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'I am not afraid to speak out' – Meet Mr Samuel Bailey, one of Jamaica's top older activists

28 Nov 2012

ADA campaigner Mr Samuel BaileyLast week I had the honour of meeting one of our Age Demands Action (ADA) champions, Mr Samuel Bailey from Jamaica.

The 69-year-old father-of-six is a retired supermarket worker and was a trade union officer. Now he is a president of a secondary school and an advocate for orphaned children and older people.

He has been an active campaigner for Age Demands Action for several years and this year on 1 October, the UN International Day of Older Persons, he was among a delegation of older people that met Jamaica's Minister of Health and Minister of Labour and Social Security.

The group asked the politicians about the possibility of establishing health clinics for older people so that they can have easier access to health care services, access to micro-credit for older people and the possibility of a universal pension.

Samuel kindly let me interview him about being a people's champion.

When did you first take part in the Age Demands Action campaign?

About four years ago. I was introduced to the campaign through Hope for Children charity in Jamaica. Mr Jeffrey James, the regional director for HelpAge Caribbean, saw me and asked me whether I would consider being an advocate for older people.

How does it feel to meet governments and represent the voices of older people?

You see, I am not afraid to speak, I am not shy and I am not nervous. I met the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and I also spoke to the Minister of National Security about violence against older people and the discrimination they face.

For example when you go to the bank to borrow money to raise chickens, the bank is reluctant to give you a loan because if you are 70 or older they think you will die soon.

You have a lot of verbal and physical abuse in Jamaica. Older people want respect and recognition. We have built the government, and we need people to recognise this. The Minister was very impressed and he said he will see what he can do.

Do you think governments are making improvements to older people thanks to ADA?

We do get good things from governments. For example thanks to advocacy, older people get bus pass discounts. We also have hospital cards which gives you half price off medicines. However we need a special day for older people to see doctors and we need a special window for older people to get medication. In rural areas we want mobile medication services, where older people can get free medication so senior citizens can access medicines.

Why do you think older people's rights are important?

Older people contributed to the country as civil servants, lawyers and doctors. Even those who were not academics, even if people were garbage collectors, they helped to build this country. Because of their contribution, they are entitled to enjoy their later lives.

Do you think young people should be involved in the campaign? Why?

Yes! We involve young people in our work. I speak to young people and tell them that anything we achieve for older people will make life easier for them later when they get old. So they must be with us. Young people volunteer with us, for example they will cook Christmas dinner and soup for us. They also play sports with us. We welcome them so we have to get them involved in our activities. Some school children join our activities and learn about their grandparents concerns.

What message do you have for older people like you?

Keep on doing what you are doing and you will continue to be blessed. I am praying that God will give the strength to advocate for older people's rights.

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Barbara Dockalova
Country: Czech Republic
Job title: Campaigns Coordinator

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.