BARP must look out for all seniors
LIKE MANY other countries, Barbados has a growing elderly population. This is a good thing in many respects since it points to an ever-improving quality of health and the benefits these seniors can give to the country – both of their expertise and in some instances their financial power.
However, there is the stark reality that we also have a growing number of retired citizens in our community who are facing increasing hardships daily. This is an opportunity for us to take a good look at how we relate to and treat a vulnerable section of our community, the indigent elderly.
With the constantly soaring cost of living in Barbados, it is going to be difficult for many of our seniors to survive, let alone to live in comfort. For many of them the situation is made all the more challenging if they have to depend solely on a pension from the National Insurance Scheme.
It would be instructive for the Barbados Statistical Service to undertake a survey to find out how much is the average sum an elderly person needs to live adequately. We also need social workers dealing with the elderly poor to give us an accurate number of such people in need. This is important and required information since many of our elderly requesting help prefer to be out of the public glare or the spotlight with the politicians. They may prefer to suffer in silence.
This points to the importance of the Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP) as an advocacy group on behalf of the over-50s and the work they can do to bring relief for our seniors. As a lobbying organization, BARP has actually done a wonderful job since its earliest times – from getting discounts on purchases to asking Government for a range of concessions.
So, it was more than noteworthy to hear this week that BARP is seeking to enhance its services and join forces with regional counterparts. While the plight of seniors across the Caribbean may be similar, it is obvious that much of the lobbying must be country specific.
BARP needs to have a clear domestic focus by ensuring it addresses the challenges facing all seniors in this country and not only interest groups within its membership. While discounts for regional travel and other initiatives outlined are welcome, it is the bread and butter issues that have been negatively impacting the majority that must be given priority among the list of concerns. The increasing number of elderly people living in poverty has become a worldwide concern, especially since the economic downturn of 2008 and the resultant cuts in welfare assistance. Barbados is no exception.
We must all focus more on long-term core planning for the elderly.