Wellness is a State of Mind for Seniors as “Healthy Ageing Starts Now”

September 14th, 2019

When we sat down for an event in recognition of Caribbean Wellness Day (many of us in suits and ties, high heels and the like) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, little did we know that half an hour later, we would be on our feet, gamely swinging our hips, waving our arms about and more in a mini-workout, at the behest of “Jamaica Moves.” It was quite a warm-up, and some repair work was needed afterwards on our makeup. We should have guessed though, since this celebration was hosted by the energetic (and increasingly slim) Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton and his team. Kudos to them!

The theme of Caribbean Wellness Day this year was “Healthy Ageing Starts Now.”  More bouncy music emanated from the Jamaica Pegasus as the Recycled Teenagers, in snazzy daffodil yellow polo shirts, threw themselves into a dance party. I noted there was only one man, who seemed to be enjoying his special status. One of the ladies was doing the Twist, another was making up some pretty cool moves as she went along. The teenagers are aged 65 to 89 years, from the parishes of Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine. Then the Older Cheerleaders (not a very catchy name), who are attached to the National Council for Senior Citizens, took to the floor, pompoms and all.

The benefits of exercise for older Jamaicans, from the new Ministry booklet.

The benefits of exercise for older Jamaicans, from the new Ministry booklet.

Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games (although I do wish I could remember some of MC Vivian Crawford’s wryly delivered jokes, which kept us laughing).  The underlying serious theme was that, as one ages, one shouldn’t give up on one’s health; nor should one at any age. The same rules apply, as the representative of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, Dr. Bernadette Theodore-Gandi, pointed out.

Minister of Labour and Social Security, the gracious Shahine Robinson, also joined us. She touched on the issue of elder abuse – which “does exist,” she stressed – and the need for “dignified aging.” She urged Jamaicans not to “write off” older citizens. “Seniors don’t want to be a burden on society,” she said, “but to make meaningful contributions.” September is Senior Citizens Month in Jamaica, so I hope we will hear more from Minister Robinson on these topics.

The Older Cheerleaders are ready for their routine. (My photo)

The Older Cheerleaders are ready for their routine. (My photo)

I was representing the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) at the event, and received copies of the Ministry’s new booklet on Physical Activity for Older Persons, on behalf of CCRP’s Chair/Founder, Jean Lowrie-Chin. Very bright and clearly illustrated, the booklet outlines recommendations for adults 65 years and older – what to do, and for how long – including strength, cardiovascular and stretching activities that are safe for this age group. It is very useful for any seniors’ group.

Minister Tufton, in a wide-ranging speech and frequently departing from his notes (whenever he removed his glasses), emphasized:

The truth is, based on what we do…based on our state of mind, we can live a fulfilled life…

He pointed out that globally, humans are ageing and that between 2015 and 2050, according to the WHO, the population over the age of sixty will nearly double from 12 to 22 percent globally – including in Jamaica. This has a significance for policy, community and family, of course.

At the end of the session, the audience was again invited to get to its feet for a Wellness Break. This was more of a self-affirming exercise, which ended up with us all repeatedly shouting “I Love Me!” to our neighbours (with a swelling note of defiance, perhaps…) That’s right – if you love your body, you have got to treat it right! As the Jamaica Moves song goes.

The event reminded me of an army, motivating itself up to go into battle at the prompting of its leaders. But then, ageing can be a bit of a fight. We need to ready ourselves for it, both mentally and physically. It’s definitely a mindset.

Phew!

Ministers Tufton and Robinson peruse the booklet "Physical Activity for Older Persons." (My photo)

Ministers Tufton and Robinson peruse the booklet “Physical Activity for Older Persons.” (My photo)

 

 

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