His Excellency President Charles Savarin
His Excellency President Charles Savarin

President of Dominica, His Excellency Charles Angelo Savarin, in his message to mark International Day of Older Persons on October 1, hailed the work of the Dominica Council on Ageing and called for this group to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

President Savarin said "it is everyone's business during the COVID-19 pandemic to support and protect elders and "their safety should be our number one priority."

"I am very concerned and disappointed over the number of our older persons who have succumbed to this dreadful disease. Earlier this week, we were informed that out of a total of 18 COVID-related deaths, 16 were elders, all of whom were unvaccinated," he said. "I am quite sure that those deceased elders did not contract the virus outside of their homes but rather someone brought the virus to them".

He added: "In light of the vulnerability of our senior citizens to the virus, we should all act responsibly, be guided by science, and take all precautionary measures to protect our elders to include providing them with that extra layer of the defense – the vaccine.

He also recognised the number of centenarians in Dominica

"Currently, we are privileged and proud to have in our midst 23 centenarians and being rated as a country with one of the highest number of centenarians per capita in the world. We are, therefore, elated and honoured to join the rest of the global community to observe this very special occasion, and to show appreciation and recognition to our older persons for their valuable contributions to our development during their more active years," President Savarin said.

He added that the population of older persons in the world, 65 years and older, is projected to reach 1.5 billion by 2050.

President Savarin added that the United Nations International Day of Older Persons 2021 theme "Digital Equity for All Ages" established that there is a need for access and meaningful participation in the digital world by older persons.

"The theme chosen is fitting and relevant in today's world that is significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital equity refers to whether people can access and effectively use the technology necessary to participate in modern society. Digital technologies refer to a wide range of new technologies to include but not limited to the internet, mobile phones, and all the other tools that can be used to collect, store, analyze, and share information digitally," he said. "Further, the pace of digitalization during this global pandemic has emphasized these inequalities as older persons are struggling to access essential services that have moved online. An older generation that grew up using analogue or all manual technologies, is facing a digital divide. Additionally, many are uncomfortable using apps and gadgets and some do not have access to the internet and are therefore struggling to keep in touch through digital tools".

He then thanked first responders and health care workers for their efforts at managing the pandemic.

"Permit me to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and thanks to all those healthcare workers and first responders; our doctors, nurses, hospital staff, fire officers, police officers, and caregivers to the elderly, who have already taken the vaccine, and to urge all those who have not yet done so, to come forward and get vaccinated," he said. "No person and certainly no elderly person, no family member, no colleague at work, should be put at risk of contracting COVID from a first responder. Meanwhile, we should do all in our power to ensure that the elderly whose medical condition allows it, get vaccinated as a matter of urgency. Let us allow our elders to have a healthier, productive, and COVID free life".