JIS News

The decade-old National Policy for Senior Citizens, is due for revision, and Director of the National Council for Senior Citizens, Beverly Hall Taylor, says the Council is looking forward to the review, to cater to the needs of Jamaican seniors in the 21st century.
“The National Policy for Senior Citizens, needs to be revised to fit with the country’s 2030 vision, and the Council is looking forward to this. This is well anticipated because it is important at this time, that we look back at our success, where we have improved and what we need to do to cater to the needs of seniors in twenty-first century Jamaica,” she informed.
The policy for seniors was developed by the Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre. It envisages a developmental approach for senior citizens, and stresses the importance of considering seniors in strategies for national development. According to the document, the main goal of the policy is to meet the challenges of a growing, healthier, and more active senior citizen population, by ensuring that those who are in need are assisted, and protected from abuse and violence.
Citing, in a recent interview with JIS News, the overwhelming support which seniors island wide receive from organisations, the Director indicates that there is a widescale understanding, that Jamaicans recognise and appreciate the work that seniors have done over the years.
“Jamaicans recognise that our senior citizens have contributed significantly to the development of our nation. While we get some level of reports of abuse, it is not as prevalent as some would have expected. We have been getting an overwhelming amount of support from the organisations, especially in Kingston. Some of these organisations include the Kiwanis Club of St. Andrew, Lion’s Club of Kingston, Hope Gardens and Kiwanis Club of Kingston etcetera,” says the Director.
The National Council for Senior Citizens, is an agency of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. It is mandated by the Government to formulate policy, and implement programmes and activities, for the well being of senior citizens – that is, persons 60 years and older. According to Mrs. Taylor, the Council was formed in 1976, as a result of the increase in the population of senior citizens.
“The Council was formed as a result of increase in the population of elderly people. The Government saw the need to put more emphasis on programmes for this age group. The seniors make up approximately 10.8 per cent of the Jamaican population,” she informs.
In keeping with the policy, which states that all Jamaicans are responsible for enhancing the self reliance and functional independence of senior citizens, and to facilitate their continued participation in their families and in society, Mrs. Taylor is encouraging citizens to become volunteers and help senior citizens.
“It is important that young persons help seniors, this will help to bridge that intergenerational gap. So I am appealing to the younger generation to visit the older ones and give a helping hand, it is your responsibility,” she stressed, noting that she is overwhelmed by the support the Council is getting from organisations.
Using herself as an example, Mrs. Taylor says she has been working at the Council for the past 22 years, assisting seniors since 1969, and believes that others should do the same.
“I used to teach after leaving high school. But I believe that I should be more involved with other persons, to try and close the gap between generations, so I started to help seniors. While working with the Council, I was even more motivated by the Council’s policy, ‘Helping you to help yourself'”.
Over the years, the Council has been hosting Senior Citizens Week. This year it will be extended to a period of one month, under the theme “Seniors continuing their role of Nation Building,” due to the overwhelming support for senior citizens.
“This year, due to the overwhelming support for seniors, we will be hosting a number of activities, in recognition of the contributions of seniors to the development of the nation from September 4 to October 4. We will be awarding at least five seniors from each parish, who have or continue to contribute to the development of the nation,” she informs.
Mrs. Hall Taylor says that while some may worry about getting older, it is important to recognise that life as a senior can be fulfilling, although not many think ahead and make the necessary plans.
“I am sure you are thinking about it right now. But whatever you might be thinking, fret not thy self, because the National Council for Senior Citizens, is here to help you live a graceful retirement life, that might just be better than when you were in your prime,” she assures.
Mrs. Taylor says the Council has a number of programmes that have been established to enhance the lifestyle of seniors.
She says, with the implementation of the policy, the Council is able to provide citizens with the environment for survival.
“The Council offer programmes, and gets seniors involved in seminars and workshops, which are essential for seniors to access benefits offered by the Government. These programmes will educate seniors on what they should do to access these benefits, which include pensions from the National Insurance Scheme, and health benefits such as the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme (JADEP)”, she outlined.
During September of each year, the Council hosts a number of activities that will recognise the work that seniors have done over the years, towards the development of the nation. This year the Council has dedicated the entire month of September, in recognition of seniors. Mrs. Taylor says the Council will host a series of activities across the country, which will be free and open to all age groups.
“These include a spelling bee competition, cultural afternoon, school’s debate, national thanksgiving service, national grandparents day service, tree planting ceremony, garden party, senior citizens outreach clubbing, national awards ceremony, and exhibition,” she explains.
Her vision for senior citizens center on equality, respect, independence and dignity. “Seniors should age gracefully, and my vision for seniors is for them to have access to a livelihood that is appropriate to their interests and capabilities”.