Official Address to Launch the Month of Older Persons

Fellow Citizens and Residents of St. Kitts and Nevis:

Over the course of the next 30 days, the Federal Government of St. Kitts and Nevis will be observing The Month of Older Persons under the theme “Take a Stand Against Ageism”, with the sub-theme “60+ Counts”. This year’s theme was drawn from the United Nations’ (UN’s) official celebration of International Day of Older Persons on October 1, 2016, and is meant to draw attention to and challenge the practice of ageism.

Ageism is defined as discrimination of individuals on the basis of age – particularly discrimination against the elderly. As such, our celebration of The Month of Older Persons is designed to achieve three (3) major UN

goals:

1) Explore and challenge negative attitudes and mindsets of ageing and older persons;

2) Promote a positive image of ageing and older persons via the sharing of best practices among countries that address age discrimination, promote social inclusion, and create positive representations of older persons in the media, etc.

3) Call for improved data collection, analysis and reporting of age-disaggregated data to better understand the experiences, changing needs and contributions of people as they age. This exercise should assist in empowering older persons and safeguard their rights.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has determined that people aged 60 and older accounted for 12.3 per cent of our global population in 2015. By the year 2050 this number will rise to approximately 22 per cent – almost a quarter of our global head count. This means that member countries of the UN must continue – and in most, if not all cases – accelerate our socio-economic and political programmes to ensure that we can take care of this vulnerable and growing segment of our population. For us in the Caribbean this is rather critical, given the projection that most of the growth of our older population will take place in developing countries such as ours. At present,

more than half of the world’s 901 million older persons live in Asia. Of this figure, 508 million people are 60 years and older. For us in Latin America and the Caribbean, there are – at present – some 71 million older persons. These sobering statistics mean that every effort must be made to reduce inequalities being suffered by older persons while doing all in our power to ensure that their human rights are respected and that they live lives with dignity.

As St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates The Month of Older Persons we are ever mindful of the fact that our people are living longer. Perhaps for the first time in our recorded history, we are fortunate to have had approximately eight (8) centenarians alive. What is also heartening, is that more of our menfolk are now attaining the age of 100. At present, there are four (4) such individuals alive. In recognition of our improved longevity, the Department of Social Services and Community Development successfully staged an inaugural celebration of “Centenarians’ Day” on May 31, 2016, under the auspices of our Governor General, Sir Tapley Seaton GCMG, CVO, QC, JP. Our Team Unity Government has given a commitment that “Centenarians’ Day” will be observed annually.

The Department of Social Services and Community Development has planned an exciting and fulfilling calendar of events that would define our Month of Older Persons. The launch of our special events was held on Sunday, October 2, 2016 with a church service at Church of God of Prophesy in Newton Ground, St. Kitts. Among the other key activities are the following:

1) Senior March in Nevis, in which our St. Kitts-based seniors will participate on Saturday, October 8th

2) Senior Citizens’ Movie Day at Caribbean Cinemas, on Saturday, October 15th

3) Distribution of Food Hampers at the Seventh Day Adventist School, on Wednesday, October 19th

4) Senior Citizens’ Gala at Manhattan Gardens Restaurant, on Saturday, October 29th

A number of radio and television programmes will also be aired during the month to showcase (i) the work of the Department; (ii) the importance of senior citizens to our families, communities and Country; and (iii) our Nation’s responsibility to older persons.

As St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates The Month of Older Persons we also pause to show our appreciation to the staff within the Departments of Social Services on both islands, for the selfless service they continue to render to our ageing population. We pay tribute, in particular to our 531 home care officers who continue to render at-home care to 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. We cannot forget our own private citizens who consistently care for their ageing relatives at home. We realise that caring for the elderly demands special sacrifice. Such a vocation requires special graces from God, and can often be a thankless and stressful undertaking. Yet, such care is imperative, if we are to assist our ageing seniors in living full, dignified and comfortable lives. On this score, the Federal Government also extends sincere gratitude to the various civic, religious and private sector groups that sustain well-needed outreach to our Nation’s older citizens. Let us never forget that it is our older citizens who toiled and invested in this Country to bring it to the present point of development, and the recognition of basic human rights and freedoms that we today take for granted. We owe our older persons a major debt of gratitude – and a biblical obligation to care for them “so that our days may be long”.

On behalf of the Federal Government of St. Kitts and Nevis I am honoured to declare the 2016 celebration of The Month of Older Persons officially open.

Thank you for listening.

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