The importance of emotional wellbeing
Wellbeing can be a tricky state for everyone, including older people.
Often we focus on the material things, such as housing, food and clothing when we talk about the wellbeing of older people.
So much so that the emotional wellbeing is sometimes overlooked.
There is also the tendency to focus on older people with limited means as being most "in need". Rarely do we consider those who are in seemingly "better off" circumstances.
The battle for Jamaica
I met a wonderful group of older people in Rio Nuevo St. Mary who made me think a lot about this issue.
Rio Nuevo is an affluent returning resident’s community which happened to be the site where the final battle was fought to determine whether Spain or England would take possession of Jamaica in the 17th century.
In simple terms, I look at this site as the place that determined whether I would have been an English or Spanish speaking native!
It is not surprising then that the Rio Nuevo battle site is a declared national monument in Jamaica.
Innate passion for their heritage
Through an agreement with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), a community group made up primarily of returning residents (most over sixty), manages the historic site.
They take on the daily task of running the area with a zeal that cannot be quantified.
Despite the challenges and shortcomings which they are determined to fix, the group brings their contagious spirit to all those who visit the 400 year old site.
I realised that money was by no means their motivation. This was a group of individuals who simply have an innate passion for their culture and heritage and want to share their knowledge with others.
But it was also obvious that it was more about wanting to feel a sense of purpose in a world that continues to view older people as "having done their time".
A healthier life is dependent on emotional happiness
The lessons I took from that community were many. Perhaps what was most telling for me is that the total wellbeing of older people is important. A place to live and food to eat are of course important, but a longer and healthier life is heavily dependent on emotional happiness.
Older people, like all of us, want to feel a sense of belonging and purpose. They genuinely want to contribute not just to their immediate families, but the wider community.
Thankfully, there are cultural communities like Rio Nuevo where older people fit in well and are active participants and leaders in an important aspect of national development.
As individuals and groups committed to protecting the rights of older people let us resolve in 2011 to do more to bolster the emotional wellbeing of our elders.