Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner (FP)

"As more and more people live alone or are institutionalised away from their immediate family, the promotion of social contacts and having something meaningful to engage their time becomes more important."

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, made this observation today as she addressed the re-launch ceremony of GENLINK at Hilton Barbados.

The programme was originally started between the Geriatric Hospital and the Garrison Secondary School to bridge the gap between the elderly and the youth.?? It was hailed by Senator Sandiford-Garner as likely to help students develop a clear understanding of the process of ageing and to acquire knowledge that would assist them in choosing a career path in nursing, therapy or other aspects of the health care profession.

"In preparing our society to meet the social and healthcare needs occasioned by a rapidly ageing society, we must be cognisant of those factors which are integral to the achievement of a better health and quality of life among older people. These factors include the need for physical activity, good eating habits, social interaction and participation and a sense of purpose," she added.

Meanwhile, Manager of the Geriatric Hospital, Joanell Oxley-Worrell, in giving the background to the programme, said secondary school students would visit the hospital and to read, sing, braid the hair of the elderly and sometimes feed them, while under supervision.

"The primary school students will interact mainly with the elderly clients from the Day Care section of the hospital by reading, playing games and fixing puzzles. In addition, the elderly clients will interact with the students by sharing their own life experiences," she added, noting that permission would be sought from parents or guardians of each student participating in GENLINK by their respective school.

Mrs. Oxley-Worrell also pointed out that personnel from the Geriatric Hospital would also make scheduled visits to the schools, deliver lectures and share information on the ageing process and career options in health care.

According to the senior health official, it is expected that in the future GENLINK would be expanded to include other facilities that cater to the elderly, namely Gordon Cummins, St. Lucy and the St. Lucy and St. Philip District Hospitals.

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