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July 6, 2021

Hope for our elderly

By Sherette Almandoz, Interior Design Consultant

In his encyclical Laudato Si’ – On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis stressed that in our human pursuit of short-term goals, we have developed a sort of “throwaway culture”, one where not only unwanted items, but also unwanted people, are discarded when they are no longer deemed necessary.

Here, Pope Francis makes mention of the elderly being considered among those that are unwanted, which made me think about it in our local context. Are we discarding our elderly?

I was quick to take one look at our underdeveloped homes for the aged and say “Yes, clearly we are!”. However, after doing a bit more research, I have to say that I now look at the situation with more hopeful eyes.

I delved into our Division of Ageing, facilitated by The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, and it really pleased me to see that our twin islands have a lot of progressive actions in play.

The Division’s mission is to “educate and sensitise key stakeholders and the general public on ageing issues, and to enhance the quality of life of older persons throughout Trinidad and Tobago, by providing an enabling environment for their continued development.”

It adheres to the doctrines of the United Nations Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA), which promotes a fresh approach to the issue of ageing in the 21st century. Its focus is on three main areas:

  1. Older persons and development
  2. Advancing health and well-being into old age
  3. Ensuring enabling and supportive environments

The Division has also developed a National Policy of Ageing which seeks to follow through on the priority areas listed in the MIPAA, which run a wide span, from income security to recreation and disaster preparedness. Legislative measures have also been taken over the years to improve facilities and homes for the elderly.

It was comforting to know that this was taking place in Trinidad and Tobago. Our islands often are promoted in the media for our more unsoundly characteristics, and so learning of our more progressive strides really has given me a sense of pride.

Other countries and institutions around the world have been doing some amazing work as well. Take for example the firm Arup, which employs a host of designers, planners, engineers, architects, consultants, and technical specialists, that all come together to find solutions to very complex urban issues.

All their projects are undoubtedly noteworthy but the one that stands out in this case is their vision of ‘The Fifteen Minute City’, where the provision of essential services and establishments are honed into smaller geographical areas, making it easier for older persons to access commodities and services.

For example, the distance between transport stops, grocery stores or even shady trees and benches would be much shorter, fostering more mobility and independence among older persons.

The German government is also to be applauded as they have created a plan to make most places in Germany easily accessible to the elderly and the differently abled.

Not only has their population benefitted from a more inclusive society, but the German government has also creatively managed to promote it as a tourist attraction, thus bolstering their economy as well. They call it ‘Barrier Free Germany’. Such a genius idea! Maybe there are possibilities for a ‘Barrier Free TnT’!

I know there is much more that needs to be done to properly care for the elderly and our common home, but I am genuinely happy to see that at least steps have been made in creating a more vibrant, inclusive global society, which is something I think we can all sing praises to God for.