Housing trust chairman touts value of seniors
Public perception of the elderly should change in an attempt to stop them feeling “invisible”, the chairman of a specialist housing trust has said.
John Barritt, the Bermuda Housing Trust chairman, added it was important to pay attention to seniors and for families to be involved in their care.
Mr Barritt said there also had to be a shift in the general view of what over-65s can offer, and better understanding of the problems they face as the island's populations greys. Mr Barritt told The Royal Gazette: “One of the things that needs to change I think — this is a personal opinion — is the societal perception of the value and worth that we assign to older people.
“I don't mean that people are fighting that or resisting it, it's just a difficult thing to do because it's one more challenge, one more problem on the plate, but it's one that has to be faced.”
He explained: “Sometimes, and you will hear seniors say this, that it's almost as if they are treated as if they are invisible, that there's not an appreciation of the challenges they face on a daily basis and what's needed.
“Sometimes they get what they view as people being condescending when they really want to have dignity and respect.
“You've also got the problem where a number of people feel they are discarded at the age of 65, certainly in the workplace, and there's no longer any value in them.
“I think we need to recognise the challenges that they face and what needs to be done to help them meet those challenges.”
Mr Barritt explained the BHT, which provides housing for seniors, wanted to be involved in discussions on care of the elderly, which he said needed to be addressed “on so many levels”.
He added: “We are in the trenches — we are very much on the frontline of addressing some of the challenges that are coming our way with seniors.”
Mr Barritt said it was important to provide older people with the appropriate “tools” so they can “live a life of dignity, independence and with respect”.
The BHT is to examine how it can add to its five locations — where nearly 200 seniors are accommodated — with a sixth property that will allow for the transition from self-reliance to dependence, possibly with professional support.
A population projections report released by the Government showed nearly a quarter of people on the island are expected to be 65 or older by 2026.
Mr Barritt said: “More and more people are going to be living longer and hitting 65, as the expression goes, ‘he who feels it, knows it'.
“One of the things that we face, and one of the hardest things that any son or daughter faces, is when a parent ages and requires greater attention and care. It's a difficult thing.
“First of all, you have to accept that and accept that's normal as well. The other part is, what am I going to do? What am I able to do for mum or dad in terms of time, attention and money?
“It's a challenge that some people find difficult to cope with because they're leading their own lives but that's one of the things that we have to change as a community. You simply can't park mum or dad on the sidelines and expect Government or someone else to deal with it, you've got to be prepared to come to the wicket yourself and, in some instances, work with various institutions.”
Mr Barritt said the care of aged family was an emotional topic and could be “very demanding”, particularly with conditions like dementia. He added changes to the law could help prevent discrimination against older people who want to continue to work would be a “big boost”.
Mr Barritt said the younger population should consider not only what it can do for seniors but what older people can do for the community, as some would like opportunities to “give back”.