Minister of State with Responsibility for Health, Social Services, Community Development and Gender Affairs
Fellow Citizens and Residents of St. Kitts and Nevis:
The period October 1-31, 2018 is being observed in St. Kitts and Nevis as The Month of Older Persons. This year’s celebrations are being done under the theme “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions”, which was chosen by the United Nations to recognise the International Day of Older Persons which, since 1991, has customarily been celebrated on October 1st.
The choice of the 2018 theme for The Month of Older Persons, which is “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions” is viewed as excellent by the Ministry of Social Services: it provides an ideal opportunity for the Federal Government to pay due respect and homage to our senior citizens – both living and deceased – who would have contributed to ensuring that the human rights we enjoy today are guaranteed, and can be freely exercised by our people. These human rights, which are self-evident, can easily be taken for granted by most of our citizens and residents: so many of our people would have grown up in a St. Kitts and Nevis wherein all 30 Articles of the 1948 United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights were being put into practice in some form or fashion. These Human Rights run the gamut of people being born free; having an entitlement to rights and freedoms without regard for colour, creed, gender, language and religion, etc.; to being entitled to education, a nationality, a fair trial, good health and wellbeing, owning property, getting married, and receiving equal pay for equal work. These same rights are enshrined in our own Constitution of 1983 and in various key pieces of legislation. One does not have to search very far into our history to realise that these fundamental rights and freedoms were not always existent, given the colonial past of the citizens and residents of the British West Indies wherein slavery existed until 1834, and a full education – for many years – was a privilege of only the wealthy planter class.
As we celebrate our own local Human Rights champions in this Month of Older Persons we may be automatically drawn to remembering those individuals who labored tirelessly – often at the expense of their own lives – to bring about an end to slavery, and a commencement of our rights to vote, to own property, and to earn fair wages, for example. Some of these individuals would have been activists in the January 1935 Buckley’s Riots which took place in retaliation to poor wages and non-payment of bonuses, which resulted in strikes. Among those sugar workers of blessed memory were:
John Allen, and
who were killed in the Riots.
Our historical records also show that among those injured were the following:
Virginia Greaux, and
As was the case with these brave activists in the Buckley’s Riots, similar
determination would have led to the first General Elections -with adult
suffrage – in St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, in October 1952. History would recall that this major human rights milestone can be attributed to the persistent pressure being placed on the imperial UK government by the late Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw of the Workers’ League, the only party that contested the General Elections of 1952 and won all eight seats. For his dedicated service to his country the Right Excellent and Right Honourable Robert Bradshaw has been honoured posthumously as our Nation’s first of five National Heroes – an accolade well-deserved.
As the Ministries of Social Services on St. Kitts and Nevis observe The Month of Older Persons, it is expected that attention would be paid to a number of our unsung heroes who have helped to pave the way in securing and safeguarding the very rights and freedoms which we as citizens and residents enjoy in this Federation. These human rights champions include our teachers, community and church leaders, and countless, ordinary men and women who would have rendered yeoman service advocating for the full realization of basic human rights during and after the two great World Wars which would have ended by 1948. Every one of these individuals would have contributed in great and small ways to making St. Kitts and Nevis the prosperous Nation it is today.
Their contributions came in the form of the gifts, talents, skill sets, money, labour, love and sacrifice that would have been invested in their families; other people’s children; their communities, jobs and churches; and the economy.
The Ministries of Social Services on both islands have carefully designed a series of activities throughout the month of October, with our older citizens and residents in mind. In St. Kitts, Acting Director of Social Services, Mrs Mary Ann Wigley and her team have organised activities such as the following:
Church Service – which was held on Sunday, September 30, 2018 at Bethesda Moravian Church in Cayon;
Trip to Nevis – Friday, October 5, 2018
Senior Citizens Dinner/Banquet – Thursday, October 25, 2019 at Royal
St. Kitts Hotel
Elderly Spa Day – October 4, 11, 18 & 25, 2018
Meanwhile, on Nevis, an equally exciting month of activities has been planned by the Hon Eric Evelyn and his team, including:
Church Service – which was held on Sunday, September 30, 2018 at St. George’s Anglican Church in Gingerland
Celebration of Centenarians – Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at Flamboyant Nursing Home (Alexandra Hospital Compound)
Family Fun Day –Thursday, October 18, 2018 at Grove Park
A March – Friday, October 19, 2018 from Longstone Wall to
Elquemedo Tonito Willett Park in Charlestown.
It must be mentioned that in addition to the foregoing activities there will be the traditional ministerial visits to, and recognition of, the oldest persons in each community throughout the month of October.
As St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates the 2018 Month of Older Persons we should all be mindful that the recognition of our senior citizens cannot be complete without due credit being given 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. It is for this reason why the Federal Ministry of Health advocates strongly for caregivers to take very good care of themselves. It is evident that the long-term, consistent care of our senior citizens can take a heavy physical, emotional and psychological toll on their caregivers. If these special persons, whether they be homecare officers, nurses, relatives or friends, are not looking after themselves they can be of little help to the seniors for whom they are responsible to render care. As such, the Ministry reminds all caregivers of senior citizens that they should get adequate rest, practice eating a proper diet, and schedule personal time for themselves. To do otherwise would result ultimately in poor health and even premature ageing and death if their own self-maintenance needs are ignored.
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. We thank 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 years ahead, thereby making senior/elder care a growth industry: the UN has estimated that there will be 1.4 billion senior citizens in the world by the year 2030 – the deadline set for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This means that for the first time in world history the senior citizen count would have exceeded the global population of young persons aged 15-24. In addition to
this, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has determined that by the year 20– just 20 years post-SDGs – older persons would represent approximately 22 per cent – almost a quarter of our global head count.
As St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates The Month of Older Persons we must always be mindful of the fact that our senior citizens matter. We must also remember that as our people are blessed with longer lives than their ancestors did, we must ensure that they are well cared for, and are given every opportunity to live their life in a manner that respects their dignity as a human person. Today, we are privileged to enjoy the benefits of their investments of toil, self-sacrifice and advocacy for human rights which have helped to lay the foundation of human development of which St. Kitts and Nevis can now boast. Moreover, in St. Kitts and Nevis, we continue to be blessed by having more and more individuals attain the age of 100. Presently, our Nation has approximately 16 centenarians alive! This is a blessing for which we are indeed grateful to God!
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. They continue to provide selfless service to our senior citizens. In particular, we pay tribute to our 530 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.
On behalf of the Federal Government of St. Kitts and Nevis I am honoured to declare open the 2018 celebration of The Month of Older Persons under the theme “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions”.