PHILIPSBURG - The Symposium on Ageing held last week Wednesday acted as the first step in spreading the awareness about the challenges of an ageing population and letting the public know that this issue is high on the agenda of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development, and Labour (VSA). Based on the feedback from the audience at the symposium, Social Development is headed in the right direction when it comes to identifying the key priority areas St. Maarten is dealing with due to an increase in the ageing population.
Key priority areas that were presented to the audience at the symposium included: (1) increased social participation of the elderly, (2) promotion of independent and assisted living for the elderly, and (3) increased community collaboration for efficient and effective services for the elderly. Invited suggestions or recommendations provided by the audience will be used as additional information to shape the development of the vision and framework.
“A population is considered ageing when more than 10% of the population is 60+. In St. Maarten 13.9% of the population is 60+, putting us well on the map of the global trend of ageing populations. Current trends are illustrating that more and more of our population are living 20 to 40 years longer. Coping with this dramatic shift presents many challenges. Such as the increased demand for more facilities and services that cater to seniors who are more dependent on others. Another challenge is the decreasing numbers of person who are economically active which ultimately hampers the social security system that is in place.
Dealing with a society that is ageing from a social, economic, and cultural perspective means we must ensure that resources are reserved towards improving and expanding current infrastructure, services and restructuring the social security system. These are only some of the challenges that need to be explored in collaboration with key stakeholders”, said Minister Cornelius de Weever in an invited statement.
The Department of Social Development has announced their commitment to having an all-inclusive approach to the development of an ageing vision and strategic framework for St. Maarten. Once a plan of approach has been approved by the Council of Ministers the department intends to get all key stakeholders such as relevant ministries and NGOS involved in the process. Together solutions will be developed to tackle the challenges posed by an increasingly ageing population. The official step in moving towards a vision and framework for the ageing population on St. Maarten was announced by Ms. Joy Arnell Acting Secretary-General/ Department Head of Social Development at the symposium.
Minister Cornelius de Weever has given the Department of Social Development his full support in preparing the framework to secure the well-being of the community for the current and future elders.