HelpAge Saint Lucia to Host Month-Long Activities for Older Persons

By Helen Charles, Executive Director of HelpAge Saint Lucia

HelpAge St. Lucia National Council of and for older persons would like to take the opportunity to bring awareness to what some older persons in Saint Lucia have had to endure.

Saint Lucia, earlier this month observed International Day of Older Persons with the Council stating that older persons are the foundation of the nation and in need of the country’s respect.

“It is for this reason we are sending out our sympathy to family and friends who’s elderly family members passed away due to and of COVID -19,” stated the Council.

International Day of Older Persons is an annual celebration which is observed 1st October. According to the Council, the purpose of the Day is to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities of ageing populations around St. Lucia and the world.

“We at Helpage  are doing research on subjects that address the status of older persons in regards to health, financial security, poverty and other pertinent topics, to allow the elderly to make their voices heard and learn the best parakites and policies that improve the lives and dignity of older persons,” wrote the Council.

The Council is involved in raising awareness of the challenges and opportunities of ageing population around St, Lucia and it addresses the status and concerns of older persons regarding their human rights, age discrimination, health, lifelong learning, elder abuse, the environments, autonomy and independence.

“We must advice on how to respond to the specific needs and rights of older persons and keep the communities we work with as protected as possible from the impacts of the disease,” noted the Council.

COVID-19 and older persons:

COVID-19 is a new disease that causes respiratory infection, which can be fatal, particularly in old age, therefore it is essential, that preparation for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic explicitly addresses the heightened risk of the disease for all older people.

“We at Helpage, strongly uphold older people and their right to health, including access of information, care, support and medical services on an equal basis with everyone else. Education and information about the disease and how it is transmitted must be provided across the generation, to ensure responsibility is taken by all to reduce the spread of the virus and to ensure older persons do not experience discrimination or neglect,” the Council explained.

The Council is of the belief that older persons affected by COVID-19 should have access to health services regardless of their legal status. Preparedness and planning should take account of the additional risks of older persons.

While information and advice are now being disseminated, existing guidance is not explicit on the management and mitigation of the risk and challenges faced by older persons in the context of COVID-19 despite evidence that the risk of serious illness and death from the disease increase with age.

Regardless of what part of the world we live, or what social group we belong to, we are all threatened by COVID-19. This pandemic can be controlled, but only if people act in solidarity with each other. In this context of mutual solidarity, between people of all ages.

Rights of older persons:

In our efforts to fight the pandemic access to information, care, support and medical services on an equal basis must be provided and on par with everyone else. To ensure responsibility is taken by all to reduce the spread of the virus, and to be notified and considered.

Where cases of discrimination against or stigmatization of any section of the community are reported, including older persons, leaders at all levels must lead from the front in calling out negative behaviours and upholding community solidarity. Regular communications with the public and at-risk population is one of the most important steps to help prevent infection, save lives and minimize adverse outcomes. Information must be provided in multiple formats and local languages to address the barriers which older persons often face, related to literacy, language and disability.

Older persons may be more likely to speak only local languages. Failure to provide information in local languages will disadvantage older person. Higher level of disability among older persons present additional barriers to accessing information. These may be disabilities related to sight, hearing and communicating, or physical disabilities that prevent them accessing community spaces where information is shared. Older persons are more likely to have cognitive impairment and may therefore face additional challenges in understanding and acting on information provided.

“This pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to humanity and present a disproportionate threat to the health, life, rights and well-being of older persons. It is crucial to minimize these risks by addressing the needs and human rights of older persons in our efforts to fight the pandemic,” stated the Council.

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