(CNS): Community Affairs Minister Osbourne Bodden revealed his much-anticipated older person’s policy Monday, but confirmed that officials have no idea yet how much it will cost to implement and achieve the ambitious goals of meeting the diverse needs of Cayman’s aging population. The Cayman Islands Older Persons Policy 2016-2035 speaks in broad terms about protecting and providing for the elderly in every aspect of life, but at a press conference yesterday, Bodden said that how all of the services would be delivered is still to be worked out. He stressed that Cayman needed the policy “very badly” because of the insecure position many older people found themselves in.
The policy’s key vision, according to the document, is to value, respect and empower older people. It aims to ensure they get access to safe and secure housing and that basic needs are met, such as access to food and water, protection from emotional, financial and physical abuse, access to healthcare, leisure and education opportunities.
But this appears to be just a first step, as officials will now begin shaping the legislation and necessary public institutions to support it. They will also begin collecting data to address the gaps in public service provision and work out what it will cost to allow the growing number of older people to live with dignity. Bodden said that the task force that has been created to help implement the policy will examine the future budgets that will be needed to support the older members of the community.
During the press briefing, officials that were involved in the policy spoke about the abuse that some elderly members of the community suffer. However, Deborah Webb-Sibblies, Chair of the National Older Person’s Policy Steering Committee, revealed there was no formal data to indicate the levels of abuse endured by pensioners. No one knows how many victims there are and what type of abuse they are suffering.
Pointing to anecdotal evidence, she said that one of the major problems appears to be financial abuse at the hands of their own family members who are taking the benefits or pensions that the elderly members receive from government. But she warned that older members of the community are subject to physical abuse and neglect as well.
With no specific legislation that deals with the rights of those aged 65 and over, government is hoping to fill the gap with a law that will protect them in a similar way to the Child Protection Law, introducing things such as mandatory reporting of abuse and making it easier for the police to investigate abuse that may be happening behind closed doors in family homes.
Sibblies said anything that can happen to a child can also happen to older vulnerable members of the community.
See the full policy document in the CNS Library