Features — 03 October 2014 — by Kareem Clarke
Senior Citizens’ Week underway to highlight elders in our community

BELIZE CITY–Today, October 1, is observed globally as International Day of Older Persons, and to commemorate this initiative to honor the elders in our midst, HelpAge Belize is hosting a full week of activities to draw attention to these “Golden Citizens” in our community, who, while many often suffer from neglect, actually are sources of a wealth of wisdom, as well as values and principles, derived from their life experiences which were amassed over many decades.

HelpAge Belize has been an affiliate of HelpAge International since 1984, and while the main thrust of their work has been centered on social pensions, they also run what are referred to as nine-day centres across the country where older men and women get an opportunity to socialize, exercise, receive health education, and discuss current affairs.

Yesterday, Ivorine Bulwer, the Executive Director of HelpAge Belize, told us about the organization’s efforts to fulfill the national mandate of HelpAge through its countrywide branches.

She said, “We have 11 branches countrywide: in Punta Gorda, Seine Bight, Hopkins, Dangriga, Orange Walk, Corozal, and Belmopan. In Belize City, we have 2 branches – the Sister Cecilia Home for the Elderly, and the HelpAge Belize City branch. The secretariat is also here; we have the Octavia Waight Centre in San Ignacio, and we have a centre in Benque Viejo.

“Throughout this week, we will be having so many activities to create that comradeship with our older persons. We will also be pampering them by giving them manicures, pedicures and massages, and we will be assessing their skins at the same time. We will also look at areas of need and how we can continue to provide support to them.”

While the lives of the older folks are being celebrated all week long, HelpAge Belize will be reviewing the progress and effectiveness of the various programs and projects that have been implemented to benefit older persons in Belize.

As she reiterated the importance of taking care of our bodies from a young age, Bulwer outlined the common ailments facing senior citizens, and advised relatives of older persons to treat their elders with care and affection.

“When you look at taking care of your health, it begins at a young age, and looking after your wellness is an investment. The issue of the non-communicable diseases – the diabetes, the hypertension, the cardiac problems, and all the complications from these diseases, shows that it is important for you to take care of yourself when you are young since it’s an investment for quality of life. Also, we should not push older persons aside, so keep them active and make them feel special, walk with them, take them to exercise. At HelpAge, we have created an environment where they can dance and play games, and so on. It is a part of our institutional strengthening and networking. Sometime next year, we will be looking at financial management systems and putting guidelines for us to ensure that there is a high level of accountability and transparency, and to ensure that the money the we receive from our donors, and the monies that we receive from Government are well spent, and spent on older persons.”

The United Nations (UN) created the International Day of Older Persons in 1991 to celebrate the contributions and achievements of people in their golden years, and therefore, many organizations in Belize take the day to work with and focus on providing activities as a show of respect and care for the elder generation.

Senior Citizen’s Week is being commemorated under the theme “Leaving no one behind; promoting a society for all.”

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