|Some of the participants of the seminar listening attentively to a presentation. (A. Miller/BGIS)??|
Government is working assiduously to ensure that adequate housing for the growing elderly population is provided.
This was pointed out today, at a seminar hosted by the National Assistance Board (NAB), at the Pan American Health Organization headquarters.
The seminar was designed to develop a protocol to respond to the housing needs of the elderly, and create greater inter-agency cooperation amongst agencies which interact with the elderly.
Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett, addressed the event and described the provision of housing for that sector of society as "one of the most critical challenges" with which Government was faced. Alluding to a projection by the Barbados Statistical Service, which showed that by 2025 more than 15 per cent of the population would be over 65 years of age, the Minister stated that: "The provision of housing for this group is a complex issue and cannot be tackled by governmental efforts alone. A well-coordinated and team approach is, therefore, necessary."
He pointed out that since the housing portfolio to address the needs of the elderly was removed from the NAB in 2002, no other agency had been designated with that mandate. This, the Social Care Minister said, had forced the elderly population to compete with the general population for housing resources.
Mr. Blackett admitted that while it was government’s obligation to take the lead in any such initiative, it must also be a national effort. "It, therefore, means that the wider society must partner with government in order to increase housing opportunities and solutions for our vulnerable elderly population," he asserted.
He highlighted the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and the Barbados Vocational Training Board as two institutions which could assist, through training of their students, in the construction of housing or house repairs for the elderly in the community.
The Social Care Minister also pointed out that community groups, old scholars associations, staff associations, Constituency Councils and the Community Development Department had a crucial role to play in identifying the vulnerable elderly in the community, while service clubs could assist "not only through their local efforts, but by tapping into their international fraternities and other international bodies to fund larger housing solutions which some local entities might not be able to facilitate."
The Minister, however, noted that: "The formulation of any National Policy should promote the continued participation of the elderly in economic and social activities while recognising the contribution they continue to make to national development; whether as volunteers, mentors or responsible citizens. Our actions must be guided by our national commitment to preserving the dignity and self- worth of the elderly."