The Ministry of Social Care reaffirmed its commitment to the older members of Barbadian society today, with the launch of a Monitoring and Evaluating Committee for the Implementation of Barbados??? National Policy on Ageing.

Addressing committee members, including representatives from the National Assistance Board (NAB) and the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP), Minister Steve Blackett said that he looked forward to seeing the fruits of their labour, which would ???ensure that the policies in the document come to life???and benefit the elderly???.

Noting that there were challenges in catering to the growing ageing population, Mr. Blackett explained that Barbados would have to increase its health facilities and ???take a look at our health care practitioners and care givers???.

He added that an environment that was free from exploitation needed to be created and said that government had to examine existing legislation or new legislation to ensure that persons were not abused. He noted that issues such as reverse mortgages, pensions and cost of living were also critical issues.

The Social Care Minister observed that respect and inclusion of this group of persons in society was essential and mentioned the staging of a ceremony recently hosted by the National Committee, where centenarians were recognised, adding ???we should continue on that path???.

Acknowledging that this country???s population would continue to be a mature one ??? with those aged 65 and over set to number more than 50 000 by the year 2025 ??? NAB Director, Charyn Wilson said that her agency continued to cater to this segment of society through its homecare programme and other services which encourage ageing with dignity and active ageing.

???Our recreation programmes, under the auspices of the NAB, can be found across 16 venues with 400 participants??? Alzheimer???s disease is the most common form of dementia???in Barbados. The number of persons with Alzheimer???s is increasing and???the NAB is particularly concerned,??? she said, adding that addressing elder abuse was also part of their focus.

???The National Policy on Ageing also seeks to identify existing gaps in services??? Of special interest to the NAB is the creation of the much needed legislative framework to deal with elder abuse,??? the Director explained, adding that while her agency had recently developed an elder abuse protocol, legislation was required to support this endeavour.

Executive Manager of BARP, Elsa Webster, said she looked forward to being a part of the Monitoring Committee???s efforts, as members of her association continued to be affected by a range of issues, including financial ones that required immediate attention.

???A lot of people are asking for reverse mortgages??? We are very concerned about the adequacy of resources for older people??? We have had banks and particularly credit unions, asking us for guidelines on if they can offer such mortgages???We really would like to see it jumpstarted or come to some sort of resolution because I think it is an avenue that the elderly can use to fund their later years,??? she stated.

Over the next decade, the Committee will examine the status of older persons in Barbados with the view to removing existing barriers in critical areas which may hinder this segment???s full participation in mainstream society.

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