Families do have an important role to play in the welfare of the elderly, but so does Government. *iStock photo
Families do have an important role to play in the welfare of the elderly, but so does Government. *iStock photo

The print media and talk shows have been buzzing with talk, commentary and opinions on issues that have recently been highlighted about the plight of an elderly woman.

The events of the last few weeks have caused me to reflect once again on the issue of responsibility in ageing.

The truth of the matter is that each of us has some degree of responsibility for the welfare of our older citizens, and ourselves as we age.

The first level of responsibility rests with us as individuals.

We must plan properly for old age; take care of our health; understand and exercise our rights and responsibilities; and ensure that our lives are and relationships are healthy and balanced.

We must take care of the things that are within our control as long as we can while they remain under our control to do so.

The second level of responsibility is to our biological families.

How many of us have an uncle or an aunt, brother or sister, or in-laws that have no living spouse, and no children.

I have several people within my own family that fit into that category. And when I can, I remind them to take care of themselves as responsibly as possible because if and when they are not in a position to care for themselves, the responsibility of care may find itself on the doorstep of my immediate family.

The same family that has children in university, children in kindergarten, a mortgage and car while also aiming to practice what we preach by adhering to our own retirement savings. 

In cases such as these, it requires a family effort to ensure that the family does not implode under the pressure.

But even with the pressure, families do have an important role to play within the context of their ability.

Still, as idealistic as it sounds, every social, health or financial issue cannot always be met by the average Bermudian family.

We as a country must decide what type of safety net will be put in place to ensure that when families are unable to carry the load, that the community of Bermuda will fall in as the next line of support.

What should the Bermuda community safety net look like?

Should it be publicly funded and lead, charitable acts or both?

Should seniors turn to the charity of others for help when there is no other place to turn or does the Government have a more significant role to play?

And then, once we decide on exactly what we are prepared to do for our growing senior population, how will we hold our elected official, civil servants, religious, non-profit leaders and the like, accountable to get the job done?

Done enough?

When it is all said and done, we must ask ourselves if we can go to bed at night with the confidence that we have done all that we can whether it be as individuals, families, neighbours, religious groups, a community, the Government, private or charitable sectors.

 As individuals we must ask ourselves are we planning for our own futures while at the same time helping our own families?

As families we must ask ourselves are we giving all that we can according to our ability?

As a Government we must ask are we adequately planning and making appropriate provision and service for the well-being of our ageing people?

As the holidays draw near we would like to extend our well wishes to those public leaders who have the responsibility to ensure that collectively, we get it right.

These include: Minister, the Hon. Zane DeSilva JP MP, Mrs. Louise Jackson, JP MP and Mr. John Payne, acting manager of the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged and many other public leaders and workers.

We recognize and honour you and the significant responsibility you have in leading the way.

We also extend holiday wishes to the dozens of individuals and groups within the Bermuda community that have donated an unprecedented amount of money, food and gifts for Age Concern to distribute to our clientele in need this year.

In addition to the churches and volunteers that have worked so diligently to deliver these items.

And finally, we extend well wishes to our seniors and their families during the holiday season and the New Year to come.

May we as a country, enter the New Year with the understanding that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’.

Let us always remember that as a prosperous country, we are enjoying the fruits of the labour of our older citizens, it is therefore only honourable to expect that we will do our best to do right by them in whatever way we can, according to our own ability and level of responsi-bility.

Claudette Fleming is the Executive Director of Age Concern Bermuda. Email: ageconcerndir@northrock.bm.