NASSAU, The Bahamas — It is projected that around the world the number of older persons will grow rapidly in the coming years, and The Bahamas is joining with other countries in responding to the ageing of societies.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Development the Hon Loretta Butler-Turner said the 2000 Census revealed that the country’s population was approximately 303,611 and of that number, 24,000 or eight per cent were 60 and over.
“It was projected that this number would be 31,000 in the year 2010,” she said at the Ministry of Labour and Social Development and the National Council on Older Persons church service at St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Friday, October 1.
“Similarly, persons 65 and over, the number of older persons in the year 2000 was 15,780 or 5.2 per cent. The projection for 2010 is 21,200 or 5.1 per cent of the population,” Mrs Butler-Turner explained. However, like most developing countries, The Bahamas has limited economic resources to meet this projection, she said.
“The challenge will be to ensure that we do not experience the ageing of our society as a burden but derive from it added value and opportunities for development through an actively engaged older population,” she said.
And the Government has already promoted support between the generations, Mrs Butler-Turner said. There is a partnership with the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which manages the Mary Ingraham Intergenerational Care Centre.
This facility also has a preschool attached, which enables the older persons and infants to interact on a daily basis. The Department of Social Services provides 24-hour care for older persons at Soldier Road Group Home, Nurse Naomi Christie Home for Older Persons and the Demetrius Centre for Older Persons, she explained.
There are also seven rental complexes consisting of 40 units available to older persons and the Ministry’s Day Care Centre for Older Persons in Yellow Elder Gardens is located adjacent to Tiny Tot Pre-School. Mrs Butler-Turner said the toddlers visit the seniors on a regular basis to ensure that the generational concept is enjoyed by toddlers and the older persons, as they interact with each other. She noted that many people in society view older persons as frail, needing care and attention.
“They often ignore the fact that there are many older persons who are functioning extremely well; they provide care for their grandchildren when the mothers go to work or when she is too dysfunctional because of alcohol and drugs or even when the parent or parents die as a result of HIV/AIDS or other diseases,” Mrs Butler-Turner said.
Father Anselm Russell told the older persons present that they play an important role in society as they pass on wisdom and share their experiences with younger generations. He said this is necessary to promote peace and justice in the country.
Father Russell added that older persons must remind through sharing their experiences, the value of a full day’s work and the value of life. The Bahamas joins forces with the General Assembly of the United Nations in celebrating older persons and their achievements annually during the month of October.