MESSAGE IN OBSERVANCE OF
SENIOR CITIZENS’ MONTH
BY MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE RONNIE W. SKELTON
MAY 1, 2017
‘RECOGNISING THE VOICE OF OUR ELDERS’
My fellow residents of the Virgin Islands, I am your Minister for Health and Social Development, Ronnie W. Skelton. I begin this month-long celebration of our seniors with a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I can remember a time in the Virgin Islands when our seniors mostly just looked forward to retirement. Retirement meant that as a senior your contribution to our community slowed down considerably. Yes, you continued with your church and other social activities, you had more time to spend with your grandchildren and the demand for your babysitting services increased. However you were made to feel that the vast amount of knowledge you acquired through many years of experience was no longer needed. As an approaching senior, I am proud to say that this seems to have changed.
Our improved social services, healthcare services, and increased knowledge of healthier lifestyle choices have not only enhanced longevity; our standard of living and our quality of life have also improved. This improved quality of life has resulted in a trend of increased seniors' participation in, and continued contribution to our society. My fellow residents I am happy to see that this is no longer a trend, it has now become the norm.
We are no longer only honoring our seniors for their past achievements and contributions to our community, we are now honoring them for their continuing commitment to pass on their vast knowledge gained through their many years of experience. We are now enjoying the benefits of their increased vitality, aspirations and continuing contributions and achievements.
The theme for this year's Senior Citizens month ‘Age Out Loud’ acknowledges the voice of our Elders to define the aging process for themselves. I use the respectful and honorable word of our ancestral tradition - Elders, because I believe that the connotation of the term "Senior Citizen" no longer reflects the new reality of our more vibrant, knowledgeable and active older adults. A reality that says, hold your horses young people we are not done yet. We have a lot more to give.
The Ministry for Health and Social Development is committed to recognizing the voice of our elders. Yes, we uphold the proud tradition of honoring the past contributions and achievements of our Seniors with the naming of buildings, roads and other structures, and we will continue to do so with the naming of the Anegada and Capoon's Bay clinics in honor of two of our most noteworthy nurses. However, we now also welcome and embrace our Elders as perhaps the most valuable sector of our society, with the vitality and commitment to continue sharing and passing on to us our great traditions; our all-important values; and their vast knowledge and experience, we so desperately need today.
The ministry will continue to endeavor to provide every opportunity for our Elders to age out loud. We are listening when they say; we will not be cast aside. We are listening when they say we are working; we are taking charge; we are making healthier choices; we are thriving in our communities and we have much more to contribute and to achieve. The ministry through the Department of Social Development will continue to provide our Elders with every opportunity to advocate for themselves and others; to enjoy new experiences, to be independent through gainful employment and other social services, to be engaged in their communities, and to live and enjoy their most fulfilled lives. My fellow residents, going forward we will no longer define aging for our Elders, they will define aging for us, they will age out loud and we will listen.
As Minister for Health and Social Development I declare the month of May, 2017 Senior Citizens month. I urge everyone to pay homage and respect in any way that you can, whether small or great - with a warm greeting, some personal assistance or big celebration. Attend the planned scheduled activities, and let our Elders know that we appreciate them - their vast knowledge and experience and we embrace their much needed continuing contributions to our community. May Jehovah continue to bless our Elders and all of the people of our beautiful Virgin Islands. Thank you.