Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, fellow residents, citizens, and friends, I am here today to extend special greetings in commemoration of the International Day of Older Persons. Every year, on October 1st we take the time to recognize the value and contributions of Older persons in our lives and communities. This year’s theme for International Day of Older Persons is “Resilience of Older Persons in a Changing World.” I quite like this year’s theme because it encourages us to think about how resilient and adaptive we are as Kittitians and Nevisians. As we commemorate this international observance for older persons, I’d like to acknowledge and appreciate the ten centenarians who are alive and well residing in our Federation today. Specifically, we have 6 in St. Kitts and 4 in Nevis. I think that having this number of centenarians among us is a testament to the strength and fortitude of our identity and heritage as Kittitians and Nevisians.
As an extension of this year’s theme – Resilience of Older Persons in A Changing World – the contribution and resilience of Older women is also being recognized, particularly since statistics indicate that the majority of persons 62 and older are female. This is evident even when it comes to our 10 local centenarians, whereby 70% of our oldest citizens are women. Earlier this year, in connection with International Day of Women, two local older women were recognized nationally for their work in the area of gerontology and geriatric care – Ms. Mary Ann Wigley and Mrs. Patricia Leader received awards for their contributions in the area of senior elderly care and are appreciated for their hard work and trailblazing pursuits.
Throughout the year, the Ministry of Social Development, Gender Affairs, Aging and Disabilities works to provide consistent senior enrichment programs and elderly care services that help to meet the particular needs of older persons, aged 62 and older. As minister, I take this opportunity to publicly highlight and thank the dedicated staff and home care officers who go out daily to care for and assist older persons in their homes and communities. To our home care officers, your continued work and service are valued and extremely appreciated, thank you.
Now, from today, we will be celebrating the contributions of Older Persons during the month of October. The Ministry of Social Development, Gender Affairs, Aging and Disabilities will host special activities that recognize, celebrate, and engage Older persons. To kick things off, a special thanksgiving service was held on September 30th. Other activities will include video media appreciation campaigns, fun games and cooking activities, and package distributions.
For the incalculable contributions of older persons 62 and over who have toiled unrelentingly to lay the foundation of our society and who have sustained our growth for the past two generations, I’d like to say thank you! And I encourage each of us to use this month of October to celebrate the older persons who we know and care for in our homes and communities. Luckily, we really don’t have to look too far to identify the older persons in our communities and appreciate them for their contributions. We see them every day, they are our mothers, fathers, grandparents, mentors, senior advisors, community stalwarts and neighbours who always appreciate being called on and included. We can count on older persons to offer wise counsel and to preserve our histories as storytellers so we may never forget just how far we’ve come. As we celebrate today’s observance as international day for older persons, I extend heartfelt well wishes to the older persons in my life, in my community and across the entire Federation. I am grateful for the ways you have shaped our homes, society and the nation on a whole.
In St. Kitts and Nevis, life expectancy has noticeably increased over the last three decades, thanks to Improved quality of life and a reliable social security system. As population demographics trend toward a growing older population, it is important for us to find ways to utilize generational knowledge in innovation thrusts and to uplift the quality of care and socio-economic supports provided for older persons.
This is why under this SKNLP-led administration the decision was made to intensify efforts to improve the delivery and scope of elderly services in order to ensure that older persons live a dignified and purpose-filled life as they age. Through the development and implementation of the Ministry’s Senior Enrichment Programme, there is a heightened focus on five main pillars, namely, physical well-being and healthy lifestyles, spiritual development, social and personal development, lifelong learning & skills development and advocacy and community engagement. It is envisioned that these interventions would be instrumental in promoting active aging and raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges of aging persons in today’s rapidly evolving world.
Furthermore, In a thrust to carve out space for the significant presence of older persons across the federation, this administration is committed to branching out and building on the elderly care services being provided as part of community development and social services. Strategic plans for this new thrust include the establishment of an Elderly and Disability Services Unit, the drafting of legislation for the prevention of elderly abuse, reinstatement of the Golden Years Club, as well as staff training and recruitment of an additional cohort of home care officers to pilot a new elderly day care program in different communities.
Since 2020, persons aged 62 and older were forecast to outnumber children under the age of 5. According to the United Nations, over the next three decades, the number of older persons worldwide is projected to more than double, reaching more than 1.5 billion persons in 2050. These statistics reflect the need for strategic thinking and investment in the future of our older citizens as they age and require care assistance and social supports. This is another reason greater focus is being placed on aging and elderly care under this government administration. Acknowledging that our older citizens and residents are key custodians and repositories of our nation’s history and culture, it is important for us to be cognizant of the value that older persons bring to our development agenda, we ought to find ways to strike a balance for their inclusive contribution and engagement that allows for transgenerational knowledge transfer as we grow together in nation building.
Today, as we honour the lives and value the meaningful contributions of older persons, I implore us all to cherish our senior loved ones. Let us involve them, let us protect them, let us respect them, and let us be benevolent towards them as we collectively work towards ensuring that we establish programs and social security systems that enable all older persons to live a more dignified and fulfilling life as they advance in years.
To conclude this special message, I express deep gratitude and sincere well wishes for our senior citizens and residents. May your contributions never be forgotten and your resilient spirits be an inspiration to all of us. May God bless and keep us all. Happy International Day of Older Persons, thank you for listening.