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Cayman Islands Government

Internt'l Day of Older Persons

Minister for Community Affairs and Housing, Hon. Michael Adam, MBE, JP.

Message from Minister for Community Affairs and Housing

The Hon. Michael Adam

International Day of Older Persons

1 October 2011

At the start of this century, the Caribbean population of older persons (those 60 years and over) was larger than ever before in the history of this region. Life expectancy rose from an average of 50 in the late 1940's to an average of 70 for men and 73 for women in most of the English speaking Caribbean.

Thanks to investment in health and social programmes, people simply live better, longer, more self-sufficient lives. Increasingly, seniors are financially independent, keeping up their homes and working way beyond the traditional retirement age.

But even as we celebrate these achievements, we need to keep our eyes on the next test, namely making sure that our growing elderly population stays a vibrant part of society. As we observe International Day of Older Persons with the theme Older Persons Embracing Opportunities and Challenges, we need to ask ourselves what we need to do to ensure that our residents 60 years and older will enjoy the additional years which are now their reality?

A good start is changing the way we relate to old age. Representing about 13 percent of the Caribbean population, seniors -- and their experience and skills -- present a wealth of opportunity for society. We can tap into this resource by creating part-time, volunteer and other opportunities for our older people, so they can remain in the mainstream longer. Seeing retirement age and beyond as the end of the road means throwing away lifetimes of valuable experience.

Even as we have our eyes set on creating new opportunities for our elders, we cannot lose sight of the challenges some of them are facing. These can range from needing daily care to needing help to learn new technology. And that is where our responsibility starts. On this International Day of the Older Person, I then challenge you to ask yourself what you can do to turn challenges into opportunities for our seniors.