“With age comes wisdom”, this phrase rings true every time the value of our senior citizens is recognized, they can be aptly described as absolutely priceless.
The Nevis Island Administration (NIA) recognizes such and thus places much emphasis on ensuring all senior citizens are afforded adequate care while living their sunset years in comfort and grace.
Nevis is the smaller of the 2 islands comprising the nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean. Fondly known as Queen City, it is thirty-six square miles of lush almost unspoiled tropical space, with a population just under thirteen thousand and divided into five parishes.
The Nevis Senior Citizen Recreational Program came to fruition as early as 2006 and falls under the Ministry of Social Development. The program offers a wide range of activities for the aged population. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced its suspension in March 2020 due to the high level of risk to elderly persons because of COVID-19.
On September 15th, 2020, to the delight of many, the green light was given, the program was once again active. This time under strict guidelines of the COVID-19 Task force of Nevis which included social distancing and limited numbers when gathering. This pocket of Nevisian society was more than receptive to the resumption of the program, many had not seen their peers for months. This action was indeed timely as the threat of isolation can lead to severe depression especially in the elderly, socializing and interacting is vital.
Trudy Prentice is the Coordinator of the Senior Citizens Recreational Program (SCRP) in Nevis.
The senior program caters to the need of every senior not just those at home or in the homes. There are activities which cater to everyone, centre meetings which are held weekly or biweekly, individual meetings and overall group sessions which happen under the umbrella of major activities. These activities take place once a month, including cook out, sporting activities and beach activities.
Trudy also highlighted a monthly intergenerational exchange where seniors visit schools in their parishes providing much needed interaction between the seniors and juniors. There are visits to the shut-ins and the nursing homes. Steel pan activity is also a part of the program where the seniors take advantage of the opportunity to learn to play the instrument.
For those seniors who lack mobility, they are never left out, the active group will pay visits to those who cannot engage in the planned outdoor activities. No senior is ever left behind.
There are approximately one hundred seniors in the SCRP, the coordination team is committed to adding new activities to the program while spicing up the old ones. Trudy laments that where some pockets of the population believe that after a certain age “You are pushed aside”, she says vehemently, “the administration refuses to make that a reality.”
Trudy’s motivation comes from knowing she is making a difference in the life of the seniors. She says the social element is also rewarding, helping those seniors who cannot help themselves, those who need help in their homes, whether it’s food, care, transportation or just company. She smiles when she says, “Knowing that I have helped somebody and made them smile is extremely rewarding.”
Our journey to Nevis took us to the homes of three Senior Nevisians, all participants of the Senior Citizens Recreational Program.
Mareta Hobson is a Nevisian, she is also the winner of the first Senior Queen Pageant which was held in 2017. At her home in Cox/Beaumont in the parish of St. John’s, she shares some of the positive elements of the SCRP.
“It benefits me because I get out and meet other people. We learn things, we cooperate with each other, we go on picnics, hopefully next year we will be able to go on a cruise.”
Acknowledging the loss of cognizance as one gets older, she says, “We are not super beings and not everyone is built the same, so keeping busy helps us stay focused.”
When asked about the gap between the Seniors and “Generation Now”, and being referenced as “old” this was Mareta’s retort...
Let me put it this way, I don’t know what will happen to the other people, but I know I am still a “spring chicken” because I can move around and do things for myself. For example, if you look to the left and the right, you will see my gardens which I take care of.
To the young people, if you stop eating all the junk food and get out of your vehicle and walk sometimes it helps. It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes every day. If you are going to town, don’t go into town and look for parking. Park uptown and walk downtown, it might take three minutes, make your rounds and walk back to your vehicle, that is at least 6 minutes of exercise plus what is done in between, that would make your heart pump.
The parish of St. Georges was our next stop where we met Vernon Powell, a master of his craft, he builds fish traps and supplies the fishermen on Nevis. Before retirement he was a Mason by trade.
“The younger ones can come watch me and learn a trade.”
Making fish traps is no easy feat, Vernon can create fish traps with his eyes closed. He became an amputee in 2015 after losing his left leg as a result of an infection. This has created some mobility issues but has not stopped him, he is able to move around with little effort. The talented fish trap maker says, “I have learned to cope.”
He is unable to participate in some of the recreational programs, however his assigned Social Officer and team make their weekly visits, providing food, transportation, conversation, and lots of laughter.
Vernon is proud of his Smartphone and says jokingly “I don't need internet” as far as he is concerned, he is up to the times. At seventy, he feels good to be alive, is thankful, and it shows. For the entire conversation, Vernon would not stop blushing, this made us feel so good…
Our last visit took us to Butlers Village in the parish of St.James. Senior Essie DeLashley and her family greeted us with an extra warm welcome that is synonymous with Nevisian hospitality.
Mrs. DeLashley was a farmer and literally lived off the produce from her land. Seventy-three and proud, Mrs DeLashley tells us that since retirement, the senior’s program has added some zest to her life, it has benefited her a lot and she looks forward to getting out of the house, meeting her peers, and having lots of fun.
“One of these days the young persons will get to be my age (hopefully) and only then they will understand. The younger folks believe they will never get old, but they will get there, and more appreciation must be given to the elders.”
The Nevis Island Administration continues to press ahead, instilling in the minds of its populace that all persons despite their age, race or social status are of value no matter what. Nevis’ Minister of Health the Honorable Jahnel Nisbett and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health Shelissa Martin-Clarke along with their charges are committed to the overall wellbeing of all its citizens.
The engagement of juniors and seniors by the NIA gives both age brackets a profound sense of purpose, acknowledging the invaluable contribution of the older heads while placing respect and appreciation of aging in the minds of the younger ones.
Ideally, with this program, the NIA brings to the fore the phenomenal value of life, in a world that sometimes shuns the wisdom that comes with age as opposed to cherishing such.
Nevis has set the record straight - Our Seniors are Priceless!