BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — Ways to combat prejudice and discrimination on the bases of a person’s age, also known as ageism, are being devised by the Ministry of Community Development, Gender Affairs and Social Services, according to Acting Permanent Secretary, Janelle Lewis.
Mrs. Lewis stated that interaction between children and older persons is key to reducing ageism. She explained that when the ministry celebrates an older person’s birthday, the staff visits his or her home and bring along school children.
“It gave the children a chance to interact with the older persons,” Mrs. Lewis explained. “They would sing songs, read together and they would just communicate with each other. The older person got a sense of belonging and the younger persons learned to appreciate the older person. It was a place where experience and wisdom could be shared with younger persons.”
“The ‘Adopt a Grandparent Programme’ is a way that ageism can be decreased,” said Mrs. Lewis, explaining it is a programme in which persons who do not have living grandparents or their grandparents are overseas, can adopt an older person within their community.
“They can go and visit that older person, do their chores and learn a sense of responsibility. They would understand we are all accountable for each other and again it is a chance for them to form a bond or relationship with that older person.”
Another avenue that the ministry will be exploring is the “The Golden Years Club.” The acting permanent secretary said the programme will see school children visiting older persons who are a part of that programme.
“These young persons begin to understand that these older persons are an active part of society and we can do things together,” Mrs. Lewis said. “Yes, there will be a generation gap, but there will still be some similarities and things that you can share with each other.
“For example, you have an older person, we like to say older persons can teach the younger persons things, but young people can also teach older persons things. We are now in the technology age where we have cell phones and older persons have cell phones. A young person can teach that older person how to use a cell phone program such as Whatsapp, Skype and talk through messenger video, so you can talk to your grandchild who lives overseas.”
Acting Permanent Secretary Janelle Lewis said that older persons are more active than persons think and that society should not discard them because of their age.