Published 2nd October 2015, 3:38pm
It is fitting that we take time every year to honour the older members of our community. They are our cornerstones, and remind us of who we are and where we have come from.
Many of those aged 60 and over today would have been young people and even children at the start of the financial boom that transformed this country. As a result of that change our senior population is incredibly diverse—and this is something that enriches our community.
The change that these persons have seen in their lives is remarkable, and so is the adaptability that they have shown in helping to facilitate this process, while still maintaining their core values. I believe these qualities of flexibility and integrity are the hallmarks that make you a Caymanian. We look to our older persons every day for a living lesson.
At the end of last year there were nearly 3,800 persons aged 65 and over living in the Cayman Islands. Some 6,500 were between the ages of 55-64. The older population in our society continues to grow. Hence, it is critical that we ensure that they continue to be engaged in our communities and we critically evaluate services and programmes bearing in mind their unique needs.
We are aware that the cost of living in the Cayman Islands can be restrictive for persons on a pension. We also know that people who are 60 or older still have a great deal to contribute. Their viewpoint is enriched by hard-earned historical knowledge of the workplaces and the community in which they exist. For these reasons the Government has brought a Bill to increase the retirement age to 65, which will also be followed by a similar Bill within the Civil Service.
Additionally, my Ministry is currently in the process of establishing a task-force which will be charged with the responsibility of developing a National Policy for Older Persons. The policy will seek to ensure and promote equal opportunities, security and participation of older persons in the Cayman Islands.
At the same time even those who are long-retired still serve as bulwarks of society, and most certainly are indispensable to their children and grandchildren and community networks. For all the work they do-- we in turn must work hard to ensure that older persons enjoy a high quality of life—including any who may be disabled, a risk that increases with age.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to those who organized the various exciting and engaging activities to celebrate Older Person’s Month. Through these activities we will be able to celebrate older persons for all their contributions to our community. Thanks too to the caregivers paid and unpaid, who work so hard and so quietly to support our seniors all year. I would also like to draw attention to the commendable work that the National Gallery does with our older persons, including residents of rest homes.
I would like to challenge each citizen to ensure that they celebrate the older persons in their lives, not just during the month of October but all year.
As a country we need to look at how we can develop and maintain more engaging activities, and incorporate consideration for older persons’ needs in every aspect of our community and daily life. This is our goal, let us all work to meet it.