Finances and health care a constant worry for seniors
Finances and health care are said to be the two main issues affecting Jamaica's elderly at this time, and indications are that they are likely to affect persons who are poised to attain senior-citizen status in the upcoming decades.
During a conference on ageing in June 2015, the Financial Services Commission (FSC) stated that the challenges of income security, inadequacy of pension-fund levels, and protection of older persons from becoming victims of crimes were the three main areas of significant concern, from a financial perspective.
"The University of the West Indies reports that half of the retirees made no plans for retirement and that less than 10 per cent of the employed labour force are pension plan members. Unfortunately, many older Jamaicans have minimal or no pension benefit by the time they retire," the FSC stated.
The agency said financial crimes against older persons fall under two categories, namely, financial exploitation by relatives and caregivers and fraud committed by strangers.
Health-wise, in a paper titled Ageing of Jamaica's population - What Are the Implications for Health Care? which she co-wrote with a team of experts, Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer, one of Jamaica's leading experts on gerontology, said a "continuum of programmes is needed to promote healthy ageing and to provide relevant care as persons age."
Eldemire Shearer further noted that the foundation of such programmes must be clinical services ranging from primary to tertiary.
"It needs to be supported by health promotion and preventive services to promote healthy lifestyle behaviours," the document stated. "As a population ages, as is happening in the Jamaican population, medical services to diagnose and manage acute and chronic conditions such as cognitive impairment and other mental health issues are vital and must include family support initiatives."
"Health services will need several adaptations to cope with an ageing population. It is critical that these health services be delivered by health professionals trained in gerontology and geriatrics," the document continued. "Serious discussions on strengthening and focussing on 'age-friendly' primary health care, financing options, public-private partnerships, and community services are needed."
Eldemire Shearer noted that programmes targeting only persons 60 years and over will not be adequate and recommended that adults of all ages be educated about ageing and the steps needed to promote good health in the later years.
"Additional health services and care will not be enough. They need to be supported by social services targeting poverty reduction and improving the social determinants of health, specifically for older persons. As such, pension issues and social safety nets are important considerations. Research is also needed about models of effective, acceptable home care," Eldemire Shearer further noted.
"An integrated approach that incorporates ageing concepts into local and national policies and programmes is seen as the best approach," continued Eldemire Shearer. "Mainstreaming ageing into the development approach was identified at the last Summit on Ageing, as the only way to achieve success. Jamaica, like all developing countries, needs to shift the current approach of 'providing care' for older persons, to empowering older persons to provide for themselves and to adopt lifestyle practices to reduce and minimise chronic diseases and accompanying loss of function and independence."