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St. Maarten elderly group urges government to give seniors minimum wage

TUESDAY, 01 OCTOBER 2013

~ Today is Int’l Day of Older Persons ~

PHILIPSBURG–As seniors around the world celebrate International Day of Older Persons today, Home Away From Home Foundation is calling on government to grant senior citizens minimum wage to help eliminate poverty among seniors.

“On this International Day of Older Persons, I call on St. Maarten to commit to removing barriers to older persons’ full participation in society while protecting their rights and dignity,” foundation President Patricia Flanders said on Monday. “We thank the Government for the NAf. 1,000, but this is not sufficient to cover the daily needs. We are [pleading – Ed.] with government to grant the minimum wage to the seniors in attempt to help eliminate the poverty.”

She said many often talked about revering older persons for their wisdom, but older persons also wanted to have a voice. “They are calling for a world where all have food, shelter, clean water and sanitation, and access to basic health services and education.

“Listing their complaints, the senior citizens alleged that very little had been done for them. They say that government set up old-age homes and occasionally hosted interactive programmes for the seniors, but monetary funding and basic facilities like health care, travel and the basic needs of daily living are completely missing,” Flanders said. “Improving the hygiene conditions of the older persons is very vital to their existence and care.”

International Day of Older Persons is being observed this year under the theme “‘The future we want,’ what older persons are saying.”

Flanders said 2013 had been chosen to draw attention to the efforts of older persons, civil society organisations, United Nations organisations, member states and St. Maarten to place the issue of ageing on the international development agenda. There is broad recognition that population ageing presents both a significant opportunity and a challenge.

The opportunity is to benefit from the many contributions older persons make to society, she noted. The challenge is to act on this understanding now through the adoption of policies that promote social inclusion and inter-generational solidarity.

She said seniors made up almost 15 per cent of the Canadian population, out of a population of approximately 35 million. “Indeed, seven of the top 10 communities with the highest proportion of older persons are in British Columbia. Victoria exceeds the national average with 18.4 per cent, and Parksville is the oldest populated city in Canada with a median age of 58.2. So seniors are on the rise, if not on the march, and should be noted.”

October 1 marks the beginning of the month to honour older persons, to recognise the contributions they make and to examine issues that affect their lives, she said. This year marks the 13th International Day of Older Persons and the UN has been monitoring rights and activities in various regions of the world. October 1 is a day to pause and remember the growing influence of seniors. However, seniors have had important status in societies for generations.

Usually one must be age 60-70+ to be considered an elder. Elders follow a process that is elemental to the culture. They must be aware of the native way of life and practice it as role models.

One description says, “In the past elders held the knowledge, history, ceremonies, songs, dances and cultural background for the nation. They passed this knowledge down from generation to generation. Elders were knowledgeable about Mother Earth. They knew the medicines and the culture.”

“Why do we need an International Day of Older Persons? By 2020, half of our population will be age 60 or over. People have a better quality of living, which means longer lives. As the population changes, the country will too. We need to improve attitudes towards older people and appreciate the roles they play in society more. They can be forgotten about and sometimes treated like lesser members of society. That’s definitely not how we want to be treated as elders,” Flanders said.

“I found one story particularly heart-warming. Sixth formers from a Community Technology College each brought a modern item of technology and spent time showing the elderly people how to use them. To return the favour the senior citizens brought along gramophones, old typewriters and other interesting items the kids would never have had the chance to use or see. Young or old, we’re all part of the same mould,” Flanders said.

The Home Away From Home taking care of the Golden Age Foundation wished all seniors in St. Maarten, St. Martin, St. Eustatius and Saba, “Happy International Day of Older Persons.”

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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