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St. Maarten’s elderly population has doubled over the last decade


~ Fifty per cent are non-Dutch ~

PHILIPSBURG–The elderly population in St. Maarten has doubled over the last ten years, especially in the past five years, Health Minister Cornelius de Weever told delegates at the two-day Alzheimer’s University Regional Workshop which ended on Friday.

Statistics show that 11 per cent of St. Maarten’s population was elderly in 2012 showing 6,269 elderly persons as of January 1, 2012.  The elderly population here includes Haitians, Dominicanoes, Dominicans, Jamaicans, Indians, Americans and Guyanese. “Unfortunately 50 per cent of them do not have the Dutch nationality and 13.4 per cent of the elderly registered only between 2000-2011,” the minister said.

“When we take a look at the age group 60 to 70 years old, about 52.1 per cent have been on the island for more than 20 years.” “When the time comes to choose an island to open a regional ADI office please consider St. Maarten as your hub. In our own way we are very international given that over 100 nationalities reside on this “metropolitan” centrally located island,” he said.

When it comes to the caring for the elderly in St. Maarten, de Weever said about 7 per cent of the elderly are fully dependent on others to have their regular activities done. “Those relied on for care are family members, district nurses, neighbours and the Helping Hands Foundation.  Due to the declining economy the scenario of the extended family and friends is under attack, as it is now necessary that many/most people have to work resulting in less time to look at our elderly.” ]

He said approximately 15 to 33 per cent of the country’s elderly experience loneliness while 25 per cent reported feeling left out or isolated. Based on research, the elderly here would like to be more involved in activities and would welcome the development of services and service points which cater to them.  “Being aware, the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour with our theme: Putting People First opened and staffed the Gaston Boasman helpdesk for the elderly and physically challenged in the Hope Estate to assist vulnerable groups.

“This helpdesk is staffed by our Department of Family, Humanitarian Affairs and Community Development and is also used for foundations to keep their meetings to discuss their needs and concerns and to avoid them from using their limited financial resources. As minister I am an advocate for sharing resources and synchronizing our efforts.”

Members of the Golden Age Foundation, the St. Maarten elderly and recreational foundation, Home Away from Home, Meals on Wheels, Diabetes Foundation, COME, faith based elderly groups and social clubs like the Lions and the Rotary are all trying to fill the gaps, increase awareness and provide added-services. This only proves that we must and should work together. The Departments of Social Development and Social Services remains committed to research, policy development and services which strengthen the position of elderly people in our community, he noted.

“Yesterday I was informed of a case of an Alzheimer’s person who was dropped off at our social services office by an unknown person. The team kicked into gear because they were never confronted with such a case and with the effort of all they were able to contact their offspring and resolve the situation. Our question was: What would have happened if the team was not able to contact the family member. This may be the benefit of a small island, but there are still situations that we are not familiar with. Where would we have housed this person? The medical center, mental health foundation or a hotel? Until we figure out where the person should be. This new situation created a learning opportunity for all involved,” he said.

“I look forward to being part of it by the work we have done so far to enable and to empower foundations, patients and their families.” He thanked ADI for choosing St. Maarten as their preferred destination for the regional workshop and said they can count on his support should they decide to open a regional office in St. Maarten.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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