Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 19th 2015 Contents • From Page B1
Dr Jennifer Rouse enlivened the January 26
launch of the new book Ageing in the
Caribbean with some refreshingly frank opin-
ions about the challenges of enacting pro-
gressive ageing programmes at State level.
Dr Rouse is Director of the Division of Ageing
in the Ministry of People and Social Devel-
opment, and is a passionate advocate for the
rights of seniors. She herself never started col-
lege until age 43, and earned a BA in Social
Work and Africana Studies, a Masters in Public
Policy in Ageing Issues, and a PhD in Public
Policy, all at the University of Maryland, before
moving to lead the Division of Ageing in 2004.
"Style of governance...can stymie imple-
mentation of an ageing policy," she said at the
book launch, which took place at UWI, hosted
by the Institute for Gender and Development
Senior staff in a ministry who may be can-
didates for ageism (prejudice against the eld-
erly), for instance, can block projects, she said.
Dr Rouse remarked that in her 11 years work-
ing as Director of the Division of Ageing, she s
experienced five ministers, six permanent sec-
retaries, and about four deputy permanent
secretaries, so she s had to learn how to "nav-
igate the waters."
"I ve already learned how to shelve pro-
grammes I had in mind, to bring it down to
what I consider do-able," she said.
She said in T&T, there seems to be a dis-
parity between how politicians define success
in an ageing policy (they often measure it by
how many are lining up for various services),
and how policy analysts would define success
(eg, how many clients are being used). Different
measurements are being used, which is a prob-
lem, she said.
We should be looking at targeting the correct
groups, said Dr Rouse; we don t delineate
between the rich or the poor elderly, for
instance, or local T&T seniors versus tourist
seniors, in allocating free state services.
Dr Rouse said the book Ageing in the
Caribbean was "meaty, informative... and areas
covered were spot-on." She gave a thorough
and favourable review of the book in her speech
at the UWI book launch.
Older retirement ages?
Dr Rouse commented that as people live
longer, the whole question of retiring at 65
may need to be revised; today s world of con-
tract work is not age-based, she observed.
"We need to go on (working), maybe to 70,
because it is largely an economic issue..."
"...But then I remembered Paris nearly
burned again (referring to the 2010 pension
reform strikes), when they wanted to increase
retirement age from 65 to 67... but the burning
didn t come from the elders, it came from
youth," who saw this as seniors usurping their
space, she commented.
Dr Rouse referred to T&T s Consolidated
Fund which pays for grants to seniors in T&T,
commenting that nothing is free, and that
any grants to seniors mean another group of
people would be worse off. She gave an exam-
ple of free bus passes to seniors, which many
were using, and asked whether PTSC was
receiving any money from the Ministry of
Social Development. The subsidy amounts to
millions of dollars, she said.
She referred to the Madrid International
Plan of Action on Ageing, the framework set
by the international community in 2002 as a
blueprint for national responses to ageing
populations. But countries in the Caribbean
which signed on have been slow to implement
recommendations, she said.
Children having children and
Dr Rouse referred to the phenomenon of
many grandparents these days being called
on to parent grandchildren, providing unpaid
domestic care---which has a financial cost.
The age group 19---59 in T&T, she said, which
is supposed to be the money-earning one, is
also the one most affected by HIV/Aids, incar-
ceration, car accidents, unemployment, divorce,
drug abuse and migration---and all this can
affect grandparents, who may have parenting
thrust upon them.
It s like a reversal of roles, she said, where
the employable population is not necessarily
the one providing support, whereas those who
should be enjoying their retirement may find
they have new responsibilities.
Dr Rouse observed that the typical age for
grandparents is becoming younger: instead of
the silver-haired, gnarled faces of yore, some
of today s grandparents can be as young as 25
or 30---due to girls as young as thirteen or
even ten years old having children, who in
turn have children.
Unique ageing in Tobago
On a different note, she noted that in Tobago,
the older people seem much healthier than
in Trinidad, because the Tobago seniors were
eating healthy fresh fish ("straight from the
sea to the pot") and fresh home-grown food:
this has 80-year-olds looking like they are
50, she said. She commented that Tobago,
because it is smaller, decentralised and more
homogeneous (Afro-centric), has had a totally
different approach to ageing than Trinidad,
which merits study. In reflecting on the book s
chapter, "Never Too Old to Learn," written by
Bernice Dyer-regis, Dr Rouse said the Division
of Ageing has teamed up with the Ministry
of Science and Technology to provide courses
on ICT for seniors---and these courses are
"They want to learn the computerisation
so that they could connect---not only with
relatives, like their grandchildren and so on,
but also connect with goods and services."
Dr Rouse agreed with the views of the last
chapter "The Aged, a New Power for Devel-
opment" saying that planning for intergen-
erational development is key.
"We cannot alienate seniors; we have to
work towards a synergy with them."
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, February 19, 2015
Dr Rouse: Governance style
can block good ageing programmes
• Dr Joan Rawlins is a medical sociologist
who worked as a senior lecturer in UWI's
Faculty of Medical Sciences in St Augustine
from 1996-2012. She has a BSc and an MSc
in Sociology and a PhD in Development
Studies. Originally from Jamaica, she has
published on issues including the health
service, domestic violence and women's
health. She was part of the committee
which developed T&T's 2007 national policy
• Dr Nicole Alea is a psychology lecturer
at UWI, St Augustine, who currently directs
the Adult Development and Ageing Lab in
T&T. Before UWI she was an assistant
professor at the University of North
Carolina, Wilmington. She has a PhD in
psychology, and has published on topics
including psychological wellbeing,
autobiographical memory and emotional
Dr Jennifer Rouse, Director of the Division of Ageing in the Ministry of People and Social
Development, reviews the book Ageing in the Caribbean at its launch at UWI on January 26.
PHOTO: COURTESY THE INSTITUTE FOR GENDER AND DEVELOPMENT STUDIES
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