Clearly, it does not take Senior Citizens Month alone to draw our attention to the dignity and respect due to our elderly, nor to value the quality of their wisdom and benefits of their experiences. For we are reminded by the Holy Bible:
You shall rise before the grey-headed and honour the presence of an old man [and old woman], and fear your God: I am the Lord.
–– Leviticus 19:32.
It was therefore gratifying to learn of the message of Minister of Health John Boyce, through his Health Advisory Committee, that we should treat the elderly of this country with the dignity and respect they deserve. At a session on Safeguarding The Foundation Of This Country: Care Of The Elderly at the Pan-American Health Organization yesterday, urged participants to ensure those who needed our care and support surely got them.
And those needs, Mr Boyce suggested, should be met in an environment where the elderly’s physical, mental and social well-being contributed their overall health, thus enhancing their quality of life.
We aver respecting and honouring the old man and old woman are more than the practice of good manners, or any exercise in good etiquette; even more than an expression of gratitude for their good to us. Respecting and honouring our elderly are a statute of God Almighty, as illustrated in the verse from Leviticus above.
This reverence can only translate to a better quality of life for our senior citizens and a deeper understanding by our young of the path they must ultimately take too. This respect will also help in the accommodation generally of the elderly’s continued and expected contribution to our society.
As Minister Boyce offered, “our senior citizens are assets to our nation, especially as a wealth of knowledge, and we should value their contribution. They are the repositories of every aspect of Barbadian heritage, and they are the ones with the intellectual property rights to our cultural, historical and social traditions”.
The considerateness, respect and care for our elderly –– which we will ever promote –– are not to be exhibited in September, Senior Citizens Month, only. Yes, we are all for the annual celebration and usual period of activities marking such, but let all this each year be the culmination of the preceding months of affection, endearment, safekeeping and benefit, and the catalyst afterwards for improved attention.
And it wouldn’t hurt to have these qualities of caring and closeness inculcated in our very young in our very homes and schools, reaching into our business places, engulfing the society at large.
For the most part we have much to be grateful to our elderly for. This alone makes it our bounden duty to ensure they are never the victims of crime and disorder; that their lives are never made a misery by the schemers, boors and culprits among us –– who for selfish benefit would think nothing of plunging the twilight years of our old into abysmal darkness.
In this regard, Mr Boyce alludes to the passing of a senior citizen as “a loss to society, and a missing link in the transfer of our value system and national history”.
It is no revelation that many of our old people have been exploited and abused physically, mentally and emotionally in divers ways –– even by their very own; and worse yet by some religious leaders.
Under no circumstances should those of us who go to church –– in particular the old who believe it is time to make peace with their God –– seeking solace and spiritual comfort ought to be taken advantage of. Our elderly must be protected from those wolves in sheep’s clothing!
The right-thinking among us must have as our responsibility to see our aging and aged continue to benefit from social and restorative justice. We must do more than articulate our senior citizens’ unnecessary challenges and undeserved plights. We must eliminate them.
We have often been reminded that it takes a village to raise a child. We aver it takes that same village to secure that very child’s aging parent.
Mr Boyce urges us too not to lose sight of the critical ideal that the character of a society is determined by the way it treats its most vulnerable members.
Caring for and sharing with our elderly is one great responsibility we as a society have; for these honourable elderly who have walked before us have given us much, making possible the life we now so much enjoy –– and often take for granted.
May we never forget the contributions and sacrifices made by our senior citizens in their youthful days; may we never cease to recognize their efforts publicly; and may we for ever be grateful.
Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she
–– Proverbs 23:22.