Nevis observes International Day of Older Persons, Minister responsible for seniors delivers address

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (October 01, 2020) — The following is an address by Hon. Eric Evelyn, Minister responsible for seniors in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA), in observance of International Day of Older Persons on October 01, 2020, and to mark the start of Seniors Month.

Fellow citizens,

I greet you on the occasion the International Day of Older Persons and the start of the celebrations of Seniors Month. The International Day of Older Persons is celebrated annually on the 1st October. This day, set aside by the United Nations, recognizes the contributions of older persons to the development of society.

The celebration this year is quite significant as the year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) and the 30th Anniversary of International Day of Older Persons. With the emergence of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, greater consideration has to be given to older persons as they are confronted with the higher risks of being infected.

The theme selected for this year ‘Pandemics: Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing” seeks to look at how policies and programme interventions can be developed to target and raise awareness to the vulnerabilities faced by older persons. These awareness initiatives must be geared towards looking at the special needs of older persons and the contributions they make to their own health and wellbeing.

According the United Nations, the events for International Day of Older Persons 2020 will promote the Decade of Healthy Ageing [2020-2030], by helping to bring UN experts, civil society, government and health professionals together to discuss the five strategic objectives of the global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health, while noting the progress and challenges in their realization.

Developed in 2014 through the World Health Assembly and adopted in 2016, the five focal areas for this strategy are aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals (2030) but especially Goal 3 “Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being for All at All Ages”, and have as the strategic objectives:

commitment to action on Healthy Ageing in every country
developing age-friendly environments
aligning health systems to the needs of older populations
developing sustainable and equitable systems for providing long-term care (home, communities, institutions)
improving measurement, monitoring and research on Healthy Ageing

As a society one has to be mindful of not engaging in ageism, which is the stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination against person based on their age. By creating inclusive societies, the barriers that may exist will be eroded bringing into effect a society where all persons are allowed to live dignified lives.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our month of activities has been drastically curtailed this year as we stay in line with the protocols that must be observed.

On Friday October 16th, World Food Day, the Department of Agriculture will be hosting its Taste of Nevis food fair at the Cultural Village and the Seniors Division will participate.

On Sunday 18th, seniors will worship together in their respective parishes. So instead of the usual one big island wide service that we are accustomed to, seniors will remain and worship in their parish.

Tuesday 20th is dubbed Seniors Day, when seniors will get an opportunity to be part of a two-hour programme on VON Radio from 9 to 11 a.m. They will get an opportunity, among other things, to call in and participate in a reading competition.

Thursday 22nd is Community Day, when the focus will be on the house bound seniors. On that day, the Seniors Division will visit and take lunch to those seniors who are house bound.

The following Thursday, the 29th, the activities will conclude with an awards luncheon. During this activity, a few of our seniors will be honoured.

This COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the need to have multi-dimensional and functional systems in place, to protect the lives of our older populations who have unfortunately been the most adversely affected age demographic. However, in Nevis, a proactive approach has been taken with our older population.

Although most of the activities had to be curtailed due to the established health protocols, our seniors continue to be cared for with regular visits by community caregivers, both physically and by telephone.

As we celebrate another International Day of Older Persons, I wish to extend warm greetings to all of our seniors, and ask that family members use this opportunity to bond and get to understand our seniors more.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is not all negative, as it has provided families the opportunity to spend quality time together and engage in activities that can bring them closer while learning many about our cultural traditions.

It has also provided policy makers the opportunity to assess service provision and make adjustments as required. I can confidently state that the Nevis Island Administration has been engaging our older persons, and addressing how we can modify our operations during a pandemic, to ensure that they are not left behind and are well taken care of.

I salute all seniors on the island during this your special day and month of celebration. I also take this opportunity to commend the efforts of the Seniors Division for the fantastic work you have been doing with our seniors, and your sterling service throughout the pandemic.

Happy International Day of Older Persons and happy Seniors Month.

May God bless us all as we salute and celebrate our seniors.

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