Wilson prioritises ageing well’ strategy
An official guardian for vulnerable elderly people is high on the agenda, new Minister for Health Kim Wilson promised yesterday.
Ms Wilson said an Office of the Public Guardian was on the cards and told a meeting “watch this space”.
She added: “There are certain legislative enactments that we would like to advance, the first one being something with respect to the Rest Homes Act and amending that to make sure that there is proper supervision.
“There will be a part two of that legislation, which will address that particular issue as well as some other issues that will help to provide safety and security to people who are vulnerable in our society.”
Ms Wilson said the new administration was committed to consultation on an “ageing well” strategy and appealed to members of the public to become involved.
She explained the strategy had three main goals — to help individuals and deal with an ageing population, create a strategic planning framework in line with international and island principles and to support collaboration, co-ordination and action across all sectors of government and society to address opportunities and problems related to ageing.
Ms Wilson said: “The Ministry of Health is pleased that a national ageing plan for Bermuda is being developed and will be unveiled shortly.
“The ageing well strategy will be a visionary document and a starting point to then drill down and create solutions.
“Ultimately, the goal is for Bermuda to become ageing-friendly and for our ageing population to be considered when any policies are developed.”
Ms Wilson was speaking as she delivered the keynote address at the Annual General Meeting of charity Age Concern.
She told the audience that it was expected that the percentage of those aged 65 or more would double from 11 per cent to 22 per cent over the next 13 years.
She said Bermuda had to prepare for a demographic shift “which will greatly influence our future wellbeing and social economic success particularly in the areas of health, social services and pensions”.
Ms Wilson added: “Part of the strategic planning process must be to further define the roles and responsibilities of the Government, individuals and families as well as the private and non-profit or charitable sectors.
“The healthier we stay as a population, the less we need to pay for healthcare and the less we pay for healthcare, the lower our healthcare premiums will be.
“A concerted effort must be made to address preventable risk factors such as obesity, physical inactivity, poor diet, high blood sugar and high blood pressure.
“The Department of Health is wholly committed to this vital preventive action. The community nursing team has been holding free health checks in the community. Of the 266 people who have taken advantage of the free checks, 106 were asked to make follow-up appointments with a physician or the free wellness clinic.”
Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern, has backed the creation of a public guardian because existing laws fail to protect vulnerable elderly people or punish people who take advantage of them for financial gain. Ms Fleming told the meeting the charity — which carried a $150,000 deficit two years ago — was now “on a two-year track to get where we need to be to be sustainable”.
She warned, however, that an Age Concern membership survey had shown that around 60 per cent did not have an emergency plan in place, while 70 per cent had not made a will.
She added the most common illness reported by members was high blood pressure — but that 90 per cent of those surveyed said they had not been advised on how to make lifestyle changes by their doctor in the last year.
Ms Fleming said: “We will design a follow-up programme with the Department of Health to see if we can lower high blood pressure.”
She congratulated charity members for pressure which led the former government to not increase the cost of the Standard Health Benefit. She added that she was “very excited” Age Concern would be involved in a programme to boost the level of care facilities in Bermuda.
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