Residents welcome opening of new senior citizens centre in Lethem

Residents of Lethem and surrounding communities in Region Nine have welcomed the commissioning of a $3 million senior citizens home in the town on Sunday.

Businessman Lindon Franklyn told DPI, “I think personally that this will bring a lot of relief to our senior citizens. By extension, I would like to see some of the persons with disabilities accessing the service, as well. It is a great initiative, and I would like to see it extend to other communities.”

Commissioning of the Senior Citizens Centre in Lethem, Region Nine

Another resident, Virginie King said, “What they have done here with the town council, is very good for the old people to come and do their therapy, whatever, you know, it is nice.”

Petuna (only name given), a senior citizen, shared similar sentiments, expressing that, “I think it is good, at least the pensioners could come, get together here, we can all come and chat together…if we want massage and those things would be nice and learn something…it is good also to occupy ourselves.”

The centre, constructed through the Lethem Town Council, will provide a safe space for the senior citizens to socialise, access health services, education on fitness, dieting and overall wellness.

Present at the simple ceremony were Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal, Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Public Affairs, Kwame McCoy and Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Nigel Dharamlall.

The ministers commended the initiative, while noting the many initiatives implemented by the government to assist senior citizens, chief among them being the increase in old age pension to $28, 000, along with the subsidy on water and electricity and the removal of Value Added Tax on basic food items and supplies.

The Senior Citizens Centre in Lethem, Region Nine

Minister Croal said the initiative needs to be replicated in other regions. He noted that, “They [senior citizens] have toiled this soil, they have laid the foundation for us, all of us, to enjoy first of all the democracy, the freedom that we have… It is initiatives like these, that help to build communities too.”

The minister challenged the municipality to initiate a programme targeting those senior citizens who may be neglected, through home visits and the provision of necessary support, since many of them may not be able to visit the centre.

Minister McCoy, while noting the administration’s focus on improving primary healthcare services, especially as it relates to fighting chronic illnesses that affect senior citizens, restated the commitment to prioritising the elderly.

“We [government] will continue to honour our senior citizens, and we have demonstrated this as a government. In our manifesto, we did speak to issues of our seniors of not only increasing pension, to ensure they have some form of income… but also, we have spoken to facilities that will allow for seniors to be able to have access,” the minister said.

He also recommended that a management committee be formed to carefully plan the various programmes that will be offered at the centre for the seniors.

Minister Dharamlall added that, “It is true that senior citizens play an integral role, have played an integral role and will continue to play an integral role in the development of our country. Part of the work programme of the Government of Guyana, is to make sure we provide for all segments of society.”

He noted too, that the commissioning of the building will go a far way in enhancing the services that the municipality provides to Lethem residents. The minister said other government agencies would be willing to work along with the Lethem Town Council to ensure the centre’s success.

He also called on the council to be non-discriminatory in the provision of those services, noting that Lethem is one of the transient towns, therefore services should be extended to areas in Region Nine.

Mayor of Lethem, John Macedo and Regional Executive Officer, Karl Singh were also at the event.

The mayor emphasised the importance of respecting senior citizens, as they have built the foundation for the current generation.