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Focus on the Elderly

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Under the theme UN Principles for Older Persons - Independence; Participation; Care; Self-fulfillment and Dignity, Cayman is observing October as Older Persons Month.

Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Director, Deanna Look Loy, is accordingly seizing the opportunity to urge residents to become more involved in the care of elderly relatives.

Mrs Look Loy commended those citizens who do spend time and money on caring for elderly relatives, but is concerned that some families are currently neglecting their responsibilities and are relying on government to do the caring for them.

She said increasing numbers of families are opting for institutional care for elderly relatives and government is committing vast sums for this purpose annually, to operate five residential care facilities. Several indigent elderly also receive poor relief on a monthly basis.

"Government takes pride in caring for our older citizens, but it is always better for them to remain with family," Mrs Look Loy explained. "When they are institutionalised, many elderly persons feel hurt and rejected, especially when family connections are diminished by infrequent visits."

She added that older persons often feel shamed by having to rely on government for their survival.

"Family members who can afford it ought to take great pleasure in caring for their parents and other elderly relatives who made tremendous sacrifices to care for them as children and young persons," Mrs Look Loy said.

Mrs Look Loy further noted that the institutional approach to elderly care is not typical of Caymanian society, and said that it signified a breakdown in society's value systems.

"In the Caribbean we have been raised on the concept of the village raising children and looking after our elderly-but this is changing," she said.

Mrs Look Loy also explained that the elderly do have recourse and can take their relatives, to court under the Maintenance Law. "However, many older persons refuse to take this action because it is not acceptable in the Caymanian culture.

Although several NGOs and individuals have encouraged a change in the law so that the DCFS would have the responsibility of taking family members to court on behalf of the elderly, Mrs Look Loy added: "This is not the kind of social work we wish to practice. Rather our aim is to enable and empower the most vulnerable in the society and to work in a spirit of co-operation with families."

Mrs Look Loy pointed to other areas where older persons could gain visibility: "Continue to exert your independence through community participation and by maintaining relationships with family, friends and the church," she advised.

"Stay involved by interacting with other social groups and that will make you feel that you are still wanted and loved and that you are continuing to make a contribution to the society," she said.

Calendar Events for Older Persons Month

Several activities are being held across Cayman in observance of Older Persons Month. These include district tea parties and other social events. Various businesses will also offer discounts to the elderly during October.

The schedule for Older Persons Month is as follows:

The Governor's Tea Party, Friday, 3 October, Government House, 4 - 5:30p.m.

Churches urged to honour the elderly in their congregations, Sunday, 5 October

Seniors Annual Retreat, Friday-Monday, 10-13 October, Cayman Brac

Seniors Bash, Thursday, 30 October, Seafarers Association, 7:00 - 10:00p.m

District Tea Parties

West Bay, Thursday, 9 October, John Gray Memorial Hall, 10a.m. - 1p.m.

Bodden Town, Wednesday, 15 October, Bodden Town Civic Centre, 3 - 6p.m.

East End, Tuesday, 21 October, East End Civic Centre, 10a.m. - 1p.m.

George Town, Wednesday, 22 October, The Family Life Centre, 10a.m. - 1p.m.

North Side, Saturday, 25 October, North Side Civic Centre, 5p.m. - 7p.m.

For further information contact: Prudence Barnes