On Tuesday, October 7, 2014, the Council of Ministers received a courtesy visit from Dr. Jennifer Rouse, Director of the Division of Ageing, which is part of the Ministry of the People and Social Development in Trinidad & Tobago. Dr. Rouse is currently on the island as the invited keynote speaker at the ‘St. Maarten Symposium on Ageing 2014’, which commences Wednesday, October 8 at Belair Community Center at 8:00 a.m.
The Symposium is organized by the Department of Social Development of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) in collaboration with Social and Health Insurances (SZV) and the General Pension Fund St. Maarten (APS) in observance of the International Day of Older Persons which took place on October 1. The focus of the symposium is to examine the issues that affect the lives of the elderly as well as recognizing their contribution.
Dr. Rouse provided the Council with an introduction to the many issues faced by the elderly in general, as well as, interesting insights in what is happening in Trinidad & Tobago regarding the matter. Dr. Rouse explained that her division is called ‘Division of Ageing’ and not ‘Division of Aged’. The reason for that distinction in terminology is that it is her division’s mission to create a continuum of health and social support services from the time a person is born until they pass away. Dr. Rouse underscored the importance of “providing for the elderly from the time they are born as it is too late to wait until the elderly reach the pensionable age to make the required provisions”.
Globally a trend is seen concerning ageing as persons live longer than ever before; St. Maarten will also be faced by an ageing population in the foreseeable future. Dr. Rouse stressed on the importance to anticipate these changes in order to ensure that health and social services can be kept up. She further elucidated that elderly in general are perceived as a (financial) burden, while they should be seen as a resource.
The Council listened with keen interest to the information provided by Dr. Rouse, highlighting the importance to prioritize its efforts to assist the elderly simultaneously with the younger generations, in their ageing process. Dr. Rouse advised to seek public and private partnerships and to look into an umbrella organization for the different interest groups. Sound empirical data remains essential for new policies and initiatives.
The Council was pleased to note that one of the programs highlighted by Dr. Rouse in her presentation, the recently implemented computer literacy courses for the elderly at the University of St. Maarten (USM) similarly has been done in her home country. Dr. Rouse has a vast knowledge and experience concerning the symposium topic, having graduated with a Doctorate in Public Policy in Ageing. She expressed her willingness to share her experiences to all those involved in formulating an ageing vision and framework for St. Maarten.
The Council awaits with interest the effects of the symposium and the ageing vision and framework as envisioned by the organizers.