Today we will join the United Nations Programme on Ageing and an even wider global community, in celebrating the International Day of Older Persons.
This year’s theme, ‘Rights of Older Persons’, focuses on senior citizens’ right to care, participation, independence, self-fulfilment and dignity.
It was chosen to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And the theme reminds us that just like any other social-group, the elderly should continue to play an integral role in our lives and communities, just as they did when younger.
We often overlook the fact that it was through our elders’ diligent planning, that today we can boast of Cayman’s success as an off-shore banking centre. The foundation they built years ago continues to sustain us today. In no small measure do we owe our current lifestyles to them.
It is therefore our duty to recognise and honour their many contributions by ensuring that their rights are carefully guarded and even guaranteed.
To this end the Ministry of Health and Human Services has, and continues to implement, policies and programmes that positively affect the well-being of all elderly persons.
We have for example, established health centres in each district, with the aim of making community health care more accessible to the elderly. Doctors and public health nurses contribute by providing care to older shut-in persons in their homes on a weekly basis. The Department of Children & Family Services also operates residential homes for the elderly, and the ministry continues to provide financial support for The Pines Retirement Home.
This government is particularly mindful that elderly persons’ participation in the development and implementation of policy, particularly that which affects their well-being, is invaluable. This is why participation is a part of the way the ministry does business. Indeed, it is the input of the elderly that guided the expansion of West Bay’s Golden Age Home, as well as the addition of new programmes at Bodden Town’s Nurse Josie Senior Centre. As we move ahead with building senior centres in East End and North Side, the input of elderly persons in those districts will again inform the process.
But there is so much more that we can do; it is not just the responsibility of the government to ensure that our elderly have access to adequate food, water, shelter, clothing and healthcare. We must provide access to appropriate educational and training programmes as well.
I commend those non-government organisations, such as churches and the supporters of the Meals on Wheels programme, for also doing their part. However I entreat everyone, children, grandchildren and the wider community to join hands to ensure that both personal and state-run homes are safe, comfortable places in which our elderly can live.
Cayman’s most senior and distinguished residents should be held in the highest esteem and treated with the utmost respect. They did their best-and many of them continue to do so today.
So let us do all we can to treat our older citizens fairly, regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability or other status. Let us show them how much we appreciate and value their contributions. Let us revere them as they deserve.
Anthony S. Eden – Minister of Health and Human Services