The Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs today brought together stakeholders in elder care to help Government forge a policy direction for ageing and elder affairs in Barbados.
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, in an address at the beginning of the national consultation held via Zoom, told participants that as the Barbadian population continued to age rapidly, it was necessary to face head-on the many challenges this trend posed to economic, social and health realities.
Minister Forde observed: “While medical advances and improved quality of life have paved the way for more and more people to live longer, often way beyond the ‘three score and ten’, ageing also brings with it a greater vulnerability to disorders such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis, mental disorders and other chronic NCDs.”
All of these conditions, she said, had implications for the provision and delivery of social services as well as other concerns, such as income security, access to health services, housing and transportation.
She further noted that for too many, ageing was a time of poor health, loneliness and anxiety, and this had been significantly compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which introduced protocols of social distancing, restricted social activities and overall minimal human contact.
The Minister of Elder Affairs explained that while it was always Government’s intent to rethink the delivery of social services to the elderly in Barbados, the numerous gaps uncovered by the COVID-19 experience had forced the Ministry to fast track the review.
The purpose, she shared, was to find the best strategic direction to support and protect the elderly population.
Describing the elderly as a national resource and pillars of society who should be valued, Ms. Forde told her audience that it was important to identify the issues which impacted them, since while the Ministry had had some successes in meeting the challenges of the aged, there was still much more to be done.
She concluded: “We are hoping that once we agree on a policy direction, each stakeholder will be moved to own a part of the implementation. We are relying on your participation to create and sustain the kind of society that supports all age groups, from the womb to the tomb.”