Friday, April 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: We must take better care of our seniors


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SOME WORTHWHILE SUGGESTIONS can emanate from the Senate as happened last week during a presentation by Independent member Sir Henry Fraser.

His point that greater attention should be paid to day care facilities for senior citizens was perceptive, given the specialised needs of the country’s ageing population.

Every so often we hear stories of seniors being left to languish at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in acute care beds while unable to access home or residential care.

The situation is made worse for those who are ready to be discharged but have nowhere to go. They become a hindrance when left at the hospital beyond 24 hours.

At the same time, we have seniors who move into residential care simply because they are left alone at home during the day. The cost for such care can be exorbitant and if provided over an extended period, can be a financial strain for families.

This is why Sir Henry’s request to churches to reach out and help in the provision of day care for the elderly makes sense. They have the expertise within their membership to step up to the challenge. While the churches’ primary mission is to spread the Gospel and to save souls, educating and strengthening the family is an integral part of their raison d’être.

Many churches across denominations have unutilised and underutilised property that could be easily retrofitted and put into productive uses as day care facilities. While day care for seniors should not be seen as profit-making, it shouldn’t be expected to be loss-making either. The models successfully developed by some churches, particularly the St Barnabas Anglican, should be studied and replicated.

Our seniors are among the most vulnerable in society and are generally paid too little attention because they are often considered a burden. This should not be so.

They should enjoy an environment in which they can remain active for as long as possible and spared the dread that loneliness creates. Day care can also help protect seniors from disreputable people who prey on their weaknesses. With such centres many seniors would be able to live out their years in their homes in a stable, safe and comfortable environment rather than be shunted into residential care.

Given the demands on the geriatric hospitals, it is difficult already to get seniors into these institutions.

But, given the country’s challenging finances, no one should expect that new senior citizens’ facilities will be built. It may, however, be an opportunity for Government to partner with civil society to provide an adequate solution.

The churches should seriously consider their social responsibility to their communities. Sir Henry’s suggestion is worth serious consideration. It can provide a win-win situation for the entire country.

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