You know how it feels to go to a high school reunion, or even to ‘buck up’ longtime schoolmates. You suddenly feel young again, laughing at old jokes. My Alpha Prep classmate Aggrey Irons takes it even further: he always pulls my hair when he sees me, just like that mischievous eight-year-old he used to be!
We see that sparkle of youth in the eyes of our young and not-so-young seniors when we have events for the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP). Our members range from the ages of 50 to 93. Ninety-one year old Leleka Champagnie likes to discuss the features of her new laptop as she stays abreast of the technology, while we can always depend on 93-year-old Josephine Lowe for the latest cricket update. Their company is a delight.
On Thursday 14th April 2011, we celebrated the first anniversary of the CCRP, a morning of laughter courtesy of emcee Keith Binns and inspiration, courtesy of our Vice- Chair Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer. The major take-away from Prof Denise’s presentation is that the health you want to have in your senior years depends heavily on the lifestyle you choose as a younger person. Indeed, she pointed out that a simple formula of good nutrition, mental and physical exercise will reap big rewards.
The Professor warned against smoking and obesity – she said that these habits can wreak havoc on our bodies and cause dangerous health complications. However, the good news is, that at whatever age you are now, 20 or 70, it is not too late to make that promise to yourself to have a healthy lifestyle.
Prof Denise reminded her audience – many of us not yet retired – that we can look forward to 30 more years of active living after retirement. She reassured us that only 2% of elderly persons have been institutionalized. “Show me a young person who has never misplaced their keys!” she said, as she asked us not to become paranoid about forgetting names. In fact she says, we all forget some of what we hear, it’s just that as we get older, we keep hearing more. I believe some of us reach ‘saturation’.
In her presentation entitled, “The Golden Years – Life to the Fullest”, Prof Denise asked
persons about to retire to:
- Gather information
- Clarify options
- Have a plan
- Set goals
- Reassess and change as necessary
This process of reflection should include exploring:
- What do I want to accomplish
- What am I going to do
- Where am I going to live, with whom, if anyone
- Stability Issues – what is important
- Lifestyle changes
- Adaptation to physical changes
She said we should not shy away from using the necessary devices to preserve our quality of life, whether these are hearing aids, step-in baths, clothing that is comfortable and easy to handle. She related the story of a gentleman who always had his sturdy English ‘brolly’, his very fashionable walking stick. She also mentioned a lady who loved to embroider but had difficulty threading needles. “She simply asked her grandchild to thread ten needles for her to use during the day and she was fine,” said the Professor to appreciative applause. “Do what works for you.”
In a previous discussion, Prof Denise emphasised financial readiness. An issue which is exercising public and private sector here and abroad, is the development of pension schemes that will ensure adequate living expenses during retirement. She said young persons should recognise the importance of pension provision, as “time spent in retirement may be as much as that previously spent in the workforce.”
Prof Denise disclosed that the biggest challenge for elders, whether they are rich or poor, is loneliness. She described the empty nest, the loss of friends and relatives and encouraged seniors to be active in church and community. At CCRP, we have seen the generosity of members who have volunteered to serve on membership, hospitality and caring committees. For our first anniversary, each member had been asked to bring a personal care item to our celebration for our sisters and brothers in the Golden Age Home. Caring Committee Chair Dr Marjorie Holding-Cobham now has a trunk-load of goodies to deliver there.
In the past year, though the generosity of foundation sponsors Lasco, Procomm and RJR Group, we have been able to serve our members by holding empowerment seminars, exercise classes, obtaining discount partners, and sharing useful information at www.ccrponline.org. Chair Las Chin urged us to lower our registration fees and we have had a steady stream of new members since doing so, numbering over 470 and still counting.
Honorary Director Prof Sir Kenneth Hall has given us brilliant guidance while Director Lester Spaulding is keeping us on a straight and narrow financial track. Director Syringa Marshall-Burnett is our bell-wether and ‘prayer warrior’ and Director Professor Trevor Jackson who recently returned to Trinidad is forging links with the Trinidad and Tobago Association for Retired Persons (TTARP).
In our late-night planning of the event, my husband Hubie and I reflected on why we were so dedicated to the cause of the elderly: It is our way to honour our beloved mothers, as well as secure the old age of our own children. What a wonderful reassurance, if we could ensure that laws and regulations are in place, and creative projects established to protect the dignity and provide care for every single elderly in Jamaica and the Caribbean, regardless of colour, creed or class.
For a small company like ours, it is an ambitious task, creating and housing an organisation which competes with our paying clients for our attention. And so we are grateful to the other persons and companies who have come on board to share the vision of our initial collaborators, Aloun Assamba, Hermine Metcalfe, Sharon Walker (now Directors), and Dorett Linton our Coordinator. We are grateful to major sponsors First Caribbean Jamaica, Sagicor, ATL-Sandals, Guardsman Group and BPM Financial. Hertz, Digicel, GraceKennedy, Wisynco, and Tastee and our over 20 discount partners have also been very supportive.
As the rest of Jamaica awaits us, we have touched base with ‘The Governor’ Lloyd B. Smith for a Montego Bay meeting shortly, and we already have members who live in Mandeville and St Thomas. We know that once we achieve our critical mass, the funding will come and we will be able to help Caribbean seniors to enjoy ‘Life to the Fullest’.