(From left to right) Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John; Caribbean Program Coordinator and Acting PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Dr. Ernest Pate; Advisor on Healthy Ageing for PAHO/WHO, Dr. Enrique Vega; and Family and Community Health Advisor for the PAHO/WHO Office of the Eastern Caribbean Coordination, Dr. Osvaldo Felipe Benitez in discussion at a one-day stakeholder consultation on healthy ageing at the Savannah Hotel. (G. Brewster/BGIS)??

Although Barbadians are living longer, chronic diseases have emerged as a major cause of disability resulting in persons in their ???twilight years’ having to seek assistance with care.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy. St John, made this point today as she addressed stakeholders gathered at the Savannah Hotel for a consultation on healthy ageing.

She pointed out that given the nature of the ageing process, individuals would inevitably experience at least some physical and cognitive impairment as they aged.??

However, dramatic changes would need to be made to cope with the long-term demands of preventing the development of illness, detecting NCDs earlier, and managing them efficiently and effectively.

"Our health system and medical education must be reoriented to meet the challenges of multiple morbidities. Traditionally, our health system was designed, and doctors were educated, to manage usually brief, acute episodes of infectious diseases…The objective of any effective public health policy on ageing should, therefore, be to assist in creating a supportive environment for the elderly, while strengthening multi-sectoral activity to assist and maintain the elderly in their community," she noted.

While pointing out that it would be advantageous to keep the elderly safe and functional in their homes for as long as possible, doing so would require that the elderly remained socially integrated in their neighbourhoods with easy access to broad-based health care and social services.??

"Close collaboration between health and social services therefore, becomes imperative in achieving this goal. The formulation of programmes designed specifically for the elderly is essential… These programmes must be structured to reintegrate our senior citizens into their families and communities so that they are not housed in institutions where they are plagued with feelings of loneliness and despair.??

The elderly also have a right to work, [and] participate in recreation and exercise programmes which would allow them to get the most that they possibly can out of their lives and bodies," Dr. St. John explained.

The Senior Medical Official emphasised that with respect to older persons living in nursing homes and district hospitals, the Ministry of Health was aware of the need to continually monitor the care of the elderly. She said the Advisory and Inspection Committee for Nursing Homes and Senior Citizen’s homes investigates any complaints relating to care of the elderly in such facilities, and makes regular inspections to ensure they continue to maintain the legislated standards of care.

Dr. St. John revealed that according to the World Health Organization, in almost every country, the number of persons aged 60 and over was growing faster than any other age group, as a result of both longer life expectancy and declining birth and fertility rates. ??It is estimated that there are 35,000 persons in Barbados over the age of 65.?? If the current trend continues, the number of persons in this age group is projected to increase to 45,000 by 2025.??


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