This month, as the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) celebrates its 80th anniversary, at least 80 older Barbadians are getting to see how much the facility has developed since the days they would have first known it as Seawell Airport.
The first group of 25 senior citizens, drawn from the National Assistance Board’s programme at the neighbouring St. Bartholomew’s Church observed the airport’s state-of-the-art facilities, rode on one of the new shuttle buses out to the tarmac, and checked out one of LIAT’s ATR-72 turboprop aircraft.
“We thought one of the best ways we could celebrate our anniversary was with different communities. We usually have a lot of juniors touring the facility, but we thought that for Senior Citizens Month, it would be good for people from the older generation to see how the airport has developed, what modern planes are like, to see the aviation kiosks and how technology is influencing travel, and overall I think they are happy to see what the airport has become,” the GAIA Corporate Communications Specialist Keith Goddard, told journalists just after the tour.
Minister of Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, who accompanied the group along with her junior Minister Neil Rowe and Chairperson of the National Assistance Board (NAB), Sharon Wilson, said the tour was important in ensuring older Barbadians remained active after retirement, and commended the NAB for establishing some 18 community programmes around the island.
“Too many of our seniors are at home watching TV and they are bored, so I am happy that the NAB’s activities have helped them to develop friendships, link with young people, and to communicate with others. They are doing art and craft, learning to cook meals, and when they bring in the traditional utensils and show the youth how to use them, it teaches them more about the history and culture of Barbados.”
Pleased at the number of men who turned out for the tour she continued: “Usually the men are either at home or sitting on a shop step, but I am blessed to see the men among this group, which says they are enjoying it and they can bounce off ideas, discuss any projects that are on their minds, or share stories about their past. Active aging is an important part of what we are doing in this ministry. It says once we continue to share, we will see the country growing from strength to strength, people will understand their roles in the community and we will see that everyone matters.”
The NAB runs some 18 centres catering to older Barbadians around the island, the most recent of which opened at the St. John the Baptist Anglican Church in Thorpes, St. James, catering to some 400 people.