EDITORIAL – Protect our elderly
With the ever growing elderly population we have in this country, it
is clear that every effort must be made to ensure that in their
twilight years, these valuable members of our society are properly
honoured, celebrated and most importantly protected.
Unfortunately, however, it seems that less and less value is placed on
the contribution that the older members of our society have made to
the development of this country, and there is a tendency by society in
general to want to push them aside.
But when we take into consideration that virtually every single week
the birthday of another centenarian is featured in the media, and we
face the sobering reality that our population is getting older – and
sad to say not growing at the same rate – there is need for the
authorities to do more to ensure that adequate provisions are put in
place to protect the older population.
Now just two years ago the Ministry of Elder Affairs was established,
and while it is yet to bring to the public any legal framework to
safeguard the older population, financially or otherwise, we have not
given up hope and urge them to move with alacrity to address this and
Such is even more important given the current environment in which we
live, fraught with negative health, social and economic consequences
as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, and the seniors being told to
stay safe as the coronavirus could be more harmful to them.
Last week as the world commemorated World Elder Abuse Awareness Day,
it was important to emphasise as a matter of priority, the need to
safeguard the well-being of our seniors in such an environment, where
they may now be even more at the mercy of unscrupulous people – be
they in their own families or otherwise.
The fact is elder abuse is real. Whether we want to admit it or not,
there are several forms of abuse being perpetrated against the elderly
in our community, and legislation is the only way that we are going to
stem the current tide. We have long been hearing talk of such
legislation which it is yet to see the light of day, but it is safe to
say that unless the necessary steps are taken, the situation will only
The urgency of having the necessary legal framework in place cannot be
overstated given that 15 per cent of the population is currently 65
years and older. Add to that the fact that the percentage of older
persons in Barbados is expected to exceed 20 per cent in the future,
and it highlights even more the need to protect that segment of the
While we have no local figures on the matter, estimates suggest that
one in every six elderly persons across the globe falls victim to
abuse, and it is usually persons who are either entrusted with their
care or loved ones who are the culprits. We have all heard reports of
persons who are responsible for managing the finances of the elderly,
cashing their pension cheques for their own personal use. Likewise, we
have heard of persons who put their elderly relatives in nursing homes
and refuse to use those same pension cheques to pay for their care.
Some get frustrated and take out their anger on the elderly and
inflict physical and emotional abuse, while others abandon them at the
hospital. These are things that we can no longer bury our heads in the
sand and hope that they go away.
So, maintaining the dignity and wherever possible the independence of
the elderly must be foremost in our minds. Indeed, the older members
of our population have contributed in large measure to our national
development, and for that reason every effort must be made to ensure
that they are able to achieve and or maintain the high quality of
life, of which they are most certainly deserving.