Below is the official address of the Honourable Sen. Wendy C. Phipps, minister of state with responsibility for health, social services, community development and gender affairs, concerning October’s “Month of Older Persons:”
Fellow citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis:
“Stepping into the Future: Tapping into the Talents, Contributions and Participation of Older Persons in Society” is the 2017 theme chosen by the United Nations in observance of International Day of Older Persons that is traditionally celebrated on Oct. 1 of each year. St. Kitts and Nevis once again joins in this global recognition of the importance and value of older citizens by staging an entire month of activities that celebrate ageing and the invaluable contributions of our senior citizens.
This year’s theme for the celebration of International Day of Older Persons might be seen as somewhat lengthy. Nevertheless, it teems with meaning for the holistic development of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. As such, the theme is also futuristic, and requires a retrospective look at where we have come from, while acknowledging the critical role of our senior citizens in our ongoing development at the social, cultural, economic and political levels. The theme is therefore a declaration of the imperative for inclusiveness of our senior citizens in everything we undertake, given the various gifts, talents, skill sets, money, labour, love and sacrifice they would have invested in their families; other people’s children; their communities, jobs and churches; and the economy.
The Ministry of Social Services, Community Development and Gender Affairs has carefully designed a series of activities throughout the month of October with our older citizens and residents in mind. Acting Director of Social Service Mary Ann Wigley and her team have therefore organised events such as the following:
- Church Service – Oct. 1 at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Sandy Point
- Elderly Spa Day – every Thursday in October at AVEC
- Trip to Nevis (including participation in a Seniors’ March) – Friday, Oct. 6
- Picnic – Frigate Bay, Thursday, Oct. 19
It must be noted that in addition to the foregoing activities the traditional ministerial visits to, and recognition of, the oldest [people] in each community would also be organised throughout the month of October.
The Nevis Island Administration has also constructed a calendar of special events for our seniors in Nevis.
As St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates the 2017 Month of Older Persons we should all be mindful of the inclusiveness of our senior citizens in the attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [that] were approved by the United Nations in September 2015. These goals are also set to be accomplished by the year 2030, and take into consideration matters such as health care; education; protection of the environment on land, sea and in the air; governance; and strategic partnerships that are required to achieve all of the goals. However, within the context of the SDGs, the UN has identified two core objectives for the 2017 celebration of our world’s population of older [people]. These objectives are as follows:
- Enabling conditions/measures that influence the readiness of older [people] to participate, including securing health care, regular income, legal protection and access to financial services;
- Creating pathways to facilitate contributions and participation in old age, including technology, education and lifelong learning, access to information, as well as overcoming barriers that exclude or discriminate against older [people].
It is evident from these stated objectives that the 193 member states of the United Nations – of which St. Kitts and Nevis has membership – must make consistent and concerted effort to include the needs, voices, concerns and challenges of older [people] in every decision that is made regarding our national development. In short, these objectives call for consultation and inclusiveness of our senior citizens in everything that we do as a nation if the gains of growth and development are to be enjoyed by all, including our senior citizens.
As the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis continues on its journey as an independent nation, every effort must be made to understand and appreciate that our senior citizens will continue to constitute a growing demographic in our population whose needs must be met specifically, not generally. The same demand is being made of every other nation on the planet. In 2015 when the SDGs were ratified, some 901 million [people] in the world (12.3 percent) were considered as senior citizens: i.e. they had attained at least age 60. It is predicted by the UN that in 2030, the final attainment deadline of the said SDGs, that the world’s population of older [people] would have reached 1.4 billion which, at that time, would have exceeded the global population of young [people] aged 15-24. These statistics tell us that our world’s population is progressively ageing and that programmes, projects and resources of every kind must be designed and invested in, thereby ensuring that the longevity, health and wellness of older [people] will be of paramount importance. These considerations would become even more urgent in next 30 years or so: the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has determined that by the year 2050, older [people] would represent approximately 22 percent – almost a quarter of our global head count.
As St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates the Month of Older Persons, we must never lose sight of the fact that our senior citizens matter. We must also remember that as our people are blessed with longer lives than their ancestors, we must ensure that they are well cared for and are given every opportunity to live their lives in a manner that respects their dignity.