Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.
by George S. Griffith
The Christian Community has recently concluded the observance of “Good Friday”. We have come to refer to the “Good Friday experience” as characterized by hardship, denial, abandonment, cruelty, the gross violation of one’s most basic Human Rights and most of all, the experience of being treated as less than human.
To put this in its proper historical context, the Good Friday experience followed the adulation of Palm Sunday, when treatment fit for a king was publicly displayed only to be diametrically reversed in less than one week.
One can liken this to the youthful and most productive working years of our parents and grandparents, when they were hale, hearty and the financial and emotional cornerstone for the development of their immediate and extended families.
All across Barbados today can be found pockets of our senior population who, to all intents and purposes are abandoned and subjected to lives of loneliness, deprivation and exploitation at the stage of their lives when they need their immediate and extended families most.
Almost every day is a “Good Friday” experience for these men and women, whose only “crime” is to live long enough to have grown old, infirm, afflicted with a number of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD’s) and are now numbered among the most vulnerable members of our society.
Gone are the days when they carried on their backs, the weight of their family’s social and economic need, when they, in some cases worked from morning until night, seven days per week for wages which were generally way below their worth, yet they did it without fret or murmur so that they could put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of their dependents.
Ingratitude and a disregard of the fifth Commandment are the most euphemistic terms I can use to describe the attitude of some children and families to their aging parents, to ensure that the Editor permits the printing of this article.
However, it must be said that some of our senior citizens/elders are the recipients of a raw deal at the hands of their “loved ones”.
Thanks to the quality of our Health and Welfare Services over the years, the life expectancy of our population has expanded way beyond what was imaginable one hundred years ago. It was accepted and understood in those days that families had an obligation to care for their own and especially their parents, grandparents and even great grandparents.
In this 21st Century Barbados, where almost 100 per cent of citizens have been the beneficiaries of free secondary and tertiary education at the point of delivery and where our social, economic and infrastructural development has been the envy of even some high-income jurisdictions, nowhere in this Christian society and in this enlightened age, should any of our beloved and longsuffering parents and grandparents be living in the squalor that is still our nation’s “dirty little secret”.
The question must be asked, how can we as a God-fearing people stand silent when some of our seniors are literally falling through the flooring of their homes? How can we sleep at night in our comfortable homes when our parents and elderly relatives are forced to dodge the rain that pour through their leaking roofs? And what about the fact that rodents and other pests roam freely throughout the homes of some of our elderly especially when their vision is impaired or their mobility severely compromised?
It is indeed sad to say that in more cases than our collective state of denial would permit us to admit, pension cheques are drawn and precious little, if any at all, is spent on feeding, clothing and addressing the daily living needs of the persons whose names are written on those cheques.
By way of rooting out this level of depravity, we must address these issues with a clearer purpose. More meaningful and assertive interventions coupled with a robust referral system must be added to the methods currently deployed and higher levels of accountability must be demanded and enforced as a matter of the utmost urgency.
These crimes against our elders, most of whom have lost the physical and mental capacity to fend for themselves, require the serious and consistent attention not only by the occasional comment in the media as I am doing now but our social services must be empowered and buttressed but by law enforcement if the safety of our vulnerable citizens is to be guaranteed.
Perhaps in the interest of clarity, a few simple questions are necessary. What legislation is in place for the protection of our seniors and vulnerable persons from their abusers? And who is legally responsible for spearheading this rescue mission?
These atrocities are seemingly invisible in plain sight and one must ask, is it that this entire 21 x 14 nation is in such deep denial on these issues, that we are likely to achieve the much-deserved historic status of becoming the Independent Republic of Barbados before this dastardly assault on our defenseless
elders is curtailed and the perpetrators dealt with accordingly?
As a youngish senior citizen, I urge us all, rich or poor, old or young, man or woman to dig deep within our consciousness and bring to the fore the humanity which must be slumbering there. This rescue mission transcends any differences we might have as Barbadians.
We have long passed the proverbial tipping point and must with one accord commit ourselves to ensuring that the best possible quality of life is not only a goal, objective or talking point but the lived reality of our vulnerable seniors.
“A society is measured by how it cares for its elderly citizens” (WHO). However, I prefer to state that a society is measured by the way it treats its elderly and vulnerable populations. Finally, what measure do we have of ourselves when, for so many of our senior citizens “Good Friday” is as constant as the northern star?
Walk good dear brothers and sisters, walk good.
George S. Griffith is a social development advocate and consultant