EDITORIAL - CCRP a grand idea
The launch in Kingston on Wednesday of an organisation called the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) is a welcome development. This newspaper wishes it every success, even as we look forward to a refinement of its mission, which we expect to take place over time.
Indeed, if CCRP works, even if only reasonably well, Jamaica, and ultimately the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), will owe its conceptualiser, Mrs Jean Lowrie-Chin, and her fellow organisers a debt of gratitude.
The CCRP, as we understand it, is modelled on the United States (US) organisation, the American Association of Retired Persons that lobbies on behalf of senior citizens as well as leverage their strength as consumers. Membership in the CCRP is open to persons who have reached the age of 50, although we suspect that participation will mostly be by people somewhat older.
While conceptually it is regional, the CCRP, quite understandably, will initially focus primarily on Jamaica. In that respect, our country is particularly fortunate. For in line with global trends, Jamaica is becoming a greyer society, with people over 50 a fast-advancing part of the national demographic.
Indeed, there are more than 450,000 people in Jamaica, or around 17 per cent of the population, who are now over 50. Of this group, 210,000, or around half, are 65 and over. However, the demographic experts project that by 2030 there will be 390,000 people in the so-called senior-citizen category, an 86 per cent jump in the number of people who have reached 65.
But as Sir Kenneth Hall, Jamaica's former governor general and CCRP board member, observed at Wednesday's launch: "The statistical growth of the retired population has not been matched by the growth of institutions and the provision of services to cater to the particular needs of those persons."
That observation is true of the entire region.
It is important, therefore, that Jamaica, and its Caribbean Community partners, develop policies to meet the needs of their ageing populations. Some work has begun, but not, in our view, sufficient. Nor have the efforts been aggressive enough.
An organisation like the CCRP, beyond aggregating consumer benefits for its members, can help in this regard by promoting and supporting research on the social, economic and political issues related to ageing and by leveraging the potential political power of its constituency. Indeed, we expect that in time, assuming the organisation takes firm root, the CCRP will be granted observer status within CARICOM.
We are particularly heartened that CCRP has among its key goals helping older people to contribute to national and regional development. This is crucial in a region that suffers substantial outward migration of its young, educated and trained citizens.
Older people are living longer and healthier lives. Many have skills that are in short supply and critical to development. Some of these persons can be tapped for their knowledge by government and industry.
Additionally, the CCRP can facilitate the use of these skills across the region, adopting the model of specialist volunteer organisations in developed countries that match the expertise of retirees with needs elsewhere for short-term assignments.
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