In 1990, the first of October has been designated as the International Day of Older Persons by the United Nations. The following year, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Principles for Older Persons. The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing was adopted in 2002 to respond to the challenges of population ageing in the 21st century and to promote the development of a society for all ages.
The theme for this International Day of Older Persons is; The Growing Opportunities and Challenges of Global Ageing.
Several International organisations have raised their concerns to governments around the world about the new demographic revolution or ageing tsunami, that is currently under way. At present, there are approximately 600 million persons of 60 years and older throughout the world; this figure is expected to double by 2025.
Some of the challenges of population ageing include: the strains on the pension fund. In this respect, in several countries, there are urgent demands to raise the pension allowance for senior citizens. In this country, the Sint Maarten Seniors and Pensioners Association has been a strong advocate of this issue to combat the rising poverty among the elderly. In addition, Governments around the world are forced to raise the retirement age in view of the financial strain on the economy. St. Maarten too will have to consider adopting a law to increase the retirement age from 60 to 65 and above, if an older employee is willing and able to work.
In view of the alarming figures of the aging population, there is an increasing demand for health care workers in gerontology. As far as we know, only one person on St. Maarten has a degree in gerontology and apparently, her study, expertise and experience are not utilized for some reason.
In addition, as a result of the increasing number of older persons suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, there is an increasing demand for long-term care and for health care.
But regrettably, one of the most visible challenges of the aging population in our society is age discrimination, whereby older persons are denied the rights and opportunities which are available to other adults. This is a serious violation of human rights and should be strongly condemned and eradicated.
In order to counteract some of these challenges, the older population must be guaranteed a basic level of financial security. During a recently held workshop on the eradication of poverty for the senior citizens at the John Larmonie Center, we were painfully struck at the amount of complaints and abuse of our senior citizens.
Besides providing adequate healthcare, an overall information campaign to bring about awareness on healthy lifestyles and being more responsible for one’s physical and mental health should be provided; especially in view of the ever increasing numbers of older persons suffering from hypertension and diabetes.
Similarly, older persons should not be isolated and should be encouraged to age actively and to participate as much as possible in the social, cultural, economic and political arenas in their country, rather than excluding them from participation.
Every social policy must include a policy of active aging for older persons and must fight age discrimination and combat the perception that older persons are not important and should just wait to exhale.
If older persons live in an environment that promotes their active participation and if they can retain their health, they will certainly constitute a vital resource for the further development of our society, provided the society is prepared to utilize their wisdom, experience, expertise and skills.
On behalf of the Aging with Grace Project, I would like to congratulate all older persons on this very important day. I am encouraging all of us to age gracefully, age actively and let your voice be heard to end age discrimination, elderly abuse and eradicate poverty among the elderly.
We would like to commend the management and staff of the Senior Citizen Home in St. John for the yearly commemoration of the International Day of Older Persons and for organizing a great program in honour of our senior citizens. We also thank the recently established St. Maarten Seniors and Pensioners Association for commemorating this day and bringing it to the attention of its members and the general public. Besides a thanksgiving service, the program will include a moment of reflection on achievements over the past year, followed by a lunch and great entertainment.
Kindly note also, that under the auspices of the Aging with Grace Project, a Karaoke Song festival will be held at the Senior Citizen Center in the Hope Estate on October 22, 2011. Participants should be 55 years and older and are required to participate with songs from the 50s, 60’s up to mid 70’s. One and all is welcome to come out to this fun-filled event and enjoy oldie goldies sung and performed by our talented aging stars. More information on this event will be provided in the course of the coming weeks.
Finally, I wish to encourage the younger generations to celebrate this day with the aging population and to congratulate each older person you come in contact with. Remember that those who are young today will be old some day.
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL DAY OF OLDER PERSONS TO ALL OF US!
Drs. Linda A. Richardson
October 1, 2011