toil, self-sacrifice and advocacy for human development. We in St. Kitts and Nevis continue to be blessed by having more and more people live to the age of 100 and beyond. Within the past few years we have been equally blessed to have an increasing number of males become centenarians since women generally live longer than men. We thank God for these unmerited blessings!
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. These special persons continue to provide selfless service to our senior citizens. We pay tribute, in particular, to our Home Care Officers who continue to render at-home care to our 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. Gratitude is also extended to the many churches and civic organisations whose membership consistently render meaningful support for the care of our senior citizens, be it in the institutional or domestic settings.
On a sad note, I wish to take this opportunity to extend sincere condolences to the families of two centenarians who recently passed. They are Laura Manners of Newtown and Joseph Powell of St. Johnston Village. May their souls rest in peace.
On behalf of the Federal Government of St. Kitts and Nevis I am honoured to declare open the 2019 celebration of The Month of Older Persons under the theme “The Journey to Age Equality” with hash tag “60+ Counts”.