Integrate family, national life by involving eldersSunday, October 17, 2021
Executive director of the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC), Cassandra Morrison says greater effort needs to be made to integrate older people within their families and the society as a whole, and called for more intergenerational conversations to take place.
Speaking on the programme sponsored by the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP), CCRP Update, on RJR with Gerry McDaniel on October 3, Morrison said this it was important to promote greater understanding between different age groups and combat ageism. “It's not just about older persons giving advice, but it's for different groups to hear each other.” She added that, in families where seniors are more directly integrated in life and decision-making, those families are generally happier and more prosperous. Such families, she commented, benefit from the experience and context that elders can add to various situations, be it interpersonal relationships, business, or general interactions.
Morrison also called for an increase of the continuing education process to help bring greater awareness and to eliminate or reduce the level of stereotyping that is still widespread in relation to seniors. “Older persons and, especially the very old, suffer from societal perceptions and flat-out myths about what they are able and ought to be able to do.” One common misconception is that Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are a natural progression and an inevitable occurrence for seniors. Figures from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which show that up to 40 per cent of dementia cases may be prevented or delayed debunk this myth.
“We have seniors that are not only still functioning mentally and physically, some of them have memories of Jamaica's history from Independence down and can relate that in detail,” she said, adding a specific experience of one centenarian (103 years old) who, on one occassion could not be located when visited by NCSC, was actually in a mango tree picking the fruit.
The gap between generations, she said, was a function of several factors, one being the prevailing emphasis in American cultural life on youth, an emphasis that is exported via mass media and is exaggerated by social media and the Internet. Migration, she added, also had a negative impact on family structures. “Very often, persons go overseas for work, and it is the elder – usually grandma – that is either left behind or left with the children,” she pointed out.
Morrison made reference to the White Paper on National Policy for Senior Citizens, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament shortly, as another important element of encouraging and promoting healthy ageing by more robustly protecting the elderly and respecting the rights of senior citizens as a valued part of the society.
The NCSC head also mentioned the recent launch of the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-30), through which the organisation will be promoting activities to recognise the worth of senior citizens and support the maintenance of functional ability for elders.