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Jamaica's older persons call for protection

Wednesday, October 03, 2012    

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THE establishment of more geriatric facilities and tougher legislation are among the recommendations Government is being asked to consider to protect the island's nearly 300,000 older persons.

The recommendations were articulated Monday by Jeffrey James, regional director of HelpAge International, which has had consultations with the population group.

The proposals came as Jamaica joined the rest of the world in commemorating United Nations International Day of Older Persons.

Speaking at a stakeholders' conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, James said that more efforts needed to be made to ensure the dignity and security of these individuals.

"The Government should institute geriatric clinics to facilitate older persons similar to paediatric and maternal clinics that are done to reduce the challenges faced by older persons who have problem accessing health care and public health facilities," he said.

Other recommendations that were put forward by the elderly included the establishment of a universal social pension to protect them from poverty after retirement; the provision of special lines for those accessing drugs in pharmacies; the inclusion of older persons in disaster risk reduction planning; and the modification of buildings that they need to access key services.

Older persons are defined as those 60 years and over make up 11 per cent of the Jamaica's population. Geeta Sethi, sub-regional director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), says the number is rapidly increasing, with projections that it will reach 450,000 by 2030.

"What this means is that there are implications for social security," she said.

"In Latin America and the Caribbean, the majority of older persons have no old-age pension to protect them against the risk of income loss as they age. Health care systems have been slow to adapt to the increasing demand resulting from the demographic and epidemiological stages and this translates into escalating health care cost and spending..." she said.

Meanwhile, chairperson of the National Council for Senior Citizens, Beverly Hall Taylor noted that it was going to take the collaborative effort of Government and other institutions to see that the rights of older persons are being respected.

"Discrimination in any form against any group is wrong and unacceptable and with the world getting older, immediate intervention is needed to preserve the resourcefulness of our older persons," she said.

The issues affecting the elderly have been documented in a UNFPA report, Ageing in the Twenty-First Century: A Celebration and a Challenge, which was also launched on Monday. The report comes 10 years after the signing of the Madrid Declaration on Ageing by 150 countries, including Jamaica.

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