Stop dis­crim­i­nat­ing against the el­derly

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION -

ATHE EDI­TOR, Madam: LARGE num­ber of Ja­maicans 65 years and older (in­clud­ing my­self) have be­come suf­fi­ciently con­vinced that there is a grow­ing sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion against per­sons in that age group, be­ing pro­mul­gated by seg­ments in the Gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor.

This has be­come more ev­i­dent with the ad­vent of the novel coron­avirus (COVID-19). Why is it manda­tory for all per­sons 65 years and older to stay home, Mr Prime Min­is­ter, yet sev­eral of your col­leagues in that co­hort are ex­empted? What about busi­ness own­ers, self-em­ployed per­sons, pro­fes­sion­als, farm­ers, among others, who do not have enough money in the bank to sus­tain them­selves and must per­force go to work?

Yes, it is nec­es­sary for such per­sons to strictly ad­here to the pro­to­cols set out by the Min­istry of Health and Well­ness, like ev­ery­body else, but shouldn’t those el­derly per­sons who are rea­son­ably healthy and men­tally ag­ile be al­lowed to act re­spon­si­bly while they go about their daily busi­ness and not be con­fined to a vir­tual prison at home?

Let us not for­get, too, that many per­sons in that age group live alone and it is no se­cret that lone­li­ness can be dele­te­ri­ous to one’s well-be­ing. Shouldn’t there be guide­lines and pro­grammes de­signed to help el­derly per­sons to so­cialise, for ex­am­ple, go­ing to church?

CRUEL AND HEARTLESS

Then there are those cruel and heartless fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions that have been throw­ing el­derly per­sons un­der the bus. I was lis­ten­ing to a cer­tain talk show re­cently dur­ing which a fe­male pen­sioner lamented the fact that she had gone to the bank to pay on her in­sur­ance. Af­ter wait­ing for over two hours in a line, part of which was spent stand­ing outside in the broil­ing sun, hav­ing reached the teller, she was curtly told that she had to pay on­line as there was no way that the bank was go­ing to ac­cept her cash pay­ment. Al­most in tears, she ex­plained to the host that she had no idea how to do on­line bank­ing trans­ac­tions! And there are numer­ous such hor­ror sto­ries out there!

I am ap­peal­ing to Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness and his Cab­i­net to se­ri­ously ex­am­ine how the el­derly are be­ing treated in the Ja­maican so­ci­ety and come up with a task force to es­tab­lish a set of pro­ce­dures and pol­icy guide­lines that will en­sure that our golden agers are treated with a greater level of re­spect and car­ing dur­ing this COVID-19 cri­sis and an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ment. One day we will all get old, hope­fully.

LLOYD B. SMITH

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