New guide for senior citizens

Stabroek News
October 30, 2002

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Guyana's elderly are to start receiving an information guide which catalogues agencies and businesses offering special services to senior citizens.

The Guyana Association of Professional Social Workers is preparing to launch its Information Guide for Senior Citizens which should be ready for distribution in a matter of days.

This is just one aspect of a greater effort on the part of the GAPSW to enhance the lives of senior citizens in Guyana.

At a one-day seminar held on Saturday participants were given an overview of a survey managed by the Research Committee of the GAPSW, under its co-ordinator Sybil Patterson and funded by the CIDA Gender Equality Programme. The survey of 308 seniors in six regions contributed data for the study looking at personal information as well as living conditions.

Interviewees were asked what he/she needed to make life more comfortable. Data also came from businesses such as commercial banks, supermarkets, pharmacies and taxi and minibus services, with a view to making these service-oriented enterprises more 'senior citizen friendly'.

The study found that approximately 6.5% of the nation's population is sixty years and over and a large portion of this group is below the poverty line. Of that age category 1% of the senior citizens live in institutions, some of which have no trained medical personnel on staff.

These are facts that policymakers need to take account of, and not think of ageing as just an issue of human rights and social justice, the summary indicated. Studies also show that there exists varying levels of poverty and loneliness among senior citizens, and that programmes are therefore needed to support the continued involvement of the elderly.

The participants reported that participation in economic, political, cultural and community life is closely related to the maintenance of health and self- esteem in older persons.

A series of training courses, geared toward elderly care has also been put in place by agencies such as the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education, the Adult Education Association and the Guyana Red Cross Society. Persons, having been through this kind of training, can be placed in locations where the need for such services exists. During the workshop, it was agreed upon that elderly-care education should be stressed and that the University of Guyana could offer courses for seniors.

Some of the observations coming out of the studies are that:

(a) Subventions should be paid by the Government to senior citizens homes based on criteria.

That way all homes will be treated fairly.

(b) Elderly care institutions should be registered. This, it was pointed out, should help to standardise the service offered.

(c) At health clinics, provision should be made to attend to seniors separate from other patients, which would make things easier for senior patients.

(d) A register should be compiled with names and professions of persons trained in the care of the elderly. This document, when complete, should be sent to government ministries with responsibility for seniors, as well as to care institutions.

(e) Professional assistance should be provided by the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security to attend to the psychological and social needs of the senior citizen.