Our seniors deserve the best we can offer
Bermuda has a treasure chest of golden seniors who really are an untapped source of information that could be helpful to better understand complex social problems that remain very much a part of what divides us. They can be turned to in the effort to merge the island’s full resources in a manner that would leave no stone unturned, ensuring that our seniors not only feel appreciated, but also can go into their sunset years with peace of mind when it comes to healthcare and a sense of security.
Over the years, there have been countless programmes initiated by various governments aimed at assisting senior citizens, and although most of them have contributed to easing their plight, there are new concerns that with increasing numbers of retirees, greater focus should be placed on lessening the burden.
No one doubts that governments are challenged during tight economic times to find solutions that are viable economically, and give the assurance that no senior will be left in the shadows of society, feeling neglected and no longer relevant.
Kim Wilson, the new health minister, recently outlined what she hopes will be an ageing strategy that will address many of the concerns seniors encounter, as many of them struggle with that old-fashioned, quiet Bermudian dignity that somehow they will manage no matter what.
The health minister’s stated initiatives, which are encouraging for all seniors with health and economic challenges, will require considerable input from the public and every Member of Parliament, with hopefully bipartisan involvement, to provide proper care for those who have helped in many ways to build the island we have today.
This is not a time for political posturing, and the health minister undoubtedly is aware that results are what seniors want — even though they, too, are aware that no government can wave a magic wand and bring about change overnight. It is also no secret that there are some seniors who wake each day feeling left out of a changing world, with more emphasis on providing for the next generation. It must be remembered that but for those seniors who toiled in truly difficult circumstances, who sacrificed much to establish a foundation to be built on, there would not be the Bermuda we enjoy today.
There are still seniors among us who went without a meal during the war years to provide for the family, and they did so knowing that the reward would be keeping the family together while working towards better days. They also left a legacy that with determination, no matter how difficult the problem, when working together things usually improve.
That is the spirit we hope the Government will be guided by as it tackles an issue that involves basic human dignity that our seniors are more than entitled to. Wilson noted that an ageing plan for Bermuda is being developed, and will be unveiled soon. However, no government plan is perfect, and the plight of many seniors will improve only with the utmost input from all sectors connected with services for them, as work continues to reduce hardships with our special citizens.
The important factor here is that the complexities of caring for our seniors are wide-ranging and involve a great deal of commitment and dedication because so many seniors are vulnerable and in many cases their very existence depends on the quality of care they receive.
A sad case in point is the recent tragedy when Hurricane Irma tore into Florida, knocking out electrical power and causing massive damage throughout the state. Although efforts by authorities were made to protect the sick and the elderly, sometimes things can go wrong, and the result can be emotionally shattering.
In one nursing home with acute power failure, nine seniors lost their lives after being exposed to extreme heat when the air conditioning collapsed. The shocking part to this is that only when patients began falling unconscious one after another did authorities act to rectify the situation. Investigations are continuing into how such a tragedy could occur.
We know mistakes can happen in just about every area of community life. Signals from the health minister indicate that proactive thinking from the entire community will be essential in helping to get a better handle on dealing with various challenges that our seniors face in a totally different world from the one they once knew.
Many things may have changed in Bermuda, but we hope respect for our seniors will not be one of them. Full support should be given to efforts by Wilson in taking on the task of trying to protect and honour our seniors with the care they deserve.
It will not be easy, but it is a task that must never be ignored because our seniors are the pillars of qualities that Bermuda needs to have a brighter future.
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