The Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) is joining the National Council for Senior Citizens in observing this very important day – World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, with the theme for Jamaica being, “Understand and End Financial Abuse of Older People: A Human Rights Issue”.
We in Jamaica should be resolute in addressing this serious matter as the scourge of scamming has brought suffering to many elderly in the United States of America and shame on our nation.
Here at home, financial abuse of the elderly is also taking place. We are getting distressing information only a month ago that there are heartless individuals who have attempted to trick NIS beneficiaries into giving them authorization to collect their funds and have stolen these funds from our helpless citizens.
We have been warned by representatives of the police force that there have been several fraudulent attempts to steal banking information from the elderly and only recently I heard of a heart-breaking incident where someone who was thought to be trustworthy, tricked an elderly gentleman into accompanying him to the bank and signing documents which resulted in the gentleman being left penniless having lost his entire life savings.
It is also very painful to know that even in families there are uncaring relatives who will take advantage of the kindness of their elderly while withholding humane care from them. This is particularly disappointing in Jamaica where the elderly have been pillars of the family. Many children have been raised and nurtured by their grandparents. These heroic elderly Jamaicans deserve honour and protection when they can no longer fend for themselves.
We want our elderly to know that Part Five of the Maintenance Act of December 7, 2005 states “Every person who is not a minor has an obligation to the extent that the person is capable of doing so, to maintain the person’s parents and grandparents who are in need of such parent – maintenance by reason of age, physical or mental infirmity or disability.”
We urge our church and community leaders to inform their members about this Act. We are hoping that soon we will be able to make examples of those uncaring adult children who, having been nurtured and educated by dedicated parents, have left them neglected and suffering.
Jamaica has introduced some helpful programmes for our elderly. We acknowledge that the introduction of JADEP, the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme, has resulted in significant savings to older persons.
We applaud the National Council for Senior Citizens spearheaded by then Chairman of NCSC, Prof. Denise Eldemire-Shearer, for their excellent National Policy for Senior Citizens and tabled in the House of Parliament in 1997. This is a comprehensive policy, reflecting the International Principles for Older Persons.
However, we are appealing to the authorities to revisit some of the strategies stated to provide income security for senior citizens.
- Organize and fund foundations for rendering assistance to senior citizens with no income or to those with insufficient income.
- Ensure availability of training opportunities and technical advice and guidance for self-employment ventures, as well as financial assistance to senior citizens.
- Make available tax incentives for organizations supporting income-generating activities among senior citizens.
We would like to see HEART-NTA include courses for retirees so they can seek additional income to supplement their pensions. Indeed, the the majority of Jamaicans have no pension plan, so it is our national budget that will suffer, if seniors are not given the opportunity to earn. We have established a Skills Bank at CCRP to assist our members in obtaining part-time employment.
We at the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons have been holding workshops to advise our seniors on Financial Management and the importance of using trusted investment advisors. Jamaicans of all walks of life have access to a variety of registered financial institutions and these are the organizations on which we should depend for financial guidance.
We have seen too many of our elderly lose their hard-earned savings having been coerced by representatives of unregistered financial organizations. We are requesting of our financial organisations, that even in this age of technology, you put aside certain days or times when you can give our elderly detailed information and options and patiently guide them in making investment decisions.
We at CCRP are therefore reminding those who are approaching retirement or who are retired to seek professional guidance and to engage a trustworthy group of friends and relatives with legal guidance so that you can protect yourself, as the day may come when you are unable to speak for yourselves.
As we pause to recognize and address the suffering of those elderly who have been financially abused, this day gives us hope that we are affirming our humanity and standing up for those who are at this stage of their lives, may be unable to stand up for themselves.
As we look back on the wonderful Tribute to our Olympic Superstar Usain St. Leo Bolt recently, we should note that in his autobiography, he salutes his late grandfather, a farmer who would give him weekly supplies of fresh milk, and his grandmother, who he says, never stops praying for him when he sets out from Falmouth until he calls her to tell her that he has arrived safely in Kingston. Such is the nurturing and love that has given us our amazing Legend of the Track!
On the shoulders of our grandparents and parents we stand, so let us do the right thing for our seniors, and ensure that they do not suffer from financial abuse or any other kind of abuse.