Commissioner Buncamper says older people are the doors to the past and windows to the future

 Commissioner Buncamper says older people are the doors to the past and windows to the future in commemoration of International Day for Older Persons

Commissioner of Public Health Maria Buncamper-Molanus, on the commemoration of the International Day of Older Persons, Wednesday, October 1, says older persons symbolize not only our ties with the past, but they are also the bridge to the future.

October 1st has been designated as International Day of Older Persons by the General Assembly of the United Nations and was observed for the first time throughout the world on October 1st 1991. It is a day set aside by the U.N. to address the independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and dignity of older persons.

The theme for 2008 International Day of Older Persons is "Rights of Older Persons".

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The world is getting older and in the next 50 years, the number of older persons will nearly quadruple, growing from about 600 million to almost 2 billion people. Today, one in every ten is 60 years and older. By 2050, one out of every five will be an older person, and by 2150 one third of the people in the world are expected to be 60 years of age or older.

"I hereby commend all those who volunteer their time to help our senior citizens along with the various non-governmental organizations that provide essential services for the elderly. Your interest in the well-being of our older people and your efforts to protect their dignity and rights are highly appreciated.

"Older persons are an integral part of society and we continue to need their expertise and wisdom as we move towards Country St. Maarten and in building a new nation.

"Older persons should be given an opportunity to play a meaningful role in community life. A society which ignores and neglects its older people is a society that denies its own history and origins. Exploitation and abuse of older persons can not be tolerated in a civilized country.

"My message to our nationâ??s seniors is that we care and love you all. Thank you for your contribution towards building this island nation, educating the younger generations and sharing your experiences and skills with us," Commissioner of Public Health Maria Buncamper-Molanus told the Government Information Service (GIS).

The number of older persons in the Netherlands Antilles is predicted to increase.

The permanent commission of population Unit Willemstad Curacao Report of February 1998 outlines the alarming rates of the aging Antillean population. This report projects that in the Netherlands Antilles by the year 2017 the population will consist of 7688 which denotes a difference of 6018 which is five times the amount recorded in the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) figures of 2005.

The CBS recorded in 2005 that the elderly population of St. Maarten stands at 1670 which represents 4.6% of the general population. They project that in 2015 the elderly population will stand at 4476, which will represent 11% of the population. Such a dramatic increase will not come without profound consequences on every aspect of the older personâ??s life, community, and the countries limited resources.

The 2002 survey "How Healthy is St. Maarten" already reveals the quality of life of the elderly is severely challenged giving the alarming rate of chronic disorders, severe visual problems, hearing disabilities which impair their daily ability to function adequately in comparison to their counterparts in Curacao.

The Social Welfare Department reports that from the total number of welfare recipients of 905 persons as per August 2007, 48.4% of that amount constitutes seniors 60 . The group that also stands out is the 45-59 who constitutes 22.3%. This group is predicted to remain welfare recipients for the rest of their lives given their social and unemployment status and the challenges in the labor market. Information coming out of the draft interim report by Jaslin U Salmon suggests that elderly is among the most vulnerable groups of our society.

The preventive approaches is part of a bigger plan that Sector Health Care Affairs (SHCA) has described in preparing to deal with the global projected elderly changes in collectively preparing to deal with the elderly projection. Research will be carried out to accumulate data and to establish a baseline while the results will be used as a basis for developing an elderly policy.

The policy which will be based on the information gathered, will lead to the development of clearer policies outlining specific services and preventive programs to improve or sustain the quality of life for the elderly. To accomplish this, it will be imperative to use a sample with an age distribution of 55 and above to ensure that better preparation can be done to ensure a better quality of life for the elderly.

The research proposal is a collaborative effort between SHCA and Sector Welfare. The research will be executed by an external research team in close collaboration with SHCA and Sector Welfare.

The Island Territory of St. Maarten is the entity commissioning this research.