It is a special day where countries all over the world give thanks and pay tribute to those who are not only older but wiser and whose hard work and sacrifice have paved the way for our future. We are standing on their shoulders as they have struggled and toiled for many of the achievements and benefits that we enjoy today. And so today, we celebrate their contributions to their families, their communities and their country.
The theme for this year’s commemoration of the Month of Older Persons is “Longevity: Getting and Staying Active in later years”. In St. Kitts and Nevis, the average life-span is seventy-three years (73). There are challenges, however, to achieving this age and upwards. As we grow older we become prone to many diseases. Chronic Non-Communicable diseases are the most common diseases with which we are diagnosed. And Chronic Non-Communicable diseases are the main causes of morbidity and mortality in St. Kitts and Nevis. These include hypertension, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases and share common risk factors including smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity.
Interventions to control these disorders and their complications must, therefore, include the adoption of healthy lifestyles such as engaging in regular physical activity, making healthy food choices and avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
In 2000 a chronic disease survey among workers reported 60% of men and 69% of women were overweight. Additionally, 70% of men and 60% of women did not eat adequate fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. A Diet and Exercise Behaviour Survey, done in 2001 in collaboration with the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute, corroborated the findings of the previous study and found that 53.6 % of the population had at least one chronic disease.
At the Ministry, we are committed to providing the opportunities and services for our senior citizens to remain active throughout their years. One such initiative for 2013 is the expansion of the Golden Years Club. This is a recreational club designed to engage seniors in activities throughout the day to keep their minds and bodies active while at the same time providing additional opportunities to contribute to nation building. Throughout the Month of Older Persons, four (4) socials have been organized for seniors to be held at Community Centers. This is an opportunity for senior citizens to become actively engaged in day time activities.
I would like to commend all the churches, community groups and non-governmental organizations who engage our senior citizens in activities and encourage other groups to follow their lead.
I take this opportunity to place on record the names of the centenarian’s resident in St. Kitts that are known to the Ministry. They are:
• Ms. Janet Akers of College Housing who made 100 years on April 29th 2012
• Mr. Wilfred Martin of St. Pauls Village who made 100 years on August 11th 2012
• Ms. Henrietta Julius – Watson of Old Road who is 102 years old
• Ms. Ismay Sweeney of George Street, Newtown who is 101 years old
• Mr. William Davis of Phillips Village who is 104 years old
• Ms. Elizabeth Martin of Cunningham Street who is 101 years old
You are the gems of the nation and we are delighted that through the grace of God along with your determination, adherence to good health practices and the love and support of your family you have been able to experience more than the biblical allocation of three score years and ten.
To all our other senior citizens we extend a heartfelt invitation to you to participate in all of our commemorative events while encouraging you to continue to be active in your individual lives. I call on all citizens and residents to use this month of celebration as an opportunity to pay particular attention to our elders. Spend time with them, shower them with love and appreciation, organize and activity for them and bring them out to the activities organized by the Department of Social and Community Development for the Month of Older Persons. Call the Department now to register your elder so that we can reach out to them and include them in our activities for 2013 and beyond.
Activities for socialization, personal development and healthy lifestyles have been organized during the course of this month. I extend an invitation to the general public to note the following activities outlined for the Month of Older Persons:
1. A tag sale throughout the course of the month. Buy your tags and highlight this special groups of people, our seniors.
2. 2nd – 3rd October – Visits by Parliamentary Representatives
3. 5th October – Senior Social – St. Paul’s Community Centre for Seniors from Mansions to St. Pauls.
4. 7th October – Church Service – Dieppe Bay Methodist Church
5. 8th October – Seniors Social – Cayon Community Centre for Seniors from Molineaux to St. Pauls.
6. 9th – 10th October – Visits by Parliamentary Representatives
7. 12th October – Seniors Social – St. George’s Anglican Hall for Seniors in the Basseterre area including Seniors from Boyd’s to Frigate Bay and St. Peters area.
8. 16th – 17th – Visits by Parliamentary Representatives
9. 20th October – Senior Tea Party and Old Time Fashion Show
10. 23rd – 24th October – Visits by Parliamentary Representatives
11. 26th October – Month of Older Persons march
Cheers to good health, active living and long life!
As such, it is gives me great pleasure and I am honoured to declare the 2012 Month of Older Persons officially open.
Thank you and God bless.