International Day of the Elderly Message by Minister Cornelius de Weever

Today, Wednesday October 1 marks the International Day of the Elderly. On this day we celebrate, remember and recognize the role of our elders within our community. “Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for All” is the theme used internationally to commemorate this day.

In recognition of the important issues facing our elders, the Department of Social Development at the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development, and Labor (VSA) in collaboration with Social and Health Insurance (SZV) as well as General Pension Funds (APS) will be hosting the first Symposium on Ageing next week Wednesday October 8th. At the Symposium an ageing vision and framework for St. Maarten will be discussed for endorsement by invited guests. The theme will be “Treasuring the Past, Sustainably Transforming to the Future”.

The Symposium will focus on key issues directly impacting our ageing population. Namely:  Values, Family, and Participation of Our Elderly in Society; Culture, Environment and Conservation of our Rich and Colorful Past on St. Maarten; Education and Ageing Adults in an Information Age; Income of the Elderly and Future Elderly on St. Maarten; Health, Wellness and Housing on Ageing Adults on St. Maarten, Services and Networking; and Creating Relevant Partnerships for Improved Services and Job-creation for Ageing Adults of the Population in St. Maarten.

The ageing of the population is a mega-trend influencing life across the world. The number of people age 60 and over will soon exceed that of people 15 and younger. This has profound social and economic implications for individuals and for the society as a whole. The Ministry of VSA  as well as Government on a whole is working diligently to develop policies to deal with the population shift. With the input and consultation of our seniors, we can build policies that are ready to meet the demands of a changing future.

Such a dramatic change in the elderly population has consequences on the consumption of services in the medical field and social areas. In the past St. Maarten had a system in which (extended family) family and friends would take care of the elderly. Even though this system is still in place the economic situation makes it necessary that people have to work, meaning that the elderly are less looked after. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Therefore, moving towards an ageing vision for St. Maarten is vital in order to address all the issues facing the elderly community in an effective an efficient manner.

The International Day of the Elderly gives each of us a reason to reflect about the future reality; about growing older ourselves; and what we can do to support the seniors in our lives today. All of our seniors deserve our respect each and every day of the year. Celebrate their life and honor them with love, dignity and respect.