The Ministry of Social Protection in collaboration with the National Commission for the Elderly, on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 began a national school outreach program. The program is geared towards raising awareness and changing attitudes as it relates to ageism and abuse of elderly persons. The program targets both Primary and Secondary school aged children.
Three schools in region 3 schools were visited; Vreed-En-Hoop Secondary School, the Patentia Secondary School and the Bagots Ville Primary. This was the first in a series of visits that will tackle schools in the differing regions of Guyana. On their visit, the team sensitized the children on the treatment of the elderly and distributed both posters and flyers which gave information on the care of the elderly.
All three sessions were chaired by probation and social services officer Ms. Pamela Atwell of region 3. Ms. Atwell encouraged the children to be respectful and polite when dealing with seniors.
Chairman of the Canjie Pheasant Senior citizens club Mr. Lawerance Hannayas , in his remarks, gave examples of elderly abuse. He encouraged the children not to be rude or aggressive in their approach to the elderly and compelled them to be more courteous, gentle and caring. He took the opportunity to speak to the student about violence, drug use and other social ills; all of which they should veer away from. He said “we elderly people feel hurt, when young people do the wrong things”.
Ms. Everette De Leon, chairperson of the National Commission for the Elderly, asked the children to indicate by show of hands, how many children have elderly persons as a part of their household or are in close contact with elderly persons in the community. The majority of the children responded positively. Ms. De Leon went on to say that persons who are now elderly were once young like everyone else and contributed significantly to the foundation of our nation.
She encouraged children to form bonds where elderly people can learn about the young and the young can learn about the elderly. She motivated the children to have conversations with seniors in their homes “you should tell them what is going on now and let them tell you what went on in their time”.
The students were encouraged to do extra-curricular activities which can include a visit to a senior citizens home and sing some folk songs or just sit and listen to stories since the elderly have a lot to impart to the younger generation. She said “just the way you want attention granny and grandfather wants attention too”.
The Children were told about medical conditions which senior citizens may suffer from and to treat with them well since these differing conditions can cause the elderly to be forgetful and unable to accomplish simple everyday tasks.
After the sessions they pledged not to abuse elderly persons and thanked the officials for their visit.
Guyana observes the month of the elderly every year in October. The celebrations last year were held under the theme “Take a Stand Against Ageism”.