Made in the image of God, like all of us, elderly people are entitled to an environment in which they can remain active citizens for as long as possible, and, where necessary, receive the care and attention of family members, friends and all persons of goodwill.
–– The Anglican Church, through its Commission On Advocacy And Social Justice and Family Life Commission, in its Senior Citizens Month Message.
Much like these two commissions of the Anglican Church, we too deplore the neglect, hurt and abuse some of our elderly are made to suffer, and again support the call for all of us others to respect the humanity of the ageing and aged, and “the God image in them”.
The Anglican Church message sadly admits the “unfortunate reality” of elder abuse in our communities by a people too busy to care and with very little patience for those considered “past their productive years”. This is, of course, no new announcement, as we may add to this the many publicly exposed instances where our old people have been exploited and abused physically, mentally and emotionally in divers ways –– even by their very own.
We note, with deep interest and a great measure of commendation, the Anglican Church commissions’ renewed appeal for religious organizations and others in civil society to provide day care centres for the elderly where they might be engaged in “wholesome activity”. They argue this would assist relatives in assuring their senior loved ones were in a safe environment and beneficially occupied while they were at work.
“Working relatives can take their senior family members to the centres in the morning and collect them in the evening, Monday to Friday. Such facilities would have the added benefit of reducing the opportunities for unscrupulous persons to prey on the vulnerabilities of the aged,” say John Goddard, chairman of the Anglican Commission On Advocacy And Social Justice, and Mrs Emelda Browne, chairman of the Family Life Commission.
Indeed, they have St Barnabas Church as the standard-bearer and exemplar in this exercise. This 177-year-old Anglican place of worship has for some time been urging our society at large to adopt its 30-year-old-plus model of community care for senior citizens as an affordable alternative to nationally or privately institutionalized care, or simple neglect.
Currently under the charge of rector of St Barnabas Church, Father Mark Harewood, the community-based Senior Citizens Day Care Centre caters to the aged of all faiths, all walks of life, and all districts of Barbados.
It is noteworthy that just last Friday, September 11, would have marked 32 years of this impressively caring act of the St Michael church.
As we celebrate Senior Citizens Month, we are forcibly reminded that it is the responsibility of us all to see our ageing and aged continue to benefit from caring and social justice –– restorative justice, to boot. We must go beyond articulating our senior citizens’ plight. We must eliminate it.
As Mr Goddard and Mrs Browne have alerted us, now in this Seniors Citizens Month is as good a time for us to pledge to do all we can to make ageing a pleasant experience. “The aged must be viewed as an important resource and asset, rather than burdens in our communities.”
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.
–– Psalm 71:9.
And, yes, the powers that be and their administrators must ever ensure that pensions and other subsidies provided for this special group are adequate, consistent and on time. It is incumbent upon us all –– the Government included –– to ensure that our senior citizens, who have already paid their dues to society, are able to live out their twilight years in stability, safety and comfort –– with adequate access to health care.
In this respect, we acknowledge in particular the work and representation of St Barnabas Church, the Barbados Association Of Retired Persons (BARP), the National Assistance Board, and other religious and civil society organizations and individuals with the will and intent to make life for the elderly worthwhile and meaningful.
Yes, the old are still remembered by some of us. That’s why we remain impressed by the usual Elders Appreciation Day Fair of the Barbados Association Of Retired Persons, where the young and old entertain the elderly –– a compatible bridging of the so-called generation gap, when young and old feet dance together to the strains of the steel pan and tuk band, and more. This is a microcosm of what the general social interaction between our elderly and the rest of us should be.
We reiterate that considerateness, respect and care for our elderly must begin in our homes and schools, pervading our business places, engulfing the society at large.
It is often bandied about that it takes a village to raise a child. We daresay it takes that same village to secure that child’s ageing parent.
Caring for and sharing with our elderly is one great responsibility we have as a society, for these seniors who have walked before us have given us much, making possible the life we now so much enjoy today.
“You shall stand up before the grey head and honour the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.”
–– Leviticus 19:32.