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JUST LIKE IT IS: Bajans living long

Peter Simmons

JUST LIKE IT IS: Bajans living long

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Amidst the unsettled and unsettling industrial relations climate which greeted 2013, there is a source of the Barbadian life experience which warms the cockles of my heart and should make the entire population both happy and proud.
Regularly, centenarians continue making the news deepening my appreciation for the longevity of the people of this wonderful country. On a per capita basis, Barbados is in the first three countries globally for the numbers who have reached the magical age of 100.
With the recent death of the world’s two oldest people in Japan and the United States, two “first world” countries, I suspect that our own Mr James Sisnett at 113 is now the world’s oldest living citizen.
This is another example of Barbados’ high standard of living and should invest all Barbadians with a sense of national pride and joy. It is particularly gratifying as we are not a wealthy country with a proliferation of health-promoting facilities, inexpensive foodstuffs, medical services and medications which are considered essential for a long, healthy life.
I always find it instructive that our centenarians stress their strong belief in God and single out ground provisions as vital components of their daily diet. What we have also enjoyed, though not in the same quantities in recent times and at prices affordable to the mass of our people, is a regular supply of fresh fish.
These essential foodstuffs are buttressed by a wonderful climate and easily accessible beaches. Today’s children, the fast food generation, do not enjoy things like breadfruit, sweet potato, yams, eddoes and cou cou like our centenarians and my own generation.
Last weekend on a visit to my doctor, a gentleman sat next to me in the waiting room. He introduced himself as one of my late father’s friends and Masonic brothers. I was amazed when he shared the fact that he was 98 years old. He walked and talked like a man in good body and mind and makes useful contributions to the call-in programmes.
While waiting to see the doctor we spoke on a number of topics and he unfailingly made good sense. But what particularly fascinated me was the fact that he drove his own car, proving that his eyesight and physical coordination needed to drive on our crowded roads, where basic road manners and drivers’ skills are in short supply, are intact.
Closer to home, my mother-in-law, who is 93 and lives with us, continues to amaze me daily. She prepares her own breakfast and right after goes into the garden for a couple hours in the early morning sunshine. She visits her doctor regularly and is in good health. Her faith is strong and she is a regular congregant of Christ Church Parish Church.
My godfather, Canon Ivor Jones, who spent a long time at that church, is another amazing citizen who at age 96 is still active and only stopped playing lawn tennis a few years ago. I give thanks that these remarkable folks still grace us with their presence and prayers and prove that age is indeed just a number.
In Plato’s words, they are “of a calm and happy nature hardly feeling the pressure of age”. I sincerely hope that they too will be centenarians.
Why use honorary doctorates?
It has always been my understanding that those conferred with honorary doctorates by a university as opposed to professional doctorates earned through a course of study are not to be called Dr this or Dr that every time they are referred to by the media.
In particular, too often I see or hear two prominent regional gentlemen referred to by the media as “doctor”. As far as I am aware, both doctorates are honorary and confuse a number of readers, radio and television listeners and viewers. Indeed, last weekend a Barbadian visiting from London asked in what area of study one gentleman got his PhD.  
Sir Wesley Hall was given an honorary doctorate by the University of the West Indies before his knighthood but I never heard him referred to as Dr Hall. The same is true of two distinguished Caribbean journalists – Harold Hoyte, Editor Emeritus of THE NATION newspaper, and columnist Ricky Singh. But I have never seen or heard anybody refer to them as Dr Hoyte and Dr Singh.
I know two gentlemen who both have knighthoods and honorary doctorates. Indeed, one has been awarded in excess of a dozen, but pre-knighthood I never heard them addressed as doctor either in Barbados or abroad where their honorary doctorates were awarded.   
Lest my intention is misconstrued, I in no way intend to denigrate the achievements of these distinguished West Indian gentlemen. They were rightly honoured.
My aim is to get the media to understand and practise the proper protocol and not confuse the public at home and abroad.
• Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat.