Government of Saint Lucia

Go to Homepage


[Site Map]

[Contact Us]

Search this Site

Taking Care of the Elderly - February 21, 2005

horizontal rule

Governor General
Prime Minister
The Cabinet
The Senate
House of Assembly
Overseas Missions
The Constitution
The Staff Orders

National Television Network
Watch NTN Live

Saint Lucia Gazette
Press Releases
About Saint Lucia
Frequently Asked Questions
Web Links
Government Directory
Browse by Agency
Site Help

Taking Care of the Elderly


In my routine meetings with members of the public -- whether at the Prime Minister’s Office or in my Constituency Office, on the roads, or in the communities -- I talk to all kinds of persons, with all sorts of problems. Some conversations are warm, others are distressing.

I have spoken with persons who are suffering with debilitating diseases, persons who are living with AIDS, persons who have been abandoned, persons who have been abused – whether sexually or otherwise, persons who need help with personal problems, persons who need jobs, persons who need material assistance, and inevitably, persons who simply need advice.

Among the many that I see, are elderly persons. They come to me for all sorts of reasons. Some live alone and need help to keep a roof over their heads; some need help to pay their utility bills; some need help to meet the cost of their medical bills; some need advice to get their NIS pensions. Others simply want to know how to resolve problems created by public authorities. What is particularly worrisome is the large number of elderly persons who live alone, often unattended.

Many tell me, with sadness in their eyes and their voices, that they have children who, unfortunately, for whatever reasons, have turned their backs on them. Some complain that they feel abandoned, left alone to fend for themselves. Some admit that their children have jobs – in some cases well-paying jobs – but they offer little support. Not unusually, some even apologize for their children. They explain that their children have their own families to look after, so they are unable to offer them much help. Sometimes, the tears flow down their faces, uncontrollably.

I listen to the painful accounts of neglect and I ask myself this question: How is it possible for a son or daughter to abandon a mother or father – or even a grandmother or grandfather?


Interestingly, many of those who approach me, seek employment -- even though they are past the retirement age of 61 years. They want to work, they say, to pay their bills. This encounter is usually very difficult. I explain that because they are past retirement age, Government cannot employ them. I try to explain that it is also difficult for the Private Sector to employ them because, understandably, the Private Sector would wish to employ young, energetic and well-qualified persons.

Much of this points to the fact that we have not really developed a culture of retirement. By that I mean that many of our elderly persons either did not prepare for retirement, or if they wanted to, had no means of doing so. Indeed, many of these individuals are not in receipt of NIS pensions because they have never worked in their lives.


Frankly, we need to radically rethink our attitudes to our elderly. We must not allow ourselves to see them as miserable old people or troublesome persons. We must not assign them to rocking chairs or to lonely bedrooms. We must not think that because some of them are no longer able to do things for themselves, that they have become useless and should just be left to await the inevitable.

Each and every one of us must realise that we too, will get old. And what we would not want for ourselves when we get to their age, we should not want for today’s elderly persons. They too were young; they too worked hard; they too have served; and they too, like each and every one of us, still have a life to live.


Throughout the world, Governments are passing more laws to protect and assist the elderly because increasingly, modern families are abandoning the elderly among them to institutional homes.

Right here in St. Lucia, we know of several established homes for the elderly. There’s the Marian Home and the institution in Soufriere that we simply refer to as “Malgretoute”. There are the Adelaide and St. Lucy’s Homes and, more recently, the Cornerstone Home.

And, of course, there are other church-based initiatives such as the home for abandoned elderly persons in Faux-a-Chaux operated by the Sisters of Charity of Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Believe it or not -- most of the persons being taken care of on a voluntary basis by the nuns at Faux-a-Chaux were left behind by their relatives at Victoria Hospital, Golden Hope or Turning Point. They were simply abandoned.


The administrators of these homes often tell me that many elderly persons are placed in those homes and their children and relatives promptly turn their backs. Many do not visit on a regular basis, or at all. Some do not bother to provide any financial support to these homes to assist with maintenance of their parents. Many simply place their relatives in these homes to await their passing.


Most prominent among the non-governmental organizations taking care of the elderly is HelpAge St. Lucia, which is also known as the National Council of and for Older Persons.

This organization is dedicated to taking care of the needs of the elderly. It has established groups of elderly citizens called Club 60s, 24 of which exist throughout the island. One such group is the “Mongouge Club 60” in Choiseul, which established St. Lucia’s first adult day care centre back in November 2003.

HelpAge officers travel the length and breadth of the island seeking out the elderly – especially the abandoned or neglected ones – identifying their needs and seeking ways and means of assisting them. They not only give help, but they also counsel the elderly. They also counsel younger persons to ensure that they treat older persons with dignity and respect. They train family members to take special care of the elderly – like how to bathe and clothe bed-ridden persons, which is a task that cannot be easily left to strangers.

It is important that we understand that the elderly want to enjoy their remaining years just as we enjoy our current lives. They also need recreation. They too need fun and laughter. They may be in bed or in a wheelchair, but they still have feelings and a passion for living.


Inevitably, some among you who are listening to me will probably say: “You are telling us that we should treat our elderly with more sensitivity, care, compassion and understanding, but what is the Government doing to assist?”

Let us get one thing clear. We all have a responsibility to look after our parents and our relatives. We cannot surrender that responsibility to Governments, otherwise the family itself would cease to exist. Governments do, however, have wider responsibility to create an environment in which families thrive.

We are extending a helping hand. To date, this Government has either built or repaired 280 homes for elderly persons throughout St. Lucia. We have abolished the payment of Property Tax for persons who are in receipt of NIS pensions. We have increased the subventions to the homes that look after our elderly. Since being in office, we have increased the amounts of Public Assistance – and we will do it again. To be sure, more can be done and more will be done, by this Government, as time progresses.


I want to repeat my earlier call on St. Lucians to all play our part to help and take care of the elderly. Taking care of those who need care is not just a favour but a duty for each and every one of us. Those who are not taking care of the elderly need only to remember that, barring unforeseen circumstances, each and every one of us will grow to become an older person. We too, will need help. We too, will have to deal with the loneliness and helplessness that old age brings. We too will have to deal with the unwanted intrusions in our privacy. We too will suffer from memory lapses, even to the point that we cannot find our way in familiar surroundings. We too will have to face ill health and unwanted disease. We too will need a gentle smile, a little touch, a warm embrace. It’s just a matter of time.


In that spirit, I would like to urge all St. Lucians to participate in the second National Senior Games organized by HelpAge –the National Council of and for Older Persons. These games will be held on Easter Monday, March 28, at the National Stadium in Vieux Fort and will be attended by many elderly persons. These games are for persons 44 and above, so many of us qualify. You are encouraged to take your parents and grand parents along. I will be there – and I encourage you to be there too. Let us set aside that day for our elderly.

Until next week, do take care; and may the Good Lord bless and keep you.


horizontal rule

Home ] Up ] Office of the Prime Minister Site Map ] [Site Help]

© 2012 Government Information Service. All rights reserved.

Read our privacy guidelines.