Statement on International Day for Older Persons

It has often been said that you’re never too old to learn. In this modern age where life is undeniably made easier with the use of technology, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security wishes to urge our elders to embrace the digital world, especially during this time of the pandemic.

The Ministry makes the call in light of International Day for Older Persons which is being observed on October 1, 2021, under the theme, “Digital Equity for All Ages.”

The pandemic has emphasized the need for the elderly to enhance their knowledge of technology to access services or connect with loved ones. Social distancing has taken a toll on many older folks and many become depressed because of loneliness.

Apart from the digital divide, the Ministry notes that another area of concern regarding the elderly has to do with their health.

Over the next three decades, according to the United Nations, the number of older persons worldwide is projected to more than double, reaching more than 1.5 billion persons in 2050 and 80%of them will be living in low-and middle-income countries.

With this said the Ministry recognizes that it has a huge task on its hand to look out for the interests of our elderly population; designing and implementing programmes that are specific to their needs. The Ministry, though, cannot get the work done on its own. So we call on all to work along with us in keeping this section of the population safe and healthy.

In this dreadful pandemic, of utmost concern to all should be ensuring that our older folks are fully vaccinated. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has pointed out that although all age groups are at risk of contracting COVID-19, older people face significant risk of developing severe illness if they contract the disease due to physiological changes that come with ageing and potential underlying health conditions.

Beginning on Friday, October 1, the Ministry will roll out the country-wide distribution of the $25,000 cash grant for pensioners and persons with disabilities, and will also make the 2022 pension books available at the same time. The Ministry has taken several steps in ensuring that the process will be smooth and hassle-free for the older folks.

Meanwhile, on a different note, subject minister, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, continues to appeal to the public to report instances of elder neglect and abuse through the recently launched 914 Hotline and has been emphasizing that elderly abuse has serious negative impact on seniors including physical injuries, and harmful psycho-socio-economic effects.

Minister Persaud is also encouraging elderly residents to be more vocal about the abuses that they endure and her Ministry has been exerting every effort to have active engagements with relevant agencies to have this issue addressed and expand its capacity to deal with it.

At the launch of the 914 hotline, Minister Persaud, in encouraging persons to use it, had said: “Let us make 914 a hotline with a difference because it is answered and behind that answer, there is tangible help; help that can change someone’s life, help that can give them a future and help that can save a life.”

She added: “Once that person calls in and the necessary is done at the police station and hospital, they will be linked to a survivor’s advocate who will be able to walk with them, take their hand and hold it all the way to the conclusion of their case. That is the kind of support we want to see the people have.”

When a call is placed between the hours of 8:00 hours and 16:30 hours, it would be routed to a trained customer service operator, who, in turn, will connect the call to a social worker. Calls made after working hours and during weekends will be routed to the mobile handsets of social workers where all calls will be addressed with confidentiality. The social workers will provide necessary consultations and refer children and parents to local service providers and other relevant agencies.