Celebrating seniority in St Mary
PULL QUOTE: "The NCSC advocates for the rights of senior citizens and helps them address whatever issues they are having."
About 500 senior citizens from across St Mary, Kingston, St Thomas and Portland came together last week for their Regional Senior Citizens' Sports Day, which took place at the Gray's Inn Sports Complex in Annotto Bay, St Mary.
The event is held annually by the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC), which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and features a full day of fun, food, and activities, including novelty games, and track and field events for those aged 60 and over.
According to the NCSC's acting executive director, Cassandra Morrison, the ultimate purpose of the function is to promote active ageing and the need for more businesses to target older people with services and products.
Speaking while a game of musical chairs was going on, Morrison told Rural Xpress: "Sports day is always an exciting event for the seniors, and today was really lovely. Events such as these are extremely important because as we know, populations around the globe are ageing.
"Even here in Jamaica, we expect the number of older persons to double to around 25 per cent of the population by 2050, so we need to get them up, moving, and healthy, otherwise their care is going to cost the country a lot of money.
"[The NCSC] proposes that after a while, people entering retirement will be less destitute, more able to provide for themselves, and demanding certain services. If that happens, a wonderful opportunity would have been missed to include this segment of society in moving the economy forward," said Morrison.
"We would really love for more businesses to appreciate the value of senior citizens and see that it's in their best interests to provide services that cater to the needs of older people."
Throughout Senior Citizen's Month in September, the NCSC will host a series of programmes celebrating the organisation's ruby anniversary, under the theme 'Showcasing our legacy and promoting intergenerational solidarity'.
Morrison believes the events will help raise the value, worth, and profile of senior citizens in Jamaica, and encourage the wider public to reconsider their perceptions and stereotypes of this increasingly powerful demographic.
She explained: "The NCSC advocates for the rights of senior citizens and helps them address whatever issues they are having. If it's not a service provided by the council, we are the middlemen between the senior citizens and the services they wish to access.
"While others may look at the seniors as people who are going to burden the economy and health sector, our approach is from a human capital development perspective, so we see them as resources with a wealth of knowledge to invest in from now.
"Doing that helps them understand the importance of things like taking care of their health, planning properly for retirement, and creating a broad social network that enables them to still participate in activities and contribute towards the national development plan."