By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“We are asking people, stop seeing bad things happen and remaining quiet”
— ASP Claire Guy-Alleyne, Head of the Gender-Based Violence Unit, T&T Police Service
Some of the most harrowing scenes I saw on TV at the close of 2020 were the conditions in a Tunapuna home in which a 92-year-old woman lived. As the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian reported: “The house…resembled a dump, with huge piles of garbage dominating the entire property, including the bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom areas.”
Thanks to Latoya Greaves, the elderly woman was finally treated at a hospital for open wounds on her legs and taken to a safe house.
What was sad was to note that the neighbours knew that she was living in the house with a relative, who they accused of neglecting, ill-treating, and abusing her on a daily basis. Love of neighbour must propel us to act.
Guy-Alleyne reminded the public: “Once you have elderly persons and you have a family member or friend who would be accepting money on behalf of the elderly person and they are not taking care of that person, they can be committing offences under the Trafficking Act…”
In the past I have had to intervene to assist elderly persons who sought CCSJ’s support in dealing with greedy relatives who steal their pensions, property, jewellery etc.
In one instance, two grown step-children, high on drugs, set alight the house in which their step-mother lived, with her inside, as she refused to give them the property she inherited when their father died. They challenged their father’s will, but the Court ruled in the woman’s favour. She continues to live in fear.
Elder abuse in T&T is rampant and we cannot turn a blind eye to this evil.
On Sunday, December 27, 2020, the feast of The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Pope Francis announced a special year dedicated to the family, to mark the fifth anniversary of the publication of his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), which he wrote following two synods on the family in 2014 and 2015.
2021 will be a year of reflection on Amoris Laetitia. He said that the initiatives that will be promoted during the Year “will be coordinated by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. Let us entrust this journey, with families all over the world, to the Holy Family of Nazareth, in particular to St Joseph, the devoted spouse and father.”
You will recall that he has also proclaimed a year dedicated to St Joseph, which began on December 8, 2020 and will conclude on December 8, 2021.
The Holy Father exhorts each person to be “a witness of family love.”
As we embark on our reflection of the content of Amoris Laetitia, I refer to sections 48 and 191–193 which focus on the elderly.
See extracts: “Most families have great respect for the elderly, surrounding them with affection and considering them a blessing…In highly industrialised societies, where the number of elderly persons is growing even as the birth rate declines, they can be regarded as a burden…The elderly who are vulnerable and dependent are at times unfairly exploited simply for economic advantage…Euthanasia and assisted suicide are serious threats to families worldwide; in many countries, they have been legalised. The Church, while firmly opposing these practices, feels the need to assist families who take care of their elderly and infirm members”. (48)
And section 191 states: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (Ps 71:9). This is the plea of the elderly, who fear being forgotten and rejected.
Just as God asks us to be His means of hearing the cry of the poor, so too He wants us to hear the cry of the elderly (Cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 17–18). This represents a challenge to families and communities, since “the Church cannot and does not want to conform to a mentality of impatience, and much less of indifference and contempt, towards old age. We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elderly feel like a living part of the community. Our elderly are men and women, fathers and mothers, who came before us on our own road, in our own house, in our daily battle for a worthy life”…
Indeed, “how I would like a Church that challenges the throw-away culture by the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old!”…”
Let’s honour our elderly and treat them with respect.
The celebration of the Jubilee every seventh sabbatical year provided a respite for the land, for slaves and for those in debt. In that year of grace, those in greatest need were cared for and given a new chance in life, so that there would be no poor among the people (cf. Deut 15:4) (3).
Pope Francis, World Day of Peace 2021
CCSJ Social Justice