Barbados has an ageing population. In more recent times, this statement has become very popular, and is often proclaimed during public lectures, panel discussions and addresses by Government officials. However, there is still some uncertainty surrounding its true meaning.
Population ageing is the term used to describe the decline in the percentage of children aged 15 years and under, while the percentage of the individuals aged 60 and over increases. This enduring change, which is affecting countries worldwide, is possibly due to a decline in fertility rates and increased longevity – it is an irreversible process.
A 2000 United Nations Population Report indicated that in 1950, less than 10 per cent of the population of countries in the Caribbean was older than 60 years of age. In Barbados, according to the report, this changed by 1975, and the country was the first to have more than 10 per cent of its population categorised as elderly. The report further projects that in 2025, Barbados and Cuba will be the first countries in the Caribbean with a quarter of the population older than 60 years.
To address this phenomenon, Government was faced with the task of implementing policies and programmes, to cater to the needs of the island’s ageing society. One such initiative which emerged was the National Senior Games.
On March 23, 2002, the then Ministry of Social Transformation, under the guidance of its Minister, Hamilton Lashley, staged the island’s first Senior Games. The event aimed to underscore the "active ageing" theme which was being forcefully promoted by the United Nations. ??
The Games initially focused on fun-filled activities designed to encourage seniors to participate, but have since grown to a more competitive nature. Today, it features sporting disciplines such as tennis, basketball, netball, cycling, table tennis, archery and track and field events. Nonetheless, the level of participation has not dwindled, and over 200 athletes enroll annually.
|Minister of Social Care, Steve Blackett, and Deputy
Permanent Secretary, Ruth Blackman, at the 2011
launch of the Senior Games (FP)
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Ruth Blackman, lauded the establishment of the Games, which have now become a fixture on the Barbadian calendar. She reiterated the need for adequate activities for the growing older population and cited the annual affair as "a means to an end".
"Apart from diet and nutrition, one of the integral components to having a healthy lifestyle is exercise. [The National Senior Games] was originally a means of showing people that … regardless of age you can be active; you can find something meaningful to be engaged in… We are hoping to further push the concept of active ageing… [And] to show people that our older persons are a valuable resource who are not to be abandoned," Mrs. Blackman stated.
Older adults who participate in the Senior Games, whether regularly or for the first time, prepare year-round for the competition. Coordinator of the Games, Rawle Clarke, pointed out that participants have adopted healthier and more active lifestyles, in an effort to be successful at the Games. He also mentioned that the athletes’ efforts are seen through their participation at the World Huntsman Games in Utah.
|Some of Barbados’ senior athletes show off their
medals from the World Huntsman Games in Utah (FP)
"Since we started participating [in the Huntsman Games] in 2004, we have never lost a championship in track and field…In basketball, we won silver last year, and a bronze before. [Then] Cycling also did very well. Archery, we had for the first time last year and we won a silver and a bronze medal," Mr. Clarke boasted.
This year the National Senior Games will take place on Saturday, May 14 at the National Stadium, Waterford, St. Michael. Considering the increasing number of persons registering for the events, the aim of the initiative will, undoubtedly, continue to be fulfilled.