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Move to help seniors ‘just the beginning’

Black Rod, Superintendent Inspector Troy Glasgow, arrives for the Throne Speech (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A focus on improving long-term care, helping seniors age at home and tackling age discrimination in the workplace has been welcomed by charity Age Concern.

However, deputy board chairman Charles Jeffers cautioned that this was only the beginning and that there were many other issues that needed to be addressed to help Bermuda’s seniors.

“Long-term care is one of the things Age Concern has been pushing for years,” Mr Jeffers, who is also chairman of Age Concerns advocacy committee, told The Royal Gazette.

“We’re happy to see it included, but the Throne Speech is just the beginning.”

While he applauded Jeanne Atherden, the Minister of Health and Seniors, for her sincerity and for taking recommendations from Age Concern and the Seniors Advisory Committee on board, he said the proposals would go nowhere without Cabinet approval.

According to the Throne Speech, the Ministry of Health and Seniors will roll out a Long-Term Care Action Plan this parliamentary session.

Acting Governor Ginny Ferson, who read the speech, said this would address quality of care needs, developing long-term care staff and educating the population about long-term care issues. She said the ministry would also work with stakeholders to reduce the cost of operating long-term care facilities and including long-term care as an insurance benefit.

Emphasising that it is of equal importance to ensure seniors can remain at home “for as long as possible”, Mrs Ferson said the ministry would also be developing incentives to help seniors afford appropriate home renovations.

Government will furthermore examine ways to protect seniors against age discrimination in employment, “mindful that there are economic and other trade-offs that must be carefully considered”, she added.

According to Mr Jeffers, this is another issue Age Concern has been pushing for years.

Noting that Britain introduced similar legislation in 2010 with a two-year time frame to enact the legislation, Mr Jeffers said: “We feel that Government can show its sincerity by passing the bill and giving itself a time frame to enact it.”

But Mr Jeffers added that there were many more issues that needed to be addressed to help seniors in Bermuda who are struggling.

He said he would have liked to have seen pensions indexed “at least” to the cost of living. Adding that the biggest cure for a lot of the problems facing seniors is money and lower prices, Mr Jeffers warned that unless the cost of expenses such as prescriptions or co-pays go down, “we are going to continue having problems”.