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Oct 24, 2012

Getting older, but with more health challenges

A report on the aging population was launched in Belize by UNFPA’s country office, HelpAge International and the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation. It serves as a report card on the situation of older persons since the International Plan of Action was implemented ten years ago. The report found that people were living longer but with that came a myriad of challenges. Locally the older population is experiencing lack of income and employment opportunities.  News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports.

 

Delahnie Bain, Reporting

Belize today joined five other countries that have launched the global report entitled: Ageing in the Twenty-First Century; A Celebration and a Challenge.  The publication is aptly named since people are now living longer, but older persons continue to face numerous struggles.

 

Jeffrey James

Jeffrey James, Regional Director, HelpAge International, Jamaica

“The Aging in the Twenty-first Century Report was first launched on the first of October to commemorate international day for older persons. We had a similar activity in Jamaica on that day and the report was launched in Japan, Geneva, Switzerland and Madrid. Madrid because it was at Madrid that the International Plan of Action on aging was adopted ten years ago.”

 

Erika Goldson, Asst. Representative, UNFPA Belize

“Population aging should not be seen as a negative phenomenon, but as a reflection of our successes in human development. We are now living longer and healthier because of improved nutrition, sanitation, medical advances, better health care, education and economic well being. This should be seen as one of humanities major achievements. But it also comes with challenges, especially economic and social challenges.”

 

The report took three years of data collection, including focus groups in different countries. Older persons in Belize were a part of the process and their major concerns were finances and healthcare.

 

Jeffrey James

“In terms of income security, we conducted focus groups in four areas in Belize; in Belize City, in Dangriga, in Corozal and in Belmopan. One of the key concerns of older people had to do with the lack of income and the lack of opportunities for employment. With regards to their health concerns, older people claim that they were not getting much information and education about health promotion. They complained about the costs of medication and diagnostic tests. They also complained about the fact that the National Health Insurance was not countrywide so many older people do not benefit from it. Prescription drugs that should be free are often unavailable.”

 

The focus groups also expressed that they felt they had no voice in the national conversation and made recommendations to remedy their situation.

 

Jeffrey James

“They recommended that there be a universal non-contributory pension; they recommended that they have equal access and special treatment when using public transportation. They recommend that there be an increase in the mandatory retirement age because they felt that a lot of them had needs that could not be met and they were still very strong.”

 

Erika Goldson

“At the country level, this report will complement the findings of the Situational Analysis of older persons in Belize that was conducted in 2009 by the National Council on Aging with support from the UNFPA. It is our expectations, that the findings from both these research will be used meaningfully to inform the development of policies and programs addressing the needs of older persons in Belize.”

 

Minister of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation, Anthony “Boots” Martinez, says it has been difficult to meet all the needs of older persons, since Belize has what is considered a young population.

 

Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Minister of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation

Anthony “Boots” Martinez

“It is very difficult, when over half of your population is so young, to focus on older persons who make up six percent of the population. The thirty-four percent of our population that is under fifteen years of age require large investments in health, education to ensure that they have the best start in life. The youth population also requires large investment in skills training and job preparation to ensure that they become productive citizens. This is the portion of our population that in many ways demand the attention be focused on them due to the violence and other social ills.”

 

But Martinez says there have been some successes over the years, including the implementation of a national policy and plan of action for aging, which has been in place since 2002.

 

Anthony “Boots” Martinez

“We made some investments in caring for our older persons and helping them to meet their basic needs. In the past five years there have been definite gains in older persons; there have been an increase in the number of older persons receiving direct cash transfers from the government and more persons in Belize City are beneficiaries of the government food subsidy program. Civil society organizations that provide services to older persons continue to receive the largest subventions from government and the levels of these subventions have been safeguarded despite economic constraints.”

 

Martinez says that government is already considering some of the recommendations in the report and will liaise with relevant NGOs for implementation. Delahnie Bain for News Five.

 

It is projected that the number of older persons in Belize will double in the next fifteen to twenty years.

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2 Responses for “Getting older, but with more health challenges”

  1. Uncle Benji says:

    Shout out to Boots Martinez……… Howdy $$$. Where’s da money Boots? Heard that you have been running land and construction scams with your brother. Now you seem to have a genuine interest in older Belizeans? Or is their monies?

  2. Storm says:

    Just a question, how does immigration practice fit into this planning? As far as I understand, any new immigrant Belizean qualifies for all the benefits of those who spent a lifetime working and paying for the benefits — as little as those benefits might be.

    If that’s correct, is it also right?

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