18 June 2020
I welcome this opportunity to be with you today for this World Elder Abuse Awareness event. Elderly people are an extremely important part of our society whose contributions to the Island during their working lifetimes have given each of us the very foundation to the lives we now enjoy. Elderly people make up 21% of the St Helena population and the numbers are rising from advances in healthcare, living standards and nutrition.
It is therefore very significant that here on St Helena a big effort is being made to increase everyone’s awareness of the types and risks of abuse that can befall older people. At this time in their lives, when it is families’ and society’s turn to give them the extra support they need, it is heart-breaking to learn that for some the quality and safety of their lives are wanting.
The activities of abuse awareness week for St Helena this year are an opportunity for organisations to advise and help protect their older friends, families and neighbours. They have raised awareness of the types of abuse that elderly people may be encountering, perhaps suffering it stoically or even in silence. Internationally, the World Health Organization has been leading on older person issues. Its definition of abuse is wide and includes financial, physical, psychological and sexual harm or as a result of intentional or unintentional neglect.
It is inconceivable how anyone would want to deliberately harm an elderly person but alas it does happen. That is why this day is a reminder to us all about the work of the organisations supporting our elderly people and why they are so energetic in their commitment. Getting old does not mean losing one’s dignity or the fundamental protections in the St Helena Constitution.
Some elderly people can have demanding needs. The burden this places on carers and communities is understood. Nevertheless, it is my hope that in our small community we can redouble our efforts towards helping elderly people who live in their own homes, or with family members, or in community care to ensure they are able to live their lives with respect.
The installation of a bench in Jamestown as a result of this week of awareness-raising serves as a permanent reminder to continue to combat elderly abuse wherever it is encountered.
Governor of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha