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Friday, November 10 2006

‘Let us tackle concerns about the elderly’

'Let us tackle concerns about the elderly' - Age Concern

Published: November 10. 2006 12:00AM

By Dan Jones

Let us take the lead in defusing Bermuda's looming baby boom time bomb.

That was the call from Age Concern last night, as the charity responded to news that the Island's greying population will be one of the greatest challenges it faces this century.

The Royal Gazetterevealed yesterday how a new Government report predicted that the number of seniors in Bermuda is set to double by 2030.

Claudette Fleming, executive director at Age Concern, said whatever solution was drawn up to combat the problem, her charity would "love to take the lead".

She added that the vast experience her organisation had in dealing with the elderly could only help when plans were outlined to combat the predicted pitfalls of the baby boom generation growing old.

The report warned that finding care providers for seniors would become a more pressing challenge, and said that more retirement bases and senior citizen day-care facilities would be needed.

Warnings were also sounded about the strain more seniors would place on the pension pot, as the birth date drops and the workforce dwindles.

Ms Fleming yesterday said the situation could be seen either a "crisis or an opportunity". "That all depends on how prepared we are in Bermuda to answer some of those questions (in the report).

"It's not so much of a challenge if we are prepared to be pro-active about it."

She said that a conversation was already underway about raising the retirement age of 65 � an idea already raised by a Government clearly concerned about the prospect of a declining tax base coupled with spiralling pension costs.

Ms Fleming also said more discussion would be needed on financial planning and investment, to ensure the rising number of seniors were more secure in old age. Reversible mortgages, talked about for years, would ensure property-rich elderly Bermudians were not cash-poor, she said.

Other issues included whether there would be enough care professionals to deal with a growing number of frail elderly residents

She said that a little more pro-activity was needed from Government on the issue, but that the final answer lay with companies, charities and health groups � and all organisations that liased with seniors.

"How can we create an environment where older people are empowered?" she asked. "We want people to age with dignity and do not want them dependent and relying on Government services more than they have to.

"There are older people out there that still have something to contribute to this community. They are willing to work.

Shadow Minister for Seniors, Louise Jackson, has said those growing old faced a potential "horror show" in later life and claimed not enough was being done to tackle the problem.

Asked if she agreed with that assessment, Ms Fleming yesterday said she did not want to scare people about the future.

Sounding a more positive note, she added: "It does not have to be a horror show. There's momentum but there has to be a driving force that brings people together and moves forward."

This could include a Government task force, she stated, but discussions would be needed before anything was set in stone.


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Wednesday, January 31 2007

A chance to grow old with dignity

A chance to grow old with dignity

Published: January 31. 2007 12:00AM

By Tim Smith

A new $20 million rest home will give seniors the chance to experience "dignity and care", according to Health Minister Nelson Bascome.

The Sylvia Richardson Care Facility is the replacement for the St. George's Parish Rest Home, which closed five years ago due to health and safety concerns.

Mr. Bascome said the centre, which boasts a library, beauty salon and chapel, underlines the Government's commitment to take residential care to a better level.

He said it represents a benchmark for the Island and will be the future model for residential care, nursing homes and other care facilities.

Speaking at an opening ceremony on Sunday, Mr. Bascome said: "This is the first step in the Government's commitment to restructure and upgrade our senior residential care and nursing homes to ensure the provision of safe, comfortable and healthy living environments.

"This new facility will provide needed long-term care, in the east parishes in particular, and help to address a pressing need for more intermediate and skilled nursing care across the Island.

"The intent of this facility is to provide care and services from assisted living to skilled nursing in an integrated fashion.

"It embraces the concept of ageing, making it possible for residents to experience dignity, care and individualism at all levels of physical and cognitive ability without having to relocate."

Premier Ewart Brown and former Premier Dame Jennifer Smith were among the guests as the new home was unveiled.

It was built after the Ministry of Health commissioned a report over long-term care facility needs in Bermuda, said Mr. Bascome.

This involved consultation with the community, particularly residents of the East End. "The mission of the facility is to deliver effective resident centred care in a home-like environment through the involvement of residents, caregivers and the community," he added.

"We recognise that we must provide a continuum of services that supports seniors and assists them in maintaining their independence and involvement in their communities.

"We challenge you to journey with us in providing excellent resident-directed care and services that will unite us in making residential care and nursing homes in Bermuda the 'place to live'."

Mr. Bascome said the facility had been named after Sylvia Richardson, a nurse who made a "significant contribution" to the St. George community and to the people of Bermuda.

"We especially acknowledge that contribution," he said, "her dedication to her profession and her selfless service to the people of Bermuda." 


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Wednesday, January 31 2007

‘Why we turned to institutional care’

'Why we turned to institutional care'

Byline info is not available

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 11:53 AM

When a study of Bermuda's aging population revealed the extent to which seniors were being cared for by their adult children, it came as no surprise to broadcaster Darlene Ming.

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Monday, February 05 2007

Never too late to graduate!

Never too late to graduate!

Published: February 5. 2007 12:00AM

By Elizabeth Roberts 

A 63-year-old grandmother celebrated her graduation from the General Education Development Program (GED) yesterday.

Alice Paynter, from Warwick, never completed her High School studies, but was inspired to return to education later in life by her granddaughter Antonia, 10.

I wanted to do this course to be familiar with whats going on so I can help my granddaughter who will be going to Middle School soon, she explained.

Passing the program after several failed attempts over the past two years of study, she is the first senior ever to graduate from the Southampton GED Community Outreach Program at Southampton Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

Joining her in the celebrations yesterday were a group of men aged in their teens and early twenties: Andr, Rajiv Bailey, James Wade, Daniel Baker, Delonte Dunlop and Adrian Lowe.

Speaking ahead of the ceremony in which the graduates picked up their certificates from Minister of Education Randolph Horton, Mr. Bailey, 19, from Somerset, said: I feel good. It's fairly easy once you put your mind to it. Currently a Lance Corporal in the Bermuda Regiment, he hopes to join the Police in future.

In his address to the successful students, Mr. Horton said: I would like to congratulate you for taking the step you have taken. I would like to encourage you to dream ... whenever I work with young people the thing I always try to do is just get young people to feel good about themselves.

Addressing Ms Paynter, he added: And when I say young people I'm also talking about you. You have a young spirit. To see you here this afternoon gives me much life as well.

The GED Program comprises five subjects: literature, writing, mathematics, science and social studies. The Southampton community school was launched in 2004.


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Wednesday, April 25 2007

Savings alone won’t be enough to sustain you

Savings alone won't be enough to sustain you

We’re living longer than we ever have before — and we may end up outliving our means

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 10:11 AM

Try as you might, you can't take it with you when you die.

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Wednesday, May 09 2007

Ageing population straining the economy

Ageing population straining the economy

Wednesday, May 09, 2007 12:56 PM

By Chris Gibbons

Employees are increasingly assuming care giver roles, and that can mean lost productivity

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Sunday, May 20 2007

Survey to probe the needs of seniors

Special sitting of the Supreme Court

Monday, January 27, 2014 3:36 PM

Members of the Judiciary gathered for a Special Sitting of the Supreme Court on Friday to open the legal year.

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Monday, July 09 2007

‘Insurance for long-term care of seniors hailed as ‘excellent idea’’

Insurance for long-term care of seniors hailed as 'excellent idea'

Published: July 9. 2007 09:31AM

By Ruth O'Kelly-Lynch

Long-term care insurance could be available to the Island's seniors in a few years.

Age Concern's new chairman, Paget Wharton, said the insurance would be invaluable due to high costs of care for seniors, and said no such insurance package existed right now.

Currently Bermuda has one of the fastest ageing populations in the world, according to a study done by Atlantic Philanthropies.

And the 2000 Census stated that 11 percent of Bermuda's population is already aged 65 or over, while the Department of Statistics estimated that this figure will double to 22 percent by 2030. With 56 percent of households led by senior citizens classified as 'poor' or 'near poor' the cost of health care over a long period can prove insurmountable. An insurance policy geared towards seniors would help address the issue Mr. Wharton said at the charities Annual General Meeting.

Opposition spokeswoman for seniors, Louise Jackson, backed the idea yesterday and said: "I think it's an excellent idea. There are hundreds of people struggling now to take care of elderly parents, relatives and friends. Paying for long-term care can cost $40 an hour for round the clock care, that is thousands of dollars a month. For most people that is just beyond their means and many people have not and will not be able to save that type of money.

"With people living longer the issue is going to get bigger.

"The insurance would also benefit the Island socially as not caring for seniors is causing a strain on many. Because the cost of care is so much often someone in the family, usually the woman, is forced to quit their job to care for their elderly relative.

"There are no resources for these home care givers and that causes stress and sometimes elder abuse. Families have broken up over the stress of caring for their elderly relatives.

"I really hope that this does happen and will help Age Concern in anyway I can."

Age Concern also aims to identify what services senior require, match them with available resources and assist in developing additional services where needed. A study completed by Total Marketing and Communications found that only 34 percent of businesses tailored their services to seniors.

The charity hopes to rectify that figure and will conduct an in-depth survey with the Government's Statistics Department in September in order to better understand what seniors' needs are. Executive director Claudette Fleming said: "Age Concern envisages a day when Government, charities and the business sector provide seamless offering of high quality services to all persons in Bermuda, throughout their ageing years."

The new Board of Directors was announced on Thursday and includes Vincent Ingham, Walter Lister, Bob Richards, Ottiwell Simmons, Clevelyn Crichlow, Nicholas Dill, Estlyn Harvey, Patrice Horner, Jacqueline Horsfield, Kathy Lewis, Jacqueline Lightbourne and Cindy Swan. For more information on the charity visit


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Friday, July 20 2007

‘Massive study of senior population to be undertaken’

Massive study of senior population to be undertaken

Published: July 20. 2007 09:29AM

By Ruth O'Kelly-Lynch

A comprehensive survey of the senior population will be undertaken by the Department of Statistics.

The survey, which will assess the immediate and long term needs of the ageing population, will question more than 850 people over age 64 about their lifestyle and the services of which they avail.

The initiative is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Department of Human Affairs, National Office for Seniors, Cabinet Office and the charity Age Concern.

Known as the Seniors' Test for Ageing Trends and Services (STATS), it will use the data collected to match seniors' needs with specific services and identify trends that will assist with long term planning. Minister of Cultural Affairs Wayne Perinchief said: "By international standards, Bermuda is considered to be an aged population. A population is considered to be aged if the segment that is over the age of 64 comprises of more than seven percent. Bermuda's elderly population in 2000 accounted for 11 percent of the population.

"This group of the population outpaced other cohorts with a surge of 25 percent over the last 10 years."

Chief Statistician Valerie Robinson-James said her department was already well underway in organising the survey which will take place in October 2007.

She said: "Seniors will be asked a broad range of questions such as their health conditions, the need for health and medical equipment, the extent of their health insurance coverage, use of home care services, living arrangements, computer access and use, transportation and mobility, and home safety and security."

She added that the survey would include seniors with a pension and those without one.

Executive Director of Age Concern Claudette Flemming said the individual information gathered would be kept confidential but the data will be used to shape policy and better educate other non-profit organisations.

She added: "It is anticipated that in subsequent years, the STATS initiative will lead to a full assessment of every senior citizen on the Island so that we will know what every senior needs in order to direct resources accordingly."

The parties also signed a memorandum of understanding. 


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Wednesday, July 25 2007

‘Hats were the talk of the Senior’s Tea’

Hats were the talk of the Senior's Tea

Published: July 25. 2007 09:26AM

By Nadia Arandjelovic

Hats of all shapes, styles and colours lined the runway at Friday's annual Senior's Tea.

The hat fashion show was a real crowd-pleaser and was inspired by senior Yola (Dee-dee) Smith, who admitted having over 200 extravagant head pieces, several of which she modelled for her peers.

She said: "It's an old tradition of mine".

The fashion show was just one part of entertainment for the popular Senior's Tea event, which also included song and dance routines and a Ugandan worship dance, called Kimandwa.

This year's event was hosted by government youth camps - 'Boys to Men' and 'Girls to Ladies', which have been teaching youth aged 11 to 15 about etiquette for the past three weeks.

The youth served, escorted, entertained and carried out almost all activities from the 10.30 start to the 12.30 finish, practising their etiquette and performing community service, explained Supervisor of 'Girls to Ladies', Tracey Raynor.

Minister of Environment, Telecommunications and E-Commerce, Neletha Butterfield commended the youth for acting as "willing workers" and said: "It's excellent if only Bermuda could see them in what they are doing".

Minister Butterfield also commended the seniors' contribution to the Island. "They have made the path for us to follow," she said, "and without their contribution to society we would not be who we are today".

The Supervisor of 'Boys to Men', Neil Paynter was proud of the youngsters and said: "I'm very impressed - they've done what we expected them to do.

"They have been true gentlemen today and have shown a lot of maturity".

Seniors were served tea and refreshments and many were glad to come out to the Devonshire Recreational Club. William Pearman, one of two senior men present said: "I always come. I enjoy it thoroughly - I come out to all the seniors events. They all have their own merits but its nice to socialise, get out of the house and meet and greet people." 


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Tuesday, September 11 2007

‘We must end elder abuse taboo’

The Royal Gazette Website Redesign -- Update Your Bookmarks

The Royal Gazette website has been redesigned.

The Royal Gazette website has been redesigned.

This redesign will have an effect on all of the pages, especially your personal bookmarks of our website. If you find that your bookmarks are not working, PLEASE go to our home page http://www.royalgazette.comand navigate to the new location and re-bookmark that page.


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Wednesday, September 12 2007

‘Neglected for far too long’

Neglected for far too long

Published: September 17. 2007 10:41AM

By Sam Strangeways

When Claudette Fleming first started work at Age Concern seven years ago, it was, she says, "me and the telephone". "The Royal Gazette did a story and the phone started ringing," she recalls. "Somebody had a health care issue, someone needed the car fixed. All of a sudden I realised that this thing is all over the place. It was hard to focus.

"How do you address the issues going from everything from finances to health? How do you pull them in and do something productive?"

The 37-year-old executive director of the charity is still trying to answer those questions on an Island she claims lacks a proper "infrastructure" for its 7,000 citizens aged 65 and above.

A myriad of services undoubtedly exist for pensioners; one only has to flick through Government's Directory of Services for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities to see that.

But Ms Fleming says that no single entity has yet pulled all the information together to provide older people and their caregivers with an easy, fast way to get help when it's needed.

There is no machinery that kind of brings all of the pieces in; there's no portal," she says. "It's all there, but it's not connected. We want to be that interconnecting force."

Age Concern is now working to solve that problem and, perhaps even more importantly, discover as much as possible about Bermuda's seniors. It's a vital task since experts predict that by 2030, seniors will make up 22 percent of the Island's population (they currently account for 11 percent).

Next month, Age Concern will, in partnership with Government, launch its STATS (Seniors' Test for Ageing Trends and Services) initiative, a mammoth study aimed at surveying every single pensioner living here. A test group of 1,000 will be interviewed throughout October.

"We are embarking on a very ambitious project that hasn't been undertaken anywhere else in the world," says Ms Fleming.

"The survey is about 200 questions long; it's about a two hour survey. It asks everything from income to where do you eat, what cars do you drive, anything that we could think of."

The hope is to piece together a comprehensive picture of the lives and needs of elderly people to help service providers - both state and private sector - plug any gaps which exist.

"We hope to be able to get the information back to every senior and for those that are interested send them information on services. The second thing is, we want to go back to industry so they can see 'what can we do to increase what we are doing to better meet the needs of seniors' and what can Age Concern do. The third thing is we want to take it back to Government and say: 'here's what seniors have said'."

The mother-of-four believes Bermuda's seniors have been a neglected sector of the population for too long.

She claims the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged only helps those "most vulnerable" seniors who "have to interface with Government or are at risk".

She says: "Everybody has needs. They are just different. Our goal is to see that where it's possible we can facilitate getting people's needs met so that they can have a better quality of life while living in Bermuda."

She is glad that Government is working on legislation to tackle elder abuse, which is thought to have been experienced by some four to six percent of elderly people in Bermuda. Laws are also urgently needed, she says, to ensure that seniors' rest homes adhere to a certain standard and that caregivers are properly qualified.

"In terms of home care, anybody could set up," she says. "There are some very basic requirements that are there for rest homes but it's limited."

Age Concern is about to launch its own seal of approval to give seniors and their families a reassurance of quality when buying products and accessing services.

"It will come with a quality assurance check where we will check with seniors who are using the products and services," says Ms Fleming. "We ran that idea by the service providers. I think it was eight out of ten said: 'we'd welcome it'. Best practice is what we will be promoting."

The former social worker knows that tackling the worldwide problem of an ageing population will require more than a quick fix. "I don't know that people know where to begin," says Ms Fleming. "The problem is it's complex and we kind of don't want to admit that."

Age Concern, which has a staff of five and a $½ million-a-year budget, sees itself as a big part of the solution - as an advocate for old people, a policy advisor for Government and a conduit between seniors and the private sector.

Issues she says Islanders need to collectively consider is the provision of long-term care and whether more assisted-living facilities are needed for those not requiring 24-hour care but unable to live independently. At the moment, she says, there are not enough rest home beds due to a nursing shortage and she describes King Edward VII Memorial Hospital as a "catch-all" because "the hospital can't turn anyone away".

"Something else that's missing is long-term care insurance as a way that long-term care can be paid for. It's only going to work if people start getting it in their 20s and 30s and start paying into it. It's also about educating the working class population about investing in home ownership and all the things that will build a more solid foundation for you when you are an older person."

She says family and friend caregivers also need more support. Age Concern plans to include a feature on its website where users can input all their requirements and get immediate feedback on services will help. "It's going to support the caregiver," says Ms Fleming.

She wants the public to utilise Age Concern as much as possible. "Although we may not be able to deal with it (your problem) directly, it can be helpful for us to know.

"My other call to action is with regard to the STATS programme. It will be volunteer-driven and we still need volunteers. Get in touch and get involved with the lives of seniors. Here is an opportunity to learn how to ask those sensitive questions. We want to open this up to the community."

She adds that many of us will become seniors in Bermuda at some stage. "People are living longer. If we can get people living healthier and happier, it's a much better environment for everyone." 


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Thursday, November 01 2007

First survey of seniors to start this month

First survey of seniors to start this month

Published: November 1. 2007 09:05AM

By Sam Strangeways

A thousand seniors are to share details about their lives with researchers over the next three months in what was yesterday dubbed the first such study of its kind in the world.

Community and Cultural Affairs Minister Wayne Perinchief told a press conference that the Seniors' Test for Ageing Trends and Services (STATS) survey was "an opportunity to achieve a first on this planet".

The ambitious project — a collaboration between Age Concern and Government — eventually aims to ask questions of every one of the almost 7,000 senior citizens on the Island.

The results will be used to determine what services are lacking for elderly people and their carers and could influence future policy decisions. A random sample of households have already been told to expect a visit from an official STATS interviewer during November, December or January.

The comprehensive questionnaire on all aspect of seniors' lives will take about an hour and a half to complete. Claudette Fleming, Age Concern's executive director, urged seniors chosen for the first sample to take part.

"We are looking to improve their quality of life so, this is a chance to have a say that's meaningful and that will get to policy-makers to make the difference," she said.

"For those individuals that agree, we are going to send the information back to seniors themselves so that they can look at how they measure up to the overall target group that we are surveying. So, they'll get a chance as individuals to see where they stand."

Mr. Perinchief said 11 percent of Bermuda's population was comprised of seniors and that in ten years time those aged 60 and over would account for one in every four people.

He said he understood that the scale of the $150,000 survey — to which Government has contributed $100,000 — made it "the first of its kind".

Mrs. Fleming said: "We are going to start 1,000 at a time. When we finish this 1,000, we'll have an idea of how realistic it is to do all 7,000. I can see benefits if we did all 7,000. That's something that has to be explored."

Volunteers from a variety of organisations have been trained by the Department of Statistics to carry out the study.

Many of them gathered yesterday to show off their official STATS ID badges, which seniors are warned to check before letting anyone into their home.

The badges have the Age Concern and Department of Statistics logo, the interviewer's name, an expiry date and the official signature of the Chief Statistician. Any senior wanting to verify an interviewer's identity or with questions about the survey should call 238-7525.

Anyone wanting to help with the survey should call the same number or email ageconcernmem[AT]

Volunteer Catherine-Joy Smith, from Smith's, said she decided to help out as she is an able and active senior but knows not everyone is so lucky.

The 78-year-old said: "I'm a member of Age Concern and anything they are doing, I try to assist."


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Saturday, November 17 2007

Age Concern pleased with survey call

Age Concern pleased with survey call

Published: October 17. 2007 09:55AM

By Sam Strangeways

A call for volunteers to carry out on ambitious study of Bermuda's seniors has met with an enthusiastic response, according to Age Concern.

The charity has been appealing for people to conduct its massive Seniors' Test for Ageing Trends and Services (STATS) survey and already has a large group willing to take part.

Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming said: "A diverse group of volunteers, consisting of professionals from the financial services industry, church members, advertising and law firm employees, public servants and common citizens, have responded to the call."

She said the majority were from the local business and corporate sectors, indicating "that the spirit of corporate responsibility is alive and well in Bermuda".

The first training session for volunteers took place on Monday with a team of technical advisors, led by Melinda Williams from the Government's Department of Statistics, explaining how to administer the detailed questionnaire.

Small teams will soon be sent out to survey 1,000 of Bermuda's elderly people from next month until January.

Mrs. Fleming said: "Thank you seems like such an inadequate expression of our gratitude for the generous contribution of time and talent exhibited by those individuals and organisations who have responded.

"We nonetheless stress our appreciation to these individuals who, through their commitment, will help to put Bermuda on the map with respect to undertaking an innovative approach to addressing the needs of its ageing population."

Age Concern is still looking for volunteers. Anyone interested should call 238-7525. 


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Friday, February 01 2008

Ageing trends survey deadline extended

Ageing trends survey deadline extended

Published: February 1. 2008 08:46AM

By Tari Trott 

What was previously the deadline for the Seniors' Test for Ageing Trends (STATS) survey has been extended beyond its January 31 cutoff and the new deadline is the end of April.

Claudette Fleming, the executive director of Age Concern, a seniors' advocacy group, announced yesterday that interviewers will continue in the field to make up for the challenges faced by the December General Election and Christmas periods.

Mrs. Fleming explained: "The month of December was challenging for our volunteers who had to compete with election canvassers also going door-to-door.

"In addition, the busy Christmas holiday season did not allow volunteers to reach the seniors they had hoped to interview. We need extra time to complete what we set out to achieve.

"We want to let the seniors know that most who have received notification will be visited in the coming weeks. Seniors are anxious to talk to us about their needs and concerns and we want to give them the opportunity to do so."

She urged seniors to remain patient as the survey has yet to be completed, adding that 1,600 seniors had been notified that they were selected as part of the sample to seniors who could not be reached for various reasons.

The STATS project has produced more than 65 volunteers, trained to the professional standard required by Government's Department of Statistics, which is a partner with Age Concern.

All interviewers are sent into the field with Police clearance, Mrs. Fleming noted, and are required to carry official identification badges and letters of appointment.

Additionally, the interviewers have been sworn to confidentiality. More interviewers are needed for the project and anyone interested in signing up is asked to call Age Concern at 238-7525.


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Tuesday, February 26 2008

Seniors facing “soft abuse” from neighbours encroaching on their property and intimidating them soug

Films aim to bridge gap between young and old

Published: February 26. 2008 08:50AM

By Tari Trott 

A "unprecedented" documentary series and combined forum looking at the social divide between the youth and elderly in Bermuda will start this week.

The Bermuda Broadcasting Company (BBC) spearheaded the documentary, titled 'Between the Cracks' in partnership with charities Age Concern and The Family Centre.

Little is known about how Bermuda patterns its current social fabric across generations and the underlying challenges faced by the young and old, said Darlene Ming, programme director at BBC and project coordinator.

In the summer of 2007, the BBC assembled a production team to undertake a documentary series and the result has been the compilation of a number of provocative personal stories about the issues faced by elders, youth and their families.

Ms Ming explained: "Our production team was very moved by what they saw and heard. We have tried to capture on camera the compelling realities of these two groups who need to be understood, protected and valued as a vital part of this community."

Each of three events to take place include a showing of the documentary (there are three parts), a forum and a panel discussion.

The first event of the 'Between the Cracks' series will be hosted by Age Concern on Thursday at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.

It will include a forum, moderated by Charles Jeffers and a panel discussion. It will begin at 6.30 p.m. with refreshments and vendor displays. Space is limited, those interested in attending should call Age Concern at 238-7525 to reserve seating.

The second event, on March 18, will focus on young people and will be organised by The Family Centre and will take place at the Number Six Shed on Front Street.

Martha Dismont, executive director of The Family Centre, said: "The youth forum will utilise young people to facilitate a public discussion.

"That will be on the best ways for the community including our elders, to get involved in their lives. The challenges facing our young people are becoming increasingly important. This is as the country is coming to collectively understanding that it is essential for us to heal in order to pass on a legacy of harmony and hope to our children."

For more information on this event, contact The Family Centre at 232-1116.

The final event will take place on April 17 at Charities House on Point Finger Road, Paget. It will consist of the final screening of the documentary and see a forum between the young and the old.

Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern, added: "Each of the forums will have a section with what we call 'a call to action' where we will be calling the public to join us or informing them as to how they can get involved in the lives of our young people and elders."

Eli Sherrell, the documentaries consultant producer and writer commented: "I came to be a part of this team to try to put together a bridge of what's happening with the youth and the elderly because these are two groups that are overlooked.

"As the middle group, (we) don't think about the youth anymore — because we're beyond that — and we don't think about the elderly because we havent gotten there yet.

"But that is a bridge that we have and can hold the ends of and bring them both together."

Reproduced, without permission, from The Royal Gazette


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Saturday, April 12 2008

Free legal advice given to seniors

Free legal advice given to seniors

Saturday, April 12, 2008

By Sam Strangeways

Seniors facing "soft abuse" from neighbours encroaching on their property and intimidating them sought help from local lawyers at a free session organised by Age Concern.

The charity for pensioners held its third legal clinic with nine lawyers from Mello, Jones & Martin dishing out advice on a host of issues including wills, estates and boundary disputes.

Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming said about 120 people benefited from the session and another was likely to be held next year.

She said this year the majority of issues raised were about property: the distribution of it through wills or other options, entitlement of children or other relatives and boundary issues with neighbours.

Mrs. Fleming said some seniors had sought legal advice because they were facing what she described as "soft senior abuse", where people are encroaching on their property, parking in their driveways, intimidating them and they do not know what rights they have or what to do.

Opposition MP John Barritt, a senior partner at Mello, Jones & Martin, gave advice at the session, as he has done in previous years. He said: "Seniors are experiencing growing anxiety about whether they have done the right thing, whether they are about to do the right thing and what their options are.

"They are just looking for an independent trusted adviser, someone they can turn to for professional honest advice."

Mrs. Fleming said the session was a success and the number of seniors attending suggested a growing demand for the clinic.

"We don't know how we are going to meet the demand. We may have to do some other things to get to people. We will have a post-mortem on Wednesday.

"Each year we attract more and more seniors to this event. It has convinced us that the need is there and we are so grateful to Mello, Jones & Martin for making this event their corporate contribution to our seniors."

Seniors had the choice of attending an open session on wills, trusts and estate planning conducted by senior partner Michael Mello QC or a 20-minute consultation in private with a lawyer experienced in their area of concern.

One senior said: "We have been having family discussions on what to do and we wanted a clear understanding of some of the options that were available to us. I am so glad we had this opportunity. We certainly got the information we wanted."

Age Concern was helped at the session by students from the Berkeley Institute, local youth organisations Young Life and PRIDE, overseas university student Anna Horsfield and retired lawyer Lisa Marshall.

Mr. Mello's book on the Law of Wills & Estates in Bermuda is available for sale at local bookstores and at Age Concern. 


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Tuesday, May 06 2008

Island to observe Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Sunday

Island to observe Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Sunday

Published: June 10. 2008 09:30AM

By Owain Johnston-Barnes 

Abuse of seniors will not be tolerated in Bermuda, the Minister of Culture and Social Rehabilitation vowed yesterday.

Dale Butler was speaking in advance of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, this Sunday, and he also praised the work of the protection agencies.

He said: "We believe that abuse of seniors should not be tolerated by any society, and shall not be tolerated in Bermuda."

Joining Government in its efforts were Age Concern Bermuda and the National Office of Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC), which recently reported they had received 66 suspected cases of elder abuse in 2007. In 2006, there were only six such cases.

Since 1995, when senior abuse statistics began to be recorded, there have been 254 cases of alleged abuse.

While it is unknown how many acts of abuse have gone unreported and how much of the increase has been caused by increased awareness, Government MP and member of Age Concern Bermuda's Board of Directors Walter Lister believes that crimes against seniors are becoming more common.

"I think there used to be a time when people swept them under the carpet," said Mr. Lister.

Reproduced, without permission, from The Royal Gazette


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Tuesday, May 06 2008

New life insurance deal for seniors

New life insurance deal for seniors

Published: June 5. 2008 09:08AM

By Elizabeth Roberts 

Age Concern has teamed up with BF&M to provide a life insurance policy for seniors to spare their loved ones financial strain when they die.

The Peace of Mind policy, which will be available through Age Concern from July 4, does not require any medical examinations.

Covering persons aged from 50 to 80 years old, it provides up to $25,000 that can be used for funeral costs, final expenses or simply a gift to loved ones.

It is believed to be the first product of its kind in Bermuda, since it guarantees acceptance.

According to Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern, many families experience problems dealing with the costly aftermath of the death of a loved one.

"We see a lot of fighting going in families at this stage over assets and I'm sure funeral homes can attest to the fact that, as a result, they can be left out of pocket," she said. "With this policy, that expense is provided for for service providers and family members."

Premiums will vary according to gender and the value of the policy. However, Brian Popp, vice president of customer relations and sales at BF&M, said for a $10,000 policy for a 64-year-old woman the average monthly payment would be around $100 per month.


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Wednesday, May 07 2008

Seniors survey in final phase

Seniors survey in final phase

Published: May 7. 2008 10:03AM

By Amanda Dale

A survey of services needed for seniors is in its final stages.

Over the past six months, Age Concern has been conducting a 90-minute poll at homes across the Island into trends, needs and services. Assisted by the Department of Statistics, more than 80 researchers have been conducting door-to-door surveys to collect information on areas such as health care, transportation, housing, recreation, insurance and personal finance.

The Age Concern Seniors Test for Ageing Trends and Services (STATS) has identified up to 1,000 homes of residents over-60 as a sample, and will now focus its efforts on the remaining areas in the East and West End.

Claudette Fleming, executive director, said: "We are trying to wrap up the survey this month to give us the numbers we need. Seniors who are visited can be assured that interviewers are still officially in the field.

"We would like to thank the seniors, volunteers, Government agencies and all who have been part of this ground-breaking effort."

The survey was funded by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Social Rehabilitation. A spokesman for Age Concern said: "Age Concern needs to ensure that there is a broad distribution of seniors so that the data collected will give a reliable picture of current needs and future projections." 


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Thursday, June 12 2008

Poverty and medical plight of seniors revealed

Poverty and medical plight of seniors revealed

Article published December 6. 2008 11:08AM

By Robyn Skinner

Thirty-five percent of seniors in Bermuda are living below the poverty line, according to results of the Senior's Test for Ageing and Trends (STATS) survey that was released yesterday.

In the survey, which was launched in November last year by the Department of Statistics, Age Concern, the Ministry of Social Rehabilitation and the National Office for the Seniors and Physically Challenged, they found that 35 percent of the Island's seniors make under $25,000 a year.

That's at least $2,000 less than the poverty line, which was set at incomes of $27,000 or less for one-person income households by Government earlier this year.

The surveyors of the STATS study, which is the first to be done by Bermudians for Bermudians, however, indicate the income numbers should be muted by the fact that many seniors own their homes.

In the study they state that: "While these income levels may seem low, this does not mean that Bermuda's seniors are living at or below the poverty level.

"As we shall learn in other sections some 54 percent of seniors owned their own home outright. In addition just six percent report that they had to sacrifice food in order to pay a bill and nearly three-quarters (73 percent) stated that they could afford all of the health services that they needed."

The study also found that 25 percent of seniors had incomes between $25,000 and $50,000 while 21 percent made more than $50,000 a year and the average income was $37,500.

And it showed that 78 percent of the seniors population have a medical condition, 80 percent are on medication because of that condition and yet only 44 percent are satisfied or very satisfied with the health care system. For more statistics see the side panel.

In the House of Assembly yesterday, Minister of Social Rehabilitation Dale Butler said the survey was helpful but the income levels were something to be concerned about.

He said: "The survey indicates that although for the most part seniors are doing well, there are some very real issues facing them.

"Perhaps of most concern is the high number (78 percent) that are suffering from a medical condition and a similar number (80 percent) who are on medication as a result of that condition.

"Of equal concern is the 36 percent of seniors who are living on an annual income of less than $25,000. These are the seniors who need our assistance the most."

Five hundred and eight households participated in the study and 695 eligible seniors in those homes were interviewed.

Among those surveyed, they felt that medical insurance and affordable door-to-door transportation access needed to be provided by the Government.

Providing comprehensive medical coverage was promised by Government by next year in the form of FutureCare and according to Mr. Butler a transportation plan will also be introduced in the new year.

Claudette Fleming, the Executive Director of Age Concern, raised further recommendations in the report such as a possibility of reverse mortgages to help seniors pay for long-term care and ensuring the subsidised transportation cost no more than $4.

Other issues she said were raised in the study include that the majority of seniors expect their children to care for them when they can no longer provide for themselves.

This she said could cause problems when families are also struggling with raising their children and affording college education.

She added: "Age Concern will do its part to meet the needs of seniors in a manner consistent with its mission and its role in this sector.

"Age Concern will also work to support the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged to ensure that the STATS report is disseminated and presented to as many public and non-governmental organisations as possible."

And Dr. Melvin Dickinson, the Manager of the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged said he hoped the findings would help deliver appropriate services.

"With this statistical information we intend to review the findings with a view to ensure that the services that are provided are adequate, affordable and accessible.

"We also intend to work closely with groups and entities that aim to support the very important role carried out by the caregivers by way of improved legislation and policy as it applies to the continuum of care for our seniors."

However, Shadow Health Minister Louise Jackson said Minister Butler was focusing on the positive rather than trying to fully understand the plight of seniors.

She pointed to the fact that the report states that "nearly half" of seniors were satisfied with medical care, while the flip side is that in fact more than half are not satisfied.

She said: "The key to focusing on these seniors is to understand their plight, so that dialogue and work can be directed toward solutions.

"That is what a caring Government should be about: Bringing the sharpest focus to bear on people who need help.

"To do that you need to make sure the public understands the problem, and in that regard this morning's statement by the minister is a missed opportunity."

Study findings
The STATS report in full

Reproduced, without permission, from The Royal Gazette


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Tuesday, August 05 2008

Shocking rise in reports of senior abuse

Shocking rise in reports of senior abuse

Published: May 8. 2008 09:28AM

By Sam Strangeways 

Elder abuse allegations have risen more than ten-fold in the past decade with most mistreatment perpetrated by relatives, according to new statistics obtained by The Royal Gazette.

The National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC) received 66 reports of suspected abuse in 2007, compared to just six in 1998.

Officials — who received 19 reports of senior abuse in the first quarter of this year — say they now have the "teeth" to tackle the problem, thanks to new legislation which became law at the end of March.

Abusers, be they family members or professional carers, can be prosecuted for abuse or neglect of a vulnerable old person under the Senior Abuse Register Act 2008 and face a $10,000 fine, three years in jail or both if convicted.

The NOSPC has received 254 cases of alleged abuse since 1995, when the number of reports began to be documented.

The majority of cases — 102 — involve neglect, with 84 reports of verbal abuse, 33 of financial abuse, 23 of self-neglect and ten of physical abuse. There have been two reports of sexual abuse in that period — one in 2007 and one this year.

The office currently has 24 active cases and three victims of alleged abuse are awaiting placement in a residential care home.

The majority of alleged abusers are family caregivers, daughters, spouses and other relatives. Most victims are frail, have Alzheimer's Disease or dementia or a physical disability. Women are twice as likely to be abused than men, with those in their eighties most at risk.

Experts told this newspaper the figures released by the NOSPC don't reveal the true scale of elder abuse, as many instances of mistreatment go unreported.

Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern, said the statistics were unsurprising. "I would imagine that they are just the tip of the iceberg, given Bermuda's current socio-economic climate," she said.

"To be sure, incidents of reporting have increased because awareness has increased, and with the introduction and public discussion over the Act, reporting of abuse is likely to increase even more."

Marian Sherratt, executive director of the Bermuda Council on Ageing, said: "The statistics, I think, barely scratch the surface. I don't think that they tell the full picture.

"I think to say we have 66 cases in a year is probably conservative. I think elder abuse is under-reported for fear of retribution.

"Seniors are so dependent on their family caregivers and careworkers in institutions that they are probably very reluctant to report abuse."

Officials attribute the rise in the number of allegations made in the last ten years to heightened public awareness about what constitutes elder abuse, rather than an actual increase in abuse.

The NOSPC received a flurry of reports after The Royal Gazette revealed the alleged neglect of 95-year-old Wilhelmina Liburd — known as Auntie Em — by her daughter last September.

These statistics don't reveal where abuse is occurring but since the majority of alleged perpetrators are relatives, it is likely to be in the family home.

Ms Sherratt said extended morbidity and the Island's growing elder population — seniors will make up almost a quarter of those living here by 2030 — meant more and more people were having to care for aged relatives.

"Often, a lone person is having to cope with medical conditions for which they are really not trained. Very often it's single women doing this and there may be chaos in the family home.

"You have a caregiver under stress and the potential for abuse is there. The caregiver needs help, they need support, they need education and they need respite to cope."

Ms Fleming said that though family members could be prosecuted and placed on the Senior Abuse Register under the new Act, there was nothing to deal with the rehabilitation of offenders.

"Preventing persons from working or having an interest in the care of seniors will only affect those in the industry. Those not in the industry — i.e. family members — which may actually be the bulk of abusers, do not appear to have a long-term deterrent or consequence."

Both women say the new law is a good first step — but Ms Sherratt added: "I think we have a lot of work to do, as do other jurisdictions. Bermuda is not alone in this."

NOSPC manager Melvin Dickinson said the Act would give his staff powers to intervene and hopefully provide seniors and the wider public with the confidence to report suspected abuse.

"We had a situation where because we didn't have the teeth of legislation, seniors were a bit timid to report," said Dr. Dickinson. "If they reported it, there was concern of retaliation.

"Now these persons will know we are investigating. People will see that this is the law and you can be punished. If you abuse a senior this could literally change the course of your life. Now we feel like we have teeth."

  • To report suspected elder abuse call the NOSPC on 292-7802.

  • News

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    Monday, December 29 2008

    Advocate for the disabled calls for greater transportation options

    Advocate for the disabled calls for greater transportation options

    Article published December 29. 2008 12:18PM

    By Matthew Taylor

    Campaigner Willard Fox is calling for Government to provide better transport options for the disabled as he slammed plans for a dial-a-ride scheme.

    His call follows news that Age Concern will be running an 18-month transport study to look at what exists and what's needed to fill gaps. Many of the Island's disabled are seniors, said Age Concern's Claudette Fleming in explaining the link.

    The executive director highlighted the findings of a recently released survey, the Seniors' Test for Ageing Trends and Services (STATS), which showed that while seniors are able to use public transportation for free, very few use the bus.

    The survey, which canvassed the opinions of a thousand seniors, found many would prefer a door-to-door service. As such, Ms Fleming said a project manager was being seconded to Age Concern from Government in February, to run a pilot transport project to assess need.

    However Mr. Fox, chairman of the Physically Handicapped Association, said what he wants to see is transportation specifically for disabled people.

    "They are thinking about some sort of dial-a-ride scheme. I am against it. It's available but it isn't convenient.

    "We are 15 years behind everyone, I am not very pleased. I want to see a bus system running on the main roads which are accessible."

    He said with a dial-a-ride scheme, the caller could not be guaranteed of getting where they wanted at the right time as the journey would have to be coordinated with other people who might be going in different directions. "I have to go all over the place to get to where I am going."

    But buses ran to a schedule and allowed the disabled passenger some independence – if the buses had been adapted to allow the disabled on.

    He said there was a minibus adapted for the disabled in St. David's but only one disabled person lived there and the route only took it to St. George's.

    Mr. Fox questioned why it wasn't put on the John Smith's Bay Road where Summerhaven, the home for disabled people, is located.

    And, he said, more should have been done to make taxis accessible. "But the trouble is Bermuda is the only place that buys taxis for their looks, in England you buy a taxi as a working machine."

    So the disabled relied on gypsy cabs and guest workers and their families to help them get around said Mr. Fox who added that only two taxis out of a fleet of 600 helped with the disabled – and they weren't always available. "Thank God for the expatriates, they are the majority of volunteers."

    But he said the recession might soon mean there were fewer of them around to help out.

    He said: "The volunteer system is just about played out."

    Illegal cabbies were much more reliable and helpful than the legal cab companies claimed Mr. Fox and he said Bermuda should copy a system used in England where gypsy cabs were licensed for certain months.

    "It is difficult to go to dinner – I have to arrange it a week in advance. It costs me a lot of money to go to funerals and do shopping. But I am a person who likes to be independent. Dialysis patients have a hard time getting to dialysis. They struggle."

    He said the National Office for Seniors and Disabled was not doing enough for the disabled.

    "I am calling for them next year to be a lot more proactive."

    He added that slow improvement was being seen on building access for the disabled, and he credited the City of Hamilton for taking up the issue.

    But others were failing, said Mr. Fox. "They just renovated the Police station in St. George's – but guess what? They didn't make it wheelchair accessible. The trouble is out of sight, out of mind."

    Asked about what transport options were available for the disabled, a Government spokesman said options included: minibuses, taxis, the Project Action charity vehicle and some community service vehicles.

    The spokesman added: "Also Claudette Fleming at Age Concern is working on a master plan in this area along with help from Ministry and private stakeholders."

    Mrs. Fleming said mass transport was about economies of scale. "When you get into individual services for special target groups it becomes more expensive to do."

    She agreed that public transport was a right and not a privilege, for everyone including wheelchair users. "But the question is what type of transport?"

    She said the new system would be much than just 'dial-a-ride' but would be a centralised and coordinated system.


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    Monday, January 05 2009

    Seniors’ problems are a ticking time bomb

    Seniors' problems are a ticking time bomb

    By Matthew Taylor 

    The recent report on Seniors reveals some serious underlying trends believes Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming.

    A mammoth survey on seniors released last year didn't reveal endless stories of untold woe – despite one shocking headline about poverty.

    But Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming believes the underlying trends are a ticking time bomb if not fully addressed.

    The Seniors' Test for Ageing and Trends (STATS) survey gathered data from 695 people aged 60 and over, and found that 35 percent of the Island's seniors make under $25,000 a year.

    That's at least $2,000 less than the poverty line, which was set at incomes of $27,000. And six percent said they had gone without food to pay bills.

    And yet Mrs. Fleming noted that 75 percent of seniors felt they were doing fairly well.

    "There was a study done in 1991 and another in 2004 and there was the same front page headline – it said 'One-third of seniors living in poverty'. When this new study was released it was the same headline."

    Sometimes advocates find it expedient to paint a bad picture because it gets attention to their cause, said Mrs. Fleming.

    But she added: "I am reluctant to do that particularly in this case, because seniors, in the largest survey ever conducted on seniors, have spoken very clearly that for the most part they are doing okay.

    "And who am I to argue with that?

    "More than 70 percent said they could afford health care services – which is probably contrary to what we would probably think – and they are generally satisfied.

    "Only a small minority reported a difficulty in getting around their homes – and most of them owned a car and used it."

    Most think public transport is accessible – but they don't use it – and less than one in ten experienced age discrimination.

    But Mrs. Fleming is not promoting complacency – for her the danger lies in how the next generation will tackle their old age given the financial squeeze and alarming health trends already apparent.

    She is disturbed that a high number of seniors are suffering from a medical condition – 78 percent. The top three ailments were high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol.

    "They are chronic diseases which can be expensive to maintain – they don't kill you, they go on and on and on. It might explain why eight in ten seniors say they are using medication."

    She said all those are ailments that could have been counteracted by a healthy lifestyle.

    "These are lifestyle diseases which speak a lot to our affluence – such as stress.

    "We have issues with obesity and the complications thereof.

    "We have diabetes and cholesterol and we will see an increase if we don't start to tackle this at a much younger age.

    "We felt we were not so concerned about this seniors' generation – but for the one after that we have lots of concerns."

    The STATS survey, the biggest of its kind, is designed to track these trends over time.

    "Once we do the third survey we will see really what's going on in the population."

    She fears if people don't save money or lead healthier lifestyles, the figures are going to work through to seniors of the next generation.

    And she is concerned about the decline in home ownership to 72 percent.

    "It was 75 percent in the 1991 study, in the last census, and the Fordham report in 2004. That too indicates an unhealthy trend.

    "I think seniors today had some very good practices – saving and the importance of buying a home – that we perhaps don't have. People over 65 now would have been taught to save – put a little away for a rainy day and buy your house."

    "I question Government's policy on affordable housing – if you don't have an effective affordable housing policy today what is it going to mean for the success of an aging population tomorrow?

    "If you are not saving, if your money is in investment accounts you can't access 'til you are 65 and you are not buying a home then how secure are you going to be?"

    And Mrs. Fleming fears that the coming generation of seniors could have their own financial plans further jeopardised by the need to look after their parents.

    "Over six in ten seniors have an expectation that their children are going to care for them, which again is a scary thought when you think those are the same people who are wondering how prepared they are to take care of themselves, let alone their ageing parents at the most expensive time of their life.

    "If your mother has a stroke and is hooked up to some machine but she is still alive, you have your children in college, you have your own retirement savings to think about and with five percent down on a mortgage on a $1.5 million house you have a big mortgage, then how are you supposed to manage?

    "The question for the government of the day is what role is it playing on long-term care?"

    She said nursing home care runs at $8-10,000 a month.

    "Do we have a long-term care system? How is it going to be financed with larger amounts of seniors with chronic conditions? They are going to live but be sick.

    "What is the plan to care for them? It is a scary time."

    She said the continuing care unit with 77 beds at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital would be axed when the new hospital was built within the next five years.

    "That means somewhere in the community we have to put at least 77 beds. How is that going to happen? Can someone tell us?"

    She said the Bermuda Hospitals Board's plan should have addressed that.

    "There's a waiting list so there is a demand.

    "I have heard the hospital will have a role to play in long-term care but the public needs to know.

    "I am in this business but I don't feel confident that anyone is looking at long-term care.

    "We need a plan. Although seniors might have this expectation that their children will care for them, in all likelihood they will not be financially equipped to do so.

    "The big picture everyone is missing is the healthcare system has to be revamped – no one wants to talk about it or think about it.

    "But if it is not catching everybody then it is not working for everybody – it has to be restructured. But who is going to take it on?"

    Last year Health Minister Nelson Bascome announced FutureCare would ensure seniors received full health insurance coverage by April 1, 2009.

    Mrs. Fleming believes that timeline is optimistic.

    "At this stage they are more gathering information than anything. It's a huge, complex issue.

    "We are losing those 77 beds, we lost Pembroke Rest home, the Sylvia Richardson home doesn't have the staff to operate at full capacity.

    "When you look at the facilities that traditionally do long-term care, they are either not equipped to deal with demand or they are not in existence."

    She said getting staff to cover long-term care was tricky and she understands Sylvia Richardson doesn't want to lower its standards, take just anyone, and put patients at risk.

    "We need some transparency and urgency."

    Elderly abuse hit the headlines recently. Mrs. Fleming said reporting of such incidents is on the rise but worried there could be much more nobody knows about given the lack of staff to monitor it.

    "We have just one intake worker and one case worker – one for the whole Country. The National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged needs to be beefed up."

    Asked what else she would love to change about the way Bermuda approaches the issue of the elderly, who made up 11 percent of the population in 2000, she said: "Let's plan the work and work the Plan – get serious about a strategy for the aged, and inform the public specifically about the resources that will be put in place for long-term chronic care."

    And she said it was time to listen to seniors themselves and distinguish genuine need from expectations, prioritise and determine how and when to meet both.

    Otherwise it would mean resources could be poured into something without knowing if it was really necessary, she explained.

    "It makes for an unbalanced approach to public policy."

    Reproduced, without permission, from The Royal Gazette


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    Monday, January 05 2009

    Reverse mortgages with safeguards will help seniors afford care

    Reverse mortgages with safeguards will help seniors afford care – Fleming

    By Matthew Taylor 

    Age Concern head Claudette Fleming has given backing to the reverse mortgage concept after claiming seniors were too often giving away their inheritance to relatives who don't care.

    And she urged more people to make a will to avoid being pressured by family members who didn't really have their best interest at heart.

    A recent wide-ranging survey showed that the seniors least likely to have wills were black females – yet they were the demographic with the highest home ownership.

    The Seniors' Test for Ageing and Trends (STATS) report showed 72 percent of pensioners have their own homes – down from 75 percent – and 51 percent are mortgage-free.

    Mrs. Fleming told The Royal Gazette: "Seniors are getting pressured into leaving their assets to a particular child because they haven't given it a lot of thought ahead of time.

    "We are seeing this, they get sick, they have a vulnerable moment.

    "Joey came to see them five times when they were in hospital, they leave their house to Joey, they get better but Joey is irresponsible.

    "Now the other children are unhappy with the decision she made and Joey is expected to care for mother when he never did in the first place."

    Mrs. Fleming urged seniors not to tell their heirs who was getting what in the will before they died.

    "We have this romantic idea that seniors were more valued yesterday than today. Not so.

    "In agrarian society seniors were valued because they had property, they had assets. If you wanted to inherit or come into assets you had to treat them properly.

    "In Bermuda we have this tendency to give away all of our assets to our children without them having to do anything. I think this is a practice that needs to stop.

    "We have to have a targeted campaign about wills and estate planning to black females in particular as well as the general public."

    However the survey showed seniors weren't terribly interested in the reverse mortgage concept, where people can cash in equity in their homes to pay bills.

    Yet home maintenance such as house painting could cost thousands, said Mrs. Fleming.

    "In Bermuda your home is a pretty important thing, not many people want to put their home in jeopardy."

    Some, particularly black families, fear there's the risk of losing legacies. But Mrs Fleming believe seniors should have options.

    "I don't think it is terribly humane to have seniors wilting away, ill, in a house they own. That makes no sense – or living with children who refuse to care for them.

    "If that home can be leveraged to get proper care I think that option should be available."

    She said reverse mortgages with proper safeguards and regulated by Government could work for those living in their own property.

    At the moment seniors can get credit for up to 30 percent of the value of their home from banks.

    "With a reverse mortgage hopefully you would get more – at the end the house could be sold or your heirs pay it off.

    "I think this is good for seniors too – I am concerned about seniors who live to leave their assets to children who don't want to contribute. It is causing problems."

    Reproduced, without permission, from The Royal Gazette


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    Saturday, May 16 2009

    Butler: ‘now is the time’ to address seniors’ issues

    This is a printer friendly version of an article from

    Butler: 'now is the time' to address seniors' issues::

    Article published May 16. 2009 06:49AM

    By Matthew Taylor, Amanda Dale - and Elizabeth Roberts

    The plight of Bermuda's seniors could be much worse than the recent survey on trends showed says Shadow Health and Seniors Minister Louise Jackson as she hit out at faulty statistics.

    She said by including the 60 - 64 year-old age category in the survey, it could inflate the health and wealth of a struggling group.

    Mrs. Jackson was speaking on a motion to debate Ageing Trends, a report produced by Government's Statistics Department for the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged.

    Conducted between November 2007 and April 2008, 695 seniors were interviewed for the survey which revealed seniors had a median annual income of $37,000 and spent an average of $450 on groceries each month and $227 on health insurance.

    More than one half of seniors owned their own home with no mortgage, while nearly one fifth had a mortgage with the median cost of $2,100 a month.

    One quarter of seniors had an income of less than $25,000 said the survey while one in five had incomes over $50,000.

    Mrs. Jackson attacked the way the statistics were produced, questioning why 60 - 64 year olds had been interviewed.

    She said: "Most of them work, most of them have health insurance, most of them drive, most of them have reasonable health.

    "Government should be concerned with the older, poor seniors not the employed."

    She said Government had not included a large number of pensioners in FutureCare, the new Government health coverage scheme for seniors, and those left out were paying bills of up to $1,500 a month.

    However Health Minister Nelson Bascome pointed out that seniors could get private insurance similarly priced to the Health Insurance Plan (HIP) and offering similar benefits, from two insurance companies.

    Mrs. Jackson noted that 19 percent of seniors had not stated their income. "Seniors are very proud people, many did not state their income because they were ashamed."

    She said some of Government's breaks for seniors, although welcome, would not necessarily help those worst off.

    Mrs. Jackson said free car licences and free passports would benefit those who had cars and could afford to travel, not necessarily those who needed financial help the most.

    She noted the report had shown six percent of seniors had foregone buying food in order to pay a bill again she wondered how that figure had most likely been lowered by throwing wealthy, working "seniors" into the statistical mix.

    She noted only four in ten seniors were satisfied with the health system.

    Culture and Social Rehabilitation Minister Dale Butler said the number of seniors was rising at an alarming rate.

    Bermuda has 8,155 people aged over 65 this year, representing 13 percent of the population.

    But by 2020, seniors will number around 11,129 according to projections, making them 17 percent of Bermuda's population.

    And by 2025 seniors will be one fifth of the population, numbering more than 12,000.

    "That's an increase of nearly 5,000 while the population will only go up by 1,500.

    "Clearly now is the time to assess resources needed to meet seniors' needs in the future."

    He noted seniors were concerned about safety as he warned about con men going door-to-door begging for money from kind-hearted seniors, using bogus reasons when they needed the money for drugs.

    Mr. Butler advised seniors to get a dog as they were great pets but were also useful protection.

    And he lamented seniors were falling prey to other cons, such as repairmen overcharging them.

    Sometimes the cheaters were within the senior's own family, said Mr. Butler, who added they were signing over houses to younger relatives who then did not care for them.

    He urged seniors to investigate reverse mortgages, also know as home equity loans, which allowed them to unlock capital in a house for medical expenses or even a cruise or a convertible.

    Mr. Butler said seniors should not feel guilty bequeathing homes which still had a mortgage, as their relatives were still getting a house which was mostly paid off and thus a bargain.

    Opposition MP John Barritt called for the creation of a separate Government Department for Seniors to assist in these matters.

    He said sometimes seniors could find themselves having their homes pulled from under their feet after transferring ownership of the property to relatives.

    "Seniors have been burned by their own family," he said.

    "After transferring ownership of the property to their children, five years later they find themselves out in the cold and not being looked after. And they've given away the asset and the leverage they have."

    He added: "A lawyer is not someone they can readily afford. I'm pleased to say Age Concern have a clinic once a year which is oversubscribed by seniors looking for advice on transfer of property."

    He said: "This is one area where seniors really need help, someone to whom they can go for advice.

    "I always thought the National Office for Seniors would fulfil this but it hasn't happened as far as I know.

    "The National Office for Seniors today in my view has become an abject failure. I don't even know what it's current status is.

    "In the current case I'm involved with, it wasn't even mentioned. That I think, is appalling because there is a critical and important role which that office and and should play as a centre for advocacy for seniors, an ombudsman for seniors.

    "I think seniors find this very frustrating. They are referred on and it's as if the problem is too challenging."

    Mr. Barritt said: "If we have that National Office for Seniors doing what it should be doing it could help fill this role, but maybe it's time to put that office out of Government and in an organisation like Age Concern.

    "It could help seniors when they have a problem to walk through the various stages, to be there to represent them."

    He also called for more investment into 'assisted living'. "Instead of seniors conveying their homes to their children we should advocate families staying together. In homes where they have the capacity we should encourage the building of apartments where families can live side by side."

    Mr. Barritt called for a Government department for seniors.

    He said: "It's time to recognise a separate department is necessary so we can pull all this stuff together and not have it shunted from one minister to another.

    "We need a national office for Seniors. Let's get on with that because this is a real area we need. We need to have a specific department and a minister who's responsible to pull everything together. It is long past time."

    But Government backbencher Walter Lister said the onus was on family members to look after seniors.

    "Family members have the responsibility because senior people have paid the price for all of us to get to the stage we're at today.

    "I think we have a responsibility to do all we can to ensure seniors have that quality of life."

    He said: "This Government respects the contribution seniors have made and at this stage we see no need to have a specific department for seniors because we are addressing their needs."

    See the continuation of the debate.


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    Monday, May 18 2009

    ‘We have not turned a deaf ear to seniors’ - Michael Scott

    'We have not turned a deaf ear to seniors' - Michael Scott::

     Article published May 18. 2009 08:48AM

    By Matthew Taylor, - Amanda Dale and - Elizabeth Roberts

    Continued from Saturday

    Opposition Leader Kim Swan then praised the work of Shadow Health and Seniors Minister Louise Jackson. "It's persons like Ms Jackson who do seniors proud," he said.

    He said that with the rising cost of living and health care, many seniors were "hurting". "We have got to find a way to make Bermuda far more affordable for our seniors," he said.

    "We need to value our seniors. They have made the sacrifice and so why should they be denied?

    "In such a growing population and in such a society where the economy has been such, our people are finding it hard to make ends meet so we do need some advocacy so they can cope. Our senior population is growing as it is."

    Junior Minister of Justice Michael Scott then praised Minister of Culture and Social Rehabilitation Dale Butler for presenting the report to the House.

    "It's a mark in the road for guidance for this Government some ten years into the governance of these islands," he said.

    Acknowledging Mr. Swan's remarks, he said: "People are hurting but our response to the cry of seniors has been a response of great provenance. We have not turned a deaf ear to seniors."

    He said Finance Minister Paula Cox had "given a consistent, conscious response to the needs of seniors".

    He added: "And Ewart Brown has been responsive to the expenses of health care, culminating in FutureCare.

    "We have not been unresponsive on this front."

    Mr. Scott said: "I will use all my efforts to shape in law protection – a protection investment act. There's an opportunity for justice and legal policy to be shaped to recognise the legacy of land holdings in the hands of many of our seniors.

    "The report speaks of 73 percent of home ownership. This is an incredible legacy, and this report is a guideline for us.

    "The report should help us shape further policy, that is what it is there for."

    He said Government had brought in "creative and innovative" solutions for the needs of seniors, such as FutureCare and the 100 homes at Rockaway.

    "Healthcare and affordable housing have been the two major areas of focus for our seniors.

    "We accept we have not completed the journey and there are seniors in this country who are experiencing challenging health care, housing and accessibility issues but the Government, now going into our 11th year, has been receptive to this after years of neglect.

    "And I think we can hold up our record as a record on which we can be proud."

    He said Government was now looking to introduce emergency shelters, free day care, continuing care units and independent residential units for people with Alzheimers.

    "We are looking at these initiatives all the time," he said. "Public private partnerships can be employed to help."

    Mr. Scott added: "I'd like to thank Minister Butler and his team for providing us with some statistics in which to base future policy."

    Pat Gordon-Pamplin, Shadow Minister of Works and Engineering, said some seniors can't afford food but are too proud to admit it.

    She said the problem with reverse mortgages is that some seniors would prefer to go hungry than give up the deeds to their house.

    Health Minister Nelson Bascome complained that all he had heard were "contrary remarks" from the Opposition. However, he said that of around 8,400 seniors in Bermuda, only 444 were on Financial Assistance. There are 3,100 who were on the HIP health care plan but are now on the upgraded Futurecare plan, he said.

    Shadow Minister of Education Grant Gibbons said some seniors may be entitled to Financial Assistance but are too proud to ask for it. And, he pointed out, Government has promised Futurecare for all seniors.

    Government backbencher Zane DeSilva said: "I can very confidently say that in my travels, not only in my constituency but around Bermuda in general, I am constantly reminded what a great job this Government is doing for its seniors."

    He pointed to the millions of dollars in profit that Bermuda's insurance companies make each year and suggested they should be asked to assist with programmes and with addressing concerns about seniors.


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    Thursday, September 17 2009

    Age Concern director calls for the return of an affordable health care option.

    Age Concern director calls for the return of an affordable health care option::

     Article published September 17. 2009 11:16AM

    By Ruth O'Kelly-Lynch

    Age Concern hopes private health insurers will put an affordable health care option back on the table while Government works to implement its unprecedented health care service.

    But its director Claudette Fleming has also asked Government to outline a clear timetable for the implementation of FutureCare.

    FutureCare is an ambitious health care programme which aims to offer all Bermudians over 65 the right to comprehensive health services for just $60 a month, less than $750 a year.

    Originally it was intended for everyone over 65 but Government has since decided to phase it in due to the financial climate.

    Approximately 30 percent of the Island's ageing population are currently enrolled in the programme.

    Its members also include persons on financial assistance, those who were enrolled into Government's basic health care programme, HIP, prior to April, and anyone born in 1944.

    However it has emerged that since the announcement of FutureCare that the private sector no longer offers a basic medical plan, which means seniors face paying between $5,000 and $18,000 a year for health coverage - or go without.

    "This is a very new issue where seniors do not have any affordable health care options," Mrs. Fleming said.

    "At first I didn't believe it was true when people said health care providers no longer offer a HIP equivalent [a basic health care option that covers hospital visits, one doctor's appointment a year and $1,200 towards prescriptions]. I understand that these providers are businesses and must make a profit, but we are hoping to come to a compromise.

    "We don't think Government was in a position to expand FutureCare [and offer it to everyone] but we hoped providers would be able to still offer the basic coverage, but we were told that it was not possible to do it."

    Mrs. Fleming said from a business point of view many of the insurance companies said they were unable to compete with FutureCare and offer comprehensive benefits at a low cost, but she now hoped they would be willing to step up to the plate and offer basic coverage at a fair price while Government is in the process of rolling out the programme.

    We are hoping to come to some sort of compromise situation," she said. "We are hoping that private companies could bring back basic health coverage until the time comes where Government is able to roll out FutureCare for everyone the caveat being that FutureCare will have to do it by a certain time."

    She said companies might feel more comfortable if Government announced a time frame for when it would be able to offer the programme in totality - ideally within the next two years.

    "I believe on both sides, the public and private, there is an interest to see senior care in Bermuda but we need to come to a middle ground. We are asking the insurers to see if there is anything they can do to assist with this issue in the short term."

    Government has said it is working on a proposal that will address the issue, though no further information has been made public. The second phase of FutureCare will be rolled out in April 2010, though it is not known how many people will be admitted or what the eligibility requirements are.


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    Tuesday, September 22 2009

    Saving for seniors is nothing new

    Saving for seniors is nothing new

    Article published September 22. 2009 01:53PM

    By Tricia Walters

    You would think that the one sector of our community that would be feeling the financial pinch more than anyone else would be our seniors. Yet despite the current economic situation, seniors are not complaining.

    That's according to the Executive Director of Age Concern, Claudette Fleming, who believes it's because over the years and thanks to previous recessions, this generation developed the necessary tools to save money.

    "They tend to have a habit of saving, which is phenomenal even to me," she says with a smile. "When I see some of the savings that chambermaids and taxi drivers have accumulated over the years, it speaks to me that saving is very important to them. In fact, many of them are surviving on their savings today and still managing to save on what little they have."

    Ms Fleming believes the general public can learn a great deal from their grandparents' savings habits in order to make ends meet.

    One example of this is to cook a large meal on the weekend and freeze portions of this meal to enjoy as leftovers during the week. She says it would have been unthinkable in her grandmothers' home to throw away food that was left on a plate after any meal. "It was packed in containers and kept for the next day," she recalls with a broad smile.

    Another tip — make sure you have money for unforeseen expenses.

    "What I find amazing in these economic times is that our Handyman Programme is expanding," Ms Fleming says. "You would think the last thing you would spend money on is home repairs, but we don't have one outstanding payment on this programme.

    "Once again rain day money was saved for home maintenance," she elaborates. "Seniors keep on top of maintenance for the most part and these things are seen as priorities over material things like clothing, eating out or travel."

    The Handyman Programme is a referral system operated by Age Concern who connect local contractors with seniors who need small home repairs and then vet work after it's done.

    Many seniors supplement their savings in a number of ways, sometimes by family: "They may share a car which they use during the day, or reside with a family member, or have family living in their home and share the costs. A common practice is that they might raise the children and be compensated for that."

    Here are some additional tips from Age Concern for seniors on how to stretch their Dollar:

    * Five percent discount on all grocery stores/pharmacies on Wednesdays

    * WOW offers free installation for seniors

    * Cellular One offers special packages for seniors

    * Age Concern are currently in discussions with Belco to offer seniors discounts

    * One final note, Bermudians 65 years or older are entitled to full relief from land tax on the unit that they occupy if they are the taxpayer for that unit. If you think you qualify, contact the Land Tax Officer at 297-7537 for more information or an application form.

    Ed. note - one pressing concern for many seniors is affordable health care, an issue that has been in the news recently with calls for greater access to the government run FutureCare programme.


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    Thursday, September 24 2009

    Government contemplates means testing for FutureCare

    Government contemplates means testing for FutureCare

    Article published September 24. 2009 08:11AM

    By Ruth O'Kelly-Lynch

    FutureCare could introduce means testing in future phases, despite the initial pledge that it would be a health-care plan for all citizens over 65.

    Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health, Warren Jones, said the Government is looking at a variety of options which will take into account Bermuda's growing elderly population for future phases of the health scheme, including means testing.

    The admission came after Government announced it would allow seniors who found themselves ineligible for FutureCare and unable to pay private coverage fees to join the Government's basic health care insurance, known as HIP.

    Health Minister Walter Roban said reopening HIP for seniors was an "interim solution" the Government wants to put in place to address the needs of seniors who have been left out in the cold because private health companies no longer offer a low-cost basic health coverage plan.

    Approximately 30 percent of Bermuda's elderly population was enrolled in the first phase of FutureCare in April this year, and $10 million has been set aside by Government to pay for it. Participants pay $260 a month to be covered.

    The second phase is expected to roll out in April 2010, though no details about who it will include or how much it will cost have been made public.

    Several insurers The Royal Gazette has spoken with have questioned how Government will pay for the comprehensive health care plan, particularly as the ageing population is expected to grow. All of them have said they believed means testing would be necessary.

    Currently, 13 percent of Bermuda's population are seniors the figure is expected to rise. By 2020, seniors will number around 11,129 or 17 percent of Bermuda's population, according to Department of Statistics projections. By 2025 seniors will represent one-fifth of the population, numbering more than 12,000.

    When asked if Government had taken into account the growing ageing population and if they planned to implement a means test making those who earn over a certain amount ineligible for the programme or pay more to be involved in it, Permanent Secretary Warren Jones said: "There are a lot of things we will consider for phase two and forward.

    "We have looked at a tiered system, certainly there are some that can afford more. We will be considering a number of options and one of those could be a tiered system. This does not relate to benefits but instead to the premium that would be paid."

    And he noted that the current $260 monthly premium could be raised in future phases.

    Mr. Jones' comments have shed more light on the complicated, and costly, issue of ensuring adequate care for seniors.

    Many have applauded the Government for forging ahead with the election promise to provide quality health care to every Bermudian over 65 via their programme, FutureCare. Others have said the intentions are noble, but questioned where the money will come from to fulfill the ambitious plan.

    Opposition MP Grant Gibbons, who is also a director of Colonial Insurance, has projected that without means testing and based on the current set up of FutureCare, the Bermuda Government, and tax payers, could be facing a health-care plan that costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year based on population trends and health-care cost inflation within the next decade.

    "The big issue will be trying to find something that is obviously an improvement to seniors but doesn't cost the rest of the Country too much," he said.

    One senior insurance provider, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was already concerned that the $10 million set aside for this phase of the programme was not enough. He calculated that it amounted to approximately $4,205 per person presently enrolled. He said a more realistic number would be $19 million, and that is just for a third of Bermuda's ageing population.

    However, Health Minister Walter Roban said yesterday he was confident the $10 million budget would meet the needs of FutureCare users.

    Another executive said he believed the Government would have to implement a means test because there would be too many seniors wanting to enter the programme.

    "I just don't see it working as it is currently set up," he said. "They will have to raise taxes, make budget cuts or implement means testing. There is no way they can pay for it the way it is set up now and with the number of people coming on to the programme."

    Claudette Flemming, Age Concern's director, said: "It is a legitimate question, should those that can afford to pay for private care get FutureCare? But then the question is how do you determine who can afford it?"

    With 25 percent of seniors living off $30,000 or less there are many incidents of seniors being land rich but cash poor, she said.

    But she urged Government to forge ahead and address the difficult questions: "It makes sense now to look at the issues as the senior population is getting bigger. If we start now we can work out some of the kinks before the population gets larger."

    HIP reactivated to cover shortfall
    in health insurance for seniors

    Government will bring back a basic health insurance plan for seniors ineligible for the first phase of FutureCare.

    This will mean that seniors who were ineligible for the Government's new senior health care scheme, FutureCare, but unable to pay between $5,000 and $18,000 for private policies will now be able to access basic health care.

    Health Minister Walter Roban said yesterday: "This Government cannot allow a situation to exist where there is no affordable health care coverage available for our seniors. It can be anticipated that the amendment to the Health Insurance Act will be passed in early November and seniors will be able to access HIP before the end of that month."

    The news ends uncertainly for many seniors who fell between the gap and found themselves unable to afford basic coverage.

    In April approximately 30 percent of Bermuda's seniors were enrolled in FutureCare. At that same time HIP Government's basic health care plan was closed to anyone over 64.

    At a fee of $241 per month, HIP enables participants to visit a doctor once a year and covers hospital visits. Persons enrolled in FutureCare pay $260 a month and are entitled to overseas health care, unlimited doctor visits, vision benefits, $2,000 a year towards prescription costs as well as other benefits.

    When FutureCare was rolled out there were private sector options for low-cost basic health care, but in the last few months the companies discontinued the policies.

    The next phase is not due to be implemented until April 2010. This meant that seniors not enrolled in HIP prior to April were left uncertain about their future if they were unable to pay higher premiums to private companies.

    "I am pleased to report that the Auditor General's chambers is presently drafting an amendment to the Health Insurance Act 1970 that will permit seniors to access HIP," Mr. Roban said.

    "This will serve as an interim solution whilst we move towards addressing the wider issue of affordability of health care in Bermuda and the second phase of implementation of FutureCare."

    Because both HIP and FutureCare are Government programmes Mr. Roban said they were unable to open HIP to seniors until an amendment went through Parliament, which reconvenes on November 6.

    The Health Minister said the Government was reopening HIP, but keeping the first phase of FutureCare closed to additional people, because the funding is not there to expand it.

    He added: "[FutureCare] will not support unplanned growth during the course of this fiscal year.

    "Secondly, we are building the claims experience in FutureCare to help inform our planning for this programme in the future.

    "The reopening of HIP to seniors represents a response to a real need that has come about through actions outside the influence of Government."

    The second phase of FutureCare will be implemented in April 2010, it is not yet known the eligibility requirements to enter the scheme at that time or how many additional people will be enrolled in it.

    FutureCare timeline

    * December 9, 2007 - Premier Ewart Brown says during a PLP pre-election press conference that FutureCare will "make the dreaded prospect of health care insecurity a thing of the past for our senior citizens".

    * February 15, 2008 - Health Minister Nelson Bascome says: "FutureCare will be a health plan for all citizens of Bermuda aged 65 and over and will ensure access to effective, safe, coordinated, and patient-centred health care."

    * February 20, 2009 - Mr. Bascome says during a Budget day press conference that the first phase of FutureCare will launch on April 1 for elderly people already enrolled in the basic state Health Insurance Plan (HIP) before January 1, 2009.

    * March 11, 2009 - The Minister describes the launch of FutureCare as a "historic landmark for this country" and says in its first year it will be restricted to those 65 and over presently in HIP, anyone turning 65 after January 1, 2009 and persons 65 and over deemed to be "indigent".

    * April 1, 2009 - HIP for seniors is replaced by FutureCare.

    * April 2, 2009 - Health permanent secretary Warren Jones tells The Royal Gazette that seniors could still join HIP and qualify for FutureCare after January 1, 2009. He says the programme was only closed to newcomers after the Minister's March 11 announcement and an influx of calls from pensioners wanting to sign up.

    Asked if the Island's seniors were informed before the March 11 speech that HIP would become closed to them from a certain date, he replies: "No, they were not informed as phase one of the programme was being designed for persons presently on HIP."

    He tells us that the requirement that seniors be in HIP in order to qualify for FutureCare "was not communicated to the public". He adds: "Nor was it our intent to do so."

    * June 18, 2009 - Opposition Senator Michael Dunkley suggests $10 million spent on 'dolphin mitigation' (at the new cruise ship pier in Dockyard) could have been better spent on social programmes such as FutureCare.

    * September 10, 2009 - Government flags up that private insurers who had provided a HIP equivalent, low cost, health package had ceased doing so. Newly appointed Health Minister Walter Roban said: "We have taken steps to fill this gap. Our Government programmes are established through legislation and therefore, the solutions will also have to be legislated."

    * September 15, 2009 - A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said: "When the Government initiated FutureCare there were private sector options. They no longer exist. The Government is presently reviewing a proposal to address this issue."

    * September 23 - Government announces it is reintroducing HIP for people over 65 as a result of private health insurers taking an equivalent low cost plan from their books. People over 65 who do not qualify for the first phase of FutureCare, and now find themself unable to afford the private options, should be able to enrol in HIP by late November.


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    Monday, September 28 2009

    FutureCare plan should be clearly outlined, says seniors’ advocate

    FutureCare plan should be clearly outlined, says seniors' advocate:: 

    Article published September 28. 2009 08:31AM

    By Ruth O'Kelly-Lynch

    A clear outline of the way forward for FutureCare would help alleviate seniors' stress over insurance coverage, according to an advocate for pensioners.

    Age Concern director Claudette Fleming said she was pleased to hear Government plans to reopen HIP to people over 65, but said many seniors were still anxious.

    "I am happy HIP has been reopened but we need the Government to give us a clear outline of expectations and dates," Mrs. Fleming said yesterday.

    "We need to see a plan from beginning to end of what is going to happen and how it will play out. At the moment, because we cannot see that, it can seem like they are making it up as they go along and they may not be. We need to have a clear plan so we are all on the same page."

    Last week Health Minister Walter Roban announced Government's intent to reopen HIP, a basic insurance plan for seniors, in November.

    He said the move was necessary as private health companies began dropping low-cost insurance plans in April, when Government rolled out the first phase of its health care programme FutureCare.

    HIP was closed to anyone over 64 when Government started up FutureCare. Thirty percent of seniors were admitted to the first phase of FutureCare. The rest of the Island's elderly population was expected to use private options and wait to see if they would be admitted in the second phase in April 2010. Soon after, however, private firms discontinued their HIP alternative. The cheapest available private plan is now $5,000 a year. HIP costs approximately $3,000 a year.

    Mrs. Fleming said seniors were stressed because they did not know if they would be admitted in the next phase and were unable to afford private options. Now that HIP has reopened they are entitled to basic coverage. Mrs. Fleming said this too was stressful because it has left many wondering when they will be eligible for more coverage and how much it will cost.

    "It has been very confusing for people in the industry, organisations like ours and seniors, because new information is coming out, sometimes daily."

    She said she believed the Government's actuarial study, which has not been made public, probably outlined how to phase the programme in and what the costs involved were. While she does not believe the actuarial study should be made public something some insurance executives have said would be helpful Mrs. Fleming does believe that Government should be making their overall plan public.

    How FutureCare has developed from 2007 election promise to today

    Age Concern director Claudette Fleming has called for Government to provide the public with a clear and detailed outline about how its health care programme for seniors will be rolled out in the coming years.

    The Royal Gazette takes a look at how FutureCare has evolved thus far.

    * December 9, 2007 - Premier Ewart Brown says during a PLP pre-election press conference that FutureCare will "make the dreaded prospect of health care insecurity a thing of the past for our senior citizens".

    * February 15, 2008 - The late Health Minister Nelson Bascome says: "FutureCare will be a health plan for all citizens of Bermuda aged 65 and over and will ensure access to effective, safe, coordinated, and patient-centred health care."

    * February 20, 2009 - Mr. Bascome says during a Budget day press conference that the first phase of FutureCare will launch on April 1 for elderly people already enrolled in the basic state Health Insurance Plan (HIP) before January 1, 2009.

    * March 11, 2009 - The Minister describes the launch of FutureCare as a "historic landmark for this Country" and says in its first year it will be restricted to those 65 and over presently in HIP, anyone turning 65 after January 1, 2009 and persons 65 and over deemed to be "indigent". This amounts to approximately 30 percent of the elderly population.

    * March 23, 2009 - Shadow Health Minister Louise Jackson said Government had "under-promoted" the deadlines for people signing up to FutureCare and claimed a lack of advertising meant many seniors had missed applying and were now out in the cold.

    March 25, 2009 - Minister Bascome replied: "Let me be clear, there is not now, nor has there ever been, an application process or deadline for persons to sign up for FutureCare." He said no one who was a member of HIP had been required to fill out FutureCare applications.

    * April 1, 2009 - HIP is replaced by FutureCare.

    * April 2, 2009 - Health permanent secretary Warren Jones tells The Royal Gazette that seniors could still join HIP and qualify for FutureCare after January 1, 2009. He says the programme was only closed to newcomers after an influx of calls from pensioners wanting to sign up following the Minister's March 11 announcement. Asked if the Island's seniors were informed before the March 11 speech that HIP would become closed to them from a certain date, he replies: "No, they were not informed as phase one of the programme was being designed for persons presently on HIP." He admits that the requirement that seniors be in HIP in order to qualify for FutureCare "was not communicated to the public", and adds: "Nor was it our intent to do so."

    * June 18, 2009 - Opposition Senator Michael Dunkley suggests $10 million spent on 'dolphin mitigation' could have been better spent on social programmes such as FutureCare.

    * September 10, 2009 - Government flags up that private insurers who had provided a HIP equivalent, low-cost health package had ceased doing so. Newly appointed Health Minister Walter Roban said: "We have taken steps to fill this gap. Our Government programmes are established through legislation and therefore, the solutions will also have to be legislated."

    * September 15, 2009 - A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said: "When the Government initiated FutureCare there were private sector options. They no longer exist. The Government is presently reviewing a proposal to address this issue."

    * September 23, 2009 - Government announces it is reintroducing HIP for people over 65 as a result of private health insurers taking an equivalent low-cost plan from their books. People over 65 who do not qualify for the first phase of FutureCare, and are unable to afford the private options, should be able to enrol in HIP by late November. Mr. Jones added that they were looking at implementing a two-tiered system where those that could pay more would. He added that it was just one of the options Government was looking at.

    April 2010 - The second phase is to be implemented. It is not known who will be eligible or how many people will be admitted.


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    Friday, October 16 2009

    HWP and Age Concern team up to offer discounts to seniors

    Article published October 16. 2009 07:50AM

    HWP and Age Concern team up to offer discounts to seniors::

    By Alex Wright 

    HWP Group and Age Concern have joined forces to set up a new partnership providing seniors with discounts on buying a new vehicle and maintenance.

    HWP signed the agreement to become Age Concern's latest LINK partner, which will provide seniors with products and services from the auto dealer's automotive, cycles and appliances divisions at a preferential price, with Age Concern members automatically being enrolled in HWP's '60+ Programme' and vice-versa.

    Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern said: "We constantly strive to bring more products and services to our members and the 60+ Programme exchange we've arranged with HWP Group will be beneficial to so many seniors.

    "It also means that if you are a member of HWP Group's 60+ Programme, you will receive free membership to Age Concern as a result of this partnership. Additionally, all members of Age Concern will have the opportunity to be enrolled into the 60+ Programme."

    The full benefits of the programme include $500 off any new vehicle purchase with free vehicle drop-off; free shuttle service to and from Hamilton for vehicle service; a five percent discount on labour and genuine manufacturer parts for vehicles; a five percent discount on appliances from Home Zone, free delivery and reduced fees on call out services; free transport of your vehicle for TCD testing and free tea or coffee with any purchase above $30 at St. John's or East Broadway Shell Stations.

    Jonathan Brewin, CEO of HWP Group, said: "We are all aware that Bermuda's population is ageing and that our seniors need to be taken care of. At the corporate level, we wanted to input and give something back to the community.

    "We developed the 60+ Programme with this in mind, and the partnership with Age Concern is the icing on the cake for our campaign."

    HWP Group and Age Concern will also organise a workshop on vehicle maintenance at Charities House in January 2010, while all HWP staff above the age of 50 will be given free membership to Age Concern.


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    Monday, October 19 2009

    Island’s disabled plan protest

    Article published October 19. 2009 06:18AM

    Island's disabled plan protest::

    By Owain Johnston-Barnes 

    Bermuda's handicapped are planning to protest to highlight the lack of public transportation accessible to them at the opening of Parliament next month.

    The Bermuda Handicapped Association (BHA) hopes to bring attention to the issue, which it believes has been treated by politicians as an afterthought. "The physically disabled are on the low end of their list of priorities," said Willard Fox of the BHA. "It's high time that something gets put in place."

    In 1993, Mr. Fox was a member of a task force that developed the Headway Report. The report made recommendations as to how Government could introduce public transportation for the handicapped.

    "The recommendations from the report were never implemented fully," he said. "Since that time there have been numerous attempts to address the issue, however no meaningful outcome has ever been realised.

    Earlier this year, Mr. Fox was invited to be a member of a task force spearheaded by the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs. He said a strategic plan capable of introducing transport options for the handicapped in the near future, was developed at the meetings.

    He said that he will be protesting to ensure that the issue will not be set aside any longer. "The physically challenged of this Country have waited long enough," stated Mr. Fox.

    "In fact, persons like myself have waited for this service for several decades. We deserve better, and hope not to be disappointed or let down again."

    While the Government has brought wheelchair accessible busses to the Island, Mr. Fox said that the busses which can only carry one wheelchair-bound individual were not brought to the Island for their accessibility.

    "The busses weren't brought down here for the disabled, they were built like that and then they were brought down," he said.

    Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming echoed Mr. Fox's complaints. "Public transportation right now is inaccessible for the handicapped," she said. "Yes, some of the ferry routes are accessible, like the Dockyard route, but the Watford Bridge route isn't.

    "Most of the bus stops are not safe for the handicapped right now. They're right on the road. The only way to fix that would be to purchase land, and that would be at least a ten- to 15-year-plan."


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    Friday, October 23 2009

    Seniors get help to move their mailboxes

    Article published October 23. 2009 07:44AM

    Seniors get help to move their mailboxes:: 

    By Chris Spencer

    The Bermuda Post Office and Age Concern have joined forces to help seniors move their mailboxes in compliance with new regulations.

    Seniors who may have trouble installing or moving their own mailboxes are able to make an appointment to have their mailboxes installed at the boundary of their property.

    "We want to make sure that seniors are in compliance with the new regulations to minimise the possibility of not receiving important pieces of mail like pension payment advice on time," said Claudette Fleming, Executive Director of Age Concern.

    Senior citizens who need assistance in this matter are asked to call Age Concern at 238-7525 to set up an appointment.

    Appointments are available on Saturdays between 12 noon and 5 p.m. A Post Office employee will come to the property to erect the mailbox.

    "The Bermuda Post Office is prepared to erect or move mailboxes for those who may not be able to do it themselves or those that may not have anyone to do it for them," said Craig Tyrell, Operations Manager of the Bermuda Post Office.

    "Our installer will only erect boxes on existing structures e.g. a wall, a post or a tree. He will not dig holes nor will he set posts in the ground. Residents will have to supply their own mailboxes."


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    Tuesday, November 24 2009

    Lifestyle Expo for over 50s may become an annual event

    Article published November 24. 2009 07:52AM

    Lifestyle Expo for over 50s may become an annual event:: 

    By Cathy Stovell

    A show aimed at people aged over 50 and looking at issues ranging from health to accessing the internet could become an annual event after more than 750 people turned up.

    Organised by Age Concern, the first 50+ Lifestyle Expo was held at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute earlier this month.

    Claudette Fleming, Executive Director of Age Concern called the event phenomenal. "We saw several new faces in the 50- to 60-year age group as well as those who have traditionally attended," she said.

    "I think we are successfully reshaping the conversation around ageing, that of embracing the opportunity to plan early and to stay active and engaged with purpose during the second half of life."

    She said Age Concern was aiming to foster an environment where life begins and gets better at 50. "That starts by making informed choices," she said.

    Liz Ward, consultant to Age Concern, said: "It was our hope to make the event an annual one and the response we've received has solidified in our minds that we will do this."

    She said feedback has also shown them how to improve the show next year and she said they will look for a venue where all exhibitors can fit on one level.

    "I personally think the reason they were all so pleased is that it wasn't just a travel, home or health show. Attendees could learn about downsizing, wills and estates, community involvement, how to use their cell phone and internet access it was all under one roof," she added.

    Ms Fleming also praised the involvement of businesses in the show, adding: "Age Concern is deeply indebted to our LINK partners and industry leaders who sponsored the Expo and are leading the way in tailoring their services to meet the needs of older people in Bermuda."

    Body & Soul attended a session showing seniors how to use their cell phones. Seventy-four-year-old Gilda Richards said she had come specifically to learn how to use her phone as she lost the instruction booklet. She said she got the phone for convenience and added piece of mind.

    "I got it about a year ago and to contact my husband. To let him know I've finished my meeting and am ready to be picked up, that type of thing." She didn't feel her age was a barrier to her being able to master it, and said that while she didn't know how to use most of its functions, she wasn't intimidated by it.

    "I am confident that I can use it," she said. "I just want to know how to work a few more things."

    CellularOne Marketing manager Diana Winfield was on hand at the session and said that seniors were a growing market for the business. Unable to divulge the percentage of its customers aged over 50, Mrs. Winfield said the company was sensitive to the needs of seniors.

    "People are so rushed today we pride ourselves that we take our time and explain to them how to use the phone correctly. We all had to learn at one point," she said.


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    Thursday, February 25 2010

    Bermuda National Standards Committee Accreditation of Age Concern Bermuda

    I am pleased to announce that the Bermuda National Standards Committee (BNSC) has certified Age Concern Bermuda.

    View Article


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    Monday, March 01 2010

    Age Concern gets charity certification

    This is a printer friendly version of an article from

    Article published March 1. 2010 07:30AM

    Age Concern gets charity certification:: 

    By Mikaela Ian Pearman

    Age Concern is now a certified charity, the fifth in Bermuda certified by the Bermuda National Standards Committee (BNSC).

    Chairman of Age Concern, Paget Wharton said the occasion was "momentous".

    Speaking at a press conference, Mr. Wharton said: "We are so very grateful to be here today to be recognised by the Bermuda National Standards Committee. As a registered charity in Bermuda, we aim to continue to rise to the call to undergo rigorous inspection of our work.

    "Likewise, as stewards of the funds that are donated to us on a daily basis, we see this level of accountability as our reasonable service for the trust that the public has placed in us to impact the lives of seniors in Bermuda.

    "With the help of so many of you, including our valued sponsors, Age Concern continues to grow from strength to strength, working towards that day in Bermuda when age will no longer be a concern."

    Minister of Culture and Social Rehabilitation Neletha Butterfield spoke at the press conference and congratulated the charity.

    "Age Concern is the fifth charity to become certified by BNSC. There are seven other non-profit organisation that have been accredited by BNSC for their work in human services. Age Concern joins a distinguished group of peers who have achieved certification and accreditation through BNSC by demonstrating the quality of their operations and activities at a high international recognised standard."

    David Lang, Chairman of the BNSC said: "Welcome to what is an exclusive club. We hope it's no longer exclusive. It's a lot of hard work to become certified. We need a national plan to look after me and all the rest of us. We need to have a plan to take care of us."

    Peter Carey, manager of the BNSC added: "We just wish to recognise that Age Concern is the twelfth organisation to engage in this process. We're very proud to present a plaque that recognises their achievement. This is more than an achievement. Congratulations and thank you for participating."


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    Tuesday, March 02 2010

    Age Concern head ‘extremely disappointed’ with FutureCare rate hike

    This is a printer friendly version of an article from

    Article published March 2. 2010 08:02AM

    Age Concern head 'extremely disappointed' with FutureCare rate hike:: 

    By Ruth O'Kelly-Lynch

    Government's decision to raise rates for FutureCare users got a thumbs down from the head of an advocacy group for seniors.

    Age Concern director Claudette Fleming yesterday said the organisation was "extremely disappointed" with the call.

    In the 2010 National Budget Statement presented to the House of Assembly Friday by Finance Minister Paula Cox, it was revealed persons eligible for the second phase of Government's comprehensive health insurance plan, will be required to pay $600 a month.

    Premiums will also increase for the 2,681 seniors who joined in the first phase from $262 to $300.

    An additional 5,471 seniors will be eligible for the second phase. Benefits include unlimited physician visits, $2,000 prescription drugs coverage, vision and dental care as well as overseas care when necessary. The second phase is open to anyone over 70, and anyone who turns 65 this fiscal year.

    Age Concern had initially endorsed the plan, describing it as a "bold way forward" that provided health care to seniors at an affordable price.

    Ms Fleming said yesterday: "It is with deep regret that we learnt through the announcement of the Budget the changes that are being made to the FutureCare plan.

    "However, we now find ourselves grappling to understand why the Government would almost double the price for seniors 70 years and older and further increase FutureCare premiums to those who currently subscribe to it. We would like to know what feasibility study was undertaken to determine the new premium and how many seniors in this age group can actually afford FutureCare at $600 a month."

    Ms Fleming said the charity understood why the first phase had focused on seniors already enrolled with Government's basic health care plan as such persons were likely to be able to afford a private scheme. However, she said, "We would also like to understand the rationale for permanently reopening HIP as an option for health care when the introduction of FutureCare was supposed to be the answer for HIP's shortcomings. Now, HIP is being offered without prescription drug coverage which will put its senior subscribers at a further economic disadvantage

    "We cannot support an increase of FutureCare premiums at any level, especially given the current economic crisis where families may not be in a position to help their older loved ones based on the economic challenges currently being faced by us all."

    Mrs. Fleming added that Government should do a thorough review of the plan and get input from seniors to better gauge what a reasonable premium would be. Private plans for seniors range between $5,000 and $18,000 a year and the benefits the private plans offer vary.

    Last week Health Minister Walter Roban said Government had spent a long time deciding the $600 premium for the second phase as they wanted it to be reasonable but also ensure FutureCare would be sustainable. And he said the benefits of FutureCare would cost approximately $1,000 a month in a comparable private healthcare scheme.

    "We feel that $600 is reasonable, especially when compared to the private sector," he said.

    On Government's decision to keep HIP open to seniors when it was originally closed to them for several months last year, Minister Roban said: "We wanted to give seniors choice, they can pay $241 for basic coverage, $600 for FutureCare, or they can go to the private system."

    The third phase opens April 1, 2011. Minister Roban said it would be open to seniors between 66 and 69, though he did not say what their premium would be.


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    Tuesday, March 02 2010

    Age Concern ‘troubled’ by private pension fund move

    This is a printer friendly version of an article from

    Article published March 2. 2010 08:08AM

    Age Concern 'troubled' by private pension fund move::

    By Robyn Skinner

    Bermudians need to save, not dip into their private pensions because of immediate financial concerns, according to the Executive Director of Age Concern.

    Claudette Fleming voiced concern yesterday over Government's decision to loosen restrictions on private pension funds.

    Finance Minister Paula Cox announced an amendment to the National Pension Scheme in Friday's Budget, that would allow the "partial withdrawal of accrued benefits on the basis of financial hardship".

    Ms Fleming said Age Concern was very worried that with 25 percent of the population set to be over 65 by 2020, accessing the fund now would leave little to live on in the future.

    "We find it additionally troubling that the public are being given the opportunity to access their pension funds prematurely," she said.

    "We truly empathise with those who are finding it difficult to make ends meet, but we strongly caution against the practice of tempering with retirement funds, whether public or private.

    "By 2020 almost one quarter of Bermuda's citizens will be over the age of 65 years. The Government of the day will have to think prudently about how to allocate resources to this population as it increases, during the same time the younger working population is decreasing.

    "Seniors may therefore have to rely heavily on their retirement plans as a primary, and in some cases sole, source of income if they have not planned adequately for their later years."

    She pointed out that the average monthly cost of a nursing home is $10,000 a fee that could fall on the shoulders of seniors' children. Legislation requiring all Bermudians between the ages of 23 and 65 to invest in a private pension fund came into effect in 2000. The funds were to be inaccessible until after retirement.

    The Pension Commission was tasked with overseeing the documentation and administration of the funds.

    The funds must be purchased through a handful of providers including Freisenbruch-Meyer Insurance, the Argus Group, BF&M, Bermuda Investment Advisory Services, and Colonial Insurance.

    William Madeiros, vice president and general manager at Freisenbruch-Meyer, said: "What took us by surprise was that people might be able to access their pensions. I think we have got to be in a desperate place to do that.

    "They are best left alone to continue to grow and enjoy some investment income. But it's really about waiting to see what the legislation is."

    BIAS CEO Robert Pires gave the move his support.

    "I do think the notion of allowing those in difficulty to partially withdraw their accrued benefits is a compassionate move on the part of the Minister. If managed by the Pension Commission, upon application and subject to proof of need, I would support this initiative."

    Reticence was voiced during a Chamber of Commerce meeting attended yesterday by Ms Cox.

    Butterfield and Vallis president Jim Butterfield said: "I am old enough to remember the days when people were allowed to get into their pensions to take out money. Sometimes they would do it for that trip they had to take, or that new car they had to have. I would hope you would not entertain that."

    The Finance Minister replied: "The ideal is that people should not dip into their pensions. "However, there have been many questions raised about this, coming at a time when people are at risk of losing their homes, because they are not able to come up with relatively minimal amounts of money, $10,000 or $5,000."

    Withdrawals from pensions would be allowed only in "prescribed cases of hardship", she said, adding that the criteria would be fleshed out in forthcoming legislation.

    "It's about hardship, so it's not going to be about getting off 'the rock' to go on a shopping spree."

    Gerald Simons, president and chief executive officer of the Argus Group, said after the event: "It is clear that the Minister of Finance understands this primary goal of a pension plan but she is mindful of the financial hardship that many people are facing in the current economic climate.

    "I believe that any rules allowing withdrawals will need to be drafted very carefully in order to prevent abuse and to preserve the integrity of Bermuda's private pension system."


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    Thursday, April 22 2010

    Free legal clinic for seniors

    This is a printer friendly version of an article from

    Article published April 22. 2010 06:31AM

    Free legal clinic for seniors::

    Seniors with legal concerns over issues like power of attorney can attend a free legal clinic for seniors next Thursday.

    The Age Concern seminar will feature lawyers from Mello Jones and Martin and takes place from 2.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. at Charities House, 25 Point Finger Road, Paget.

    Pre-registration is required and registration forms are available at Age Concern or by calling 238-7525.

    The seminar is open to all Age Concern members. Non-members can register on the day for $20.

    Seminar attendees can also book a free 20-minute consultation on issues including landlord/tenant issues, consumer issues, family law, personal injury, property/boundary issues and wills, trusts and estate planning. 


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    Tuesday, July 27 2010

    Age Concern holds health seminar for seniors

    This is an article from

    Article published July 27. 2010 06:06AM

    Age Concern holds health seminar for seniors:: 

    By Cathy Stovell

    The importance of good health was stressed to seniors at a health seminar last week.

    The event was organised by Age Concern.

    "Health is important if you want to keep your quality of life," said Claudette Fleming, the charity's executive director.

    She said a survey taken of seniors in 2008 showed they were interested in their health, but most were not eating healthy foods and were not exercising.

    It also indicated that 80 percent of those aged 60 and over were on some form of medication.

    Sarah Burrows of Live Healthy Bermuda and ophthalmologist Leonard Teye-Botchway of Bermuda International Eye Institute both spoke at the event.

    Ms Burrows spoke briefly on optimal blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, weight and waist measurements. She also explained how a device, Tanita, could help analyse body composition.

    The device is similar to a traditional bathroom scale in that it gives one's weight; however it also reads muscle mass, water and body fat levels.

    Dr. Teye-Botchway explained some of the most common eye diseases and conditions that happen as we age.

    He focused on cataracts, droopy eyelids, and sagginess under the eyes, macular degeneration and glaucoma.

    About 50 seniors attended the seminar. Janet Richardson, 71, said she found it informative.

    "I came to two meetings before I joined Age Concern," she said. "This is the second meeting since I joined. I am really trying to patronise them because they put on a lot of good programmes."

    Body & Soul this week concentrates on the glaucoma section of Dr. Teye-Botchway's presentation. Other areas he spoke on will be featured in detail in subsequent weeks.


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    Saturday, August 28 2010

    Amputee completes 1,000-mile cycle trek across Great Britain

    This is an article from

    Article published August 27. 2010 06:10AM

    Amputee completes 1,000-mile cycle trek across Great Britain:: 

    By Nadia Arandjelovic

    A 64-year-old amputee and triple bypass survivor has returned from a seven-week cycling trip across Great Britain a changed man.

    James McCulloch said the 1,000-mile journey from Land's End, the southern most tip of the UK, to John O'Groats, at the top of the UK, improved his health and fitness.

    More importantly, he said the adventure taught him about the kindness of others and how to count life's little blessings.

    "The generosity has inspired me both here and in the UK. The support I have received both from friends, colleagues and complete strangers has cheered me up enormously.

    "I also have an enormous sense of achievement that I did it. There were times when I wasn't sure I would finish but I did."

    Mr. McCulloch completed the cycling feat to raise money for Age Concern Bermuda — a support charity for seniors — and met several people along the way who instinctively gave.

    "Once I explained what I was doing they just put their hands in the pockets and gave me some pounds [sterling]," he said.

    He met some businessmen in the lobby of a hotel and after speaking briefly one reached into his pocket and gave him £20. Two elderly women in Inverness, Scotland, also went into their handbags and gave Mr. McCulloch cash.

    "The shopkeepers and the bed and breakfast landladies gave me money without being asked. On top of that people went online where there is a method for donating electronically."

    So far Mr. McCulloch has raised between $6,000 and $7,000 for Age Concern, but hopes to raise even more in the weeks ahead.

    Outside of financial donations, people from around the world tracked his progress each day on his blog.

    Family and friends also rooted for him, including one of his youngest supporters, his six-year-old granddaughter Kiara. Her class at Saltus Cavendish had a map on the wall and stuck pins in it from time to time as the journey progressed.

    Mr. McCulloch had some health challenges along the way, particularly with his amputated leg. He also had some trouble cycling through the hilly parts of the UK, like Devon and Cornwall.

    Still he said for the most part he was "very fortunate" and got some of the best weather in British history.

    "There was glorious sunshine. In all seven weeks of riding there were only three days where I had to wear my wet weather gear. I was also fortunate with the bike. I had no punctures, no breakdowns. I was able to just keep on going.

    "My own health was good and held up. I had some troubles with my knees and with my prosthetic leg, but apart from that it was fine. I just took a few rest days off to recuperate and then got back on the road again.

    "My accommodation was fine — it was bed and breakfasts and motels, and I was met by some friends living in the UK who came to say hello on the way," he added.

    Though the journey usually takes cyclists between ten and 14 days to complete, Mr. McCulloch took time to explore the British countryside.

    He said he liked that he could choose whether to have a hard and fast day or saunter along on the bike, stopping to explore churches or to chat with someone working in the fields.

    In fact, he said crossing the finish line was a bittersweet moment. "Although there was this great sense of achievement and it's over, it's finished, and it's a relief, there was a part of me that didn't want to stop. There was a part of me that wanted to keep going.

    "It was probably because your whole life is resolved to one bicycle and nothing else. That is all there is, and you decide when you are going to go, you know where everything is in your pockets and pouches.

    "You are completely self-contained. I found I liked the solitude of it all, that only I am going to decide where I am going to go to tomorrow, how far I am going to reach."

    Mr. McCulloch plans to continue cycling to stay fit and later down the road hopes to explore America, Australia or New Zealand by motorcycle or car.

    Cyclist McCulloch has raised thousands of dollars for charity

    James McCulloch, 64, just completed a 1,000-mile cycle across the UK to raise money for Age Concern Bermuda.

    He has so far raised between $6,000 and $7,000 and is hoping that more money will pour in over the next few weeks.

    Marilyn Ball, director of programmes and administration for the charity, said the organisation was "grateful" for his support.

    "Age Concern and their board of directors was delighted to hear that James had accomplished his bike ride goal and congratulates him on this amazing personal achievement," she said.

    "He has made quite a favourable impression, particularly as he is a retiree who has recovered from serious health challenges.

    "We are grateful to individuals and organisations who have made a contribution as a result of his appeal in the form of donations to our charitable organisation to support our efforts in linking seniors to services."

    To donate visit or


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    Friday, November 12 2010

    50 is not too late to get started

    This is an article from

    Article published November 12. 2010 06:15AM

    50 is not too late to get started:: 

    By René Hill

    Want to know how to plan for retirement and live healthy?

    The topics will be the focus of a keynote address by Cindy Trimm at tomorrow's 50+ Lifestyle Expo.

    When people haven't planned for retirement there is fear surrounding a time in their lives that should be enjoyable, she said.

    "Most people have not planned for this state.

    "And even as we talk about 50-plus there are a whole pile of people in this world that actually started their businesses after 50."

    Bermudian Dr. Trimm is the head of Cindy Trimm International in Atlanta, Georgia.

    She works as an empowerment specialist, is the author of several books and has been honoured by organisation here and abroad for her work.

    "It's funny when I was asked [to be the keynote speaker], of course I agreed, but for every one engagement there is another ten that I have to say no to," she said.

    "So I was so proud and happy to be invited back to my Country."

    She continued: "[People over the age of 50] can be considered amongst those that are changing the world we have wisdom, we have experience, and we should be looking at making a difference and leaving a legacy behind for the next generation."

    Strategy is an important part of moving towards retirement, Dr. Trimm added.

    "Are you living with a strategy? Because you cannot go from day-to-day without a strategy. Most people's strategies are obsolete, they no longer work. Your strategy helps you to deal with life, crisis, problems.

    "We really need to have a strategic plan for the next 50 years of our lives."

    Dr. Trimm will speak at CedarBridge Academy at 11.30 a.m.


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    Wednesday, March 23 2011

    Challenges ahead as seniors become a larger part of Island’s population

    Challenges ahead as seniors become a larger part of Island’s population
    By Nadia Arandjelovic

    The Island’s seniors may need to consider working past age 65 or starting retirement savings earlier to deal with costs associated with an expanding elderly population.

    Former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Carl Musson, said between the year 2000 and 2030 the population of working citizens was expected to decline by 6.7 percent from nearly 40,000 to 37,300.

    Like many other countries around the world the percentage of seniors in Bermuda’s population is set to increase, doubling from 11 percent to 22 percent by 2030.

    This demographic shift will mean that Government’s revenue will decline as the work force gets smaller, Mr Musson said. This will challenge Government’s ability to provide additional services for seniors.

    Speaking at the National Conference on Aging being held this week, he made several recommendations to better support and sustain the Island’s aging population.

    He said he understood there was no “legal retirement age” and said: “I think what draws this retirement at 65 is when pensions kick in, but as far as I know there is no legislation that forces people to retire at 65.”

    Mr Musson said it might also make sense to appoint a financial advisor to give money advice to seniors or revise mortgages for those who are “property rich and cash poor”.

    Also present at the conference was Daniel Cotlear, a lead economist for the Human Development Network, Nicola O’Leary, Senior Officer for the Sustainable Development Unit, Virloy Lewin, a health promotion officer for the Department of Health and Robyn Montarsolo, a clinical psychologist at Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute.

    Health Minister Zane DeSilva kicked off the event by encouraging the Island’s seniors to take part in “active aging”.

    This is the ability to keep up with social, economic, cultural, spiritual, and civic activities in addition to staying physically active or participating in the work force, he said.

    “There are many reasons why active ageing is important to a community. There are also many things that a community can do to encourage active ageing as well. For example, we can develop elder friendly communities and encourage intergenerational interaction.

    “In order for society to benefit, we must start the process now and not only for existing seniors but for the young man and woman in their 30s who will become seniors one day.

    “These are revolutionary times that need revolutionary thinking. We need to develop policy but not in isolation. We also need to develop plans for the implementation of that policy.”

    Ms Lewin said people could ensure they were ageing healthily by cutting out negative behaviours like smoking, alcohol and sedentary lifestyles.

    According to Ms Montarsolo mental health problems such as dementia and depression affecting the elderly population are “not a normal part of ageing”.

    She said people showing the first signs of these conditions should receive early intervention, while the problems are manageable. And stated that one-third of seniors were not receiving proper health care assessment or formal diagnosis for these illness, in part due to fear or stigmas attached to mental illness.

    Dr Cotlear presented findings from a study on Latin America and explained that people’s income peaked at the age of 40 to 43; while in OECD countries the peak was around 50 years old.

    After that age, wages and productivity tended to wane, he said, adding that consumption for seniors far outweighed their income levels in Latin America.

    He said countries like China had laws making adults legally responsible for the elderly people in their families, while some Latin American countries like Brazil and Chile had developed social security systems that covered nearly 80 percent of the population.

    On Monday, Premier Paula Cox said people needed to be willing to have frank conversations about issues such as pensions if Bermuda was to tackle its growing ageing population.

    Ms Cox said: “Serious discussion will occur with regards to pensions and the framework.”

    She added that people had to be willing to come to the table and talk through the critical issues if any changes were going to be made. Ms Cox said everyone may not be happy with the outcome of the talks, but Bermuda had to sort out important issues as the number of elderly will increase while the number of working will decrease.

    She added that young people looking to enter a new line of business should consider meeting the care needs of seniors through home care and continued care as it was one area where there was a gap in the market.

    On Friday Mr DeSilva said: “Over the past four years there has been a significant effort to identify the issues that will impact on seniors and will have to be managed in the long term. We have determined that the best way forward is to have a national strategy.”

    He said the conference would provide decision makers, service providers, caregivers and seniors with a range of information and would help identify services gaps to better meet the needs of seniors.


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    Wednesday, March 23 2011

    Islanders face being forced to work after 65

    Islanders face being forced to work after 65

    Experts say seniors will have to stay employed to help support our aging population

    Raymond Hainey
    Senior Reporter

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    WEDNESDAY, MAR. 23: Islanders may have to keep working for years after they turn 65, experts said yesterday.

    Bermuda faces a demographic time bomb with the number of residents aged 65 or older likely to exceed those of working age by 2025.

    It means people could be forced to work longer than ever to sustain the costs of supporting a larger population of retirees.

    Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern, said: “This has to happen and has happened in other industrialised countries.”

    She said extra money would have to be found for training schemes for older people to allow them to keep working.


    She added: “Older people may have to shift careers because they might not be as physically fit.

    “A lot of legislative work has to be done as well.”

    A falling birth rate — due to women with careers having smaller families later in life — plus increasing life expectancies have resulted in a larger number of people of pensionable age but a smaller pool of people of working age to support them.

    Ms Fleming said: “There are implications in terms of policy because whatever we do now, we are writing a cheque younger people will have to honour later on.”

    She was speaking after the two-day National Conference on Ageing, held at Fairmont Southhampton Resort, yesterday.

    The U.K. is to raise the official retirement age and eligibility for a state pension from 65 to 66 in 2020. A further increase has not been ruled out.

    The move is expected to save more than $7.8 billion over the next four years.

    Health Minister Zane DeSilva told the conference: “Our vision is to see a Bermuda where seniors are considered a valued sector of our community and have a role to play in the development of our country based on their experiences and abilities.

    “We have a responsibility to ensure that they live in an environment which allows them to continue to contribute and the systems that encourage that contribution are sustainable. Part of our plan involves the concept of ‘active ageing’, which represents a real shift from the current model of ageing as a dependent stage of life.

    “Active refers to continuing participation in social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic affairs — not just the ability to be physically active or participate in the workforce.”

    Mr DeSilva said that to live a more active life when you are a senior, people must look after themselves in their youth.

    He added: “In order for society to benefit, we must start the process now — not only for existing seniors but for the young man and woman in their 30s who will become seniors one day.


    “Healthcare and long-term care are not the only issues that need to be addressed.

    “If we are to deliver on the vision of active ageing for Bermuda, we have to look at much more than just medical care and nursing homes.”

    Ms Fleming also believes young people have a responsibility to prepare financially for their senior years and should look after their health so they can stay fitter for longer.

    She said: “People have to look at investments and pensions almost from when they start work and at the condition of their homes to make sure it won’t lead to large and unexpected bills.

    “People will have to retire and if they are sick and older, it will be the most expensive part of their lives in terms of healthcare.”


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    Wednesday, March 23 2011

    Ministerial remarks: National Conference on Ageing

    Ministerial remarks: National Conference on Ageing

    Remarks by Minister of Health Zane DeSilva

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    TUESDAY, MAR. 22: Welcome to Day Two of the National Conference on Ageing.

    Yesterday, this Conference addressed the current status of seniors in Bermuda – where we are now and how we got here.

    You heard from the Honourable Premier regarding the commitment of this Government to develop a strategy which will provide sustainability for the changing demographic shift we are currently experiencing.

    Several speakers identified seniors as the fastest-growing segment of our population.

    You have all heard and seen the numbers:

    • 11%, or 6,722 people were elderly in the year 2000;
    • the 45 to 64 year age group increased from 20% of the population to 24% between 1991 and 2000;
    • indications are that by 2025 the senior population (those over the age of 65) will outnumber the youth population.

    An increasing elderly population, coupled with a shrinking pool of local working age people, has serious long term implications for the Government.

    Yesterday you also heard from Dr. Astwood, who spoke on the need for accountability from not only Government, but from society as a whole. And as the day progressed, you deliberated and reached a consensus of our current state of affairs.

    Knowing and assessing where we are now is vital to planning where we WANT to go – where we NEED to go – in the future.

    There is a saying: “If we don’t know where we are going, we will end up somewhere else”.

    Well, ladies and gentlemen, I believe Bermuda is a country that charts its own path – that knows where it’s going.

    We are stewards of our own destiny.

    This Conference is about our current seniors, but it’s also about providing for future seniors.

    We do not wish to respond just to the present needs – we also need to look to the needs of the future.

    Today we move toward the future.

    Today you will hear about the Global impact and implications of ageing.

    You will also hear about the options available for funding and sustainability. Together, you will provide the Government with a series of ideas that will form the next steps in the development of a National Plan.

    As the Minister responsible for seniors, I would like to start by explaining my philosophical approach and vision.

    I believe that we must have a vision for how our people should be treated and served and that this vision should be based on fundamental principles of human rights and in the context of local and cultural norms.

    However, we must not simply maintain the status quo. We should be prepared to be creative and to think outside the box.

    When it comes to seniors, my Ministry believes that seniors should be able to lead active lives but that this process does not start at 65.

    We believe that ageing is a process.

    It is a natural part of life, and it is difficult to understand how one can embrace birth and youth as important elements of living but have negative perceptions about growing old.

    Becoming a senior is just a part of life’s continuum and has its appropriate role in the system.

    Your Conference Programme has a diagram that depicts what are considered to be essential service requirements for seniors.

    There may be some disagreement about the elements in the outer circle, but there can be no disagreement that the focus must be on seniors and that there are four general, or high level, requirements:

    • long term care,
    • health care,
    • community-based social services, and
    • access to services.

    What we have to determine is:

    • what systems we will develop to ensure that these elements are provided, and
    • who will be accountable for their delivery.

    To date we have not always done very well at identifying who is accountable.

    Yesterday, Dr. Cann told you about several reports and studies connected with seniors, but much of that work had gone undelivered in a logical and deliberate manner.

    This has not been a good use of manpower or resources.

    We must take stock, and establish a system that ensures sustainability and addresses the needs of subgroups within the senior population and has accountability for delivery.

    What we have to determine is:

    • what are the benefits of becoming a senior;
    • what roles seniors should have; and
    • how seniors should be treated.

    Our vision is to see a Bermuda where seniors are considered a valued sector of our community and have a role to play in the development of our country based on their experiences and abilities.

    Therefore, we have a responsibility to ensure that they live in an environment which allows them to continue to contribute and that the systems that encourage that contribution are sustainable.

    How do we achieve that?

    First we must have a commitment to have a plan.

    We must agree on the way forward, and we must ensure that we have the opportunity to evaluate progress and make changes when we are not delivering.

    Part of our plan involves the concept of “Active Ageing” which represents a real shift from the current model of “ageing as a dependent stage of life”.

    “Active” refers to continuing participation in social, economic, cultural, spiritual, and civic affairs – not just the ability to be physically active or participate in the work force.

    There are many reasons why active ageing is important to a community. There are also many things that a community can do to encourage active ageing as well. For example, we can develop elder friendly communities and encourage intergenerational interaction.

    In order for society to benefit, we must start the process now – and not only for existing seniors – but for the young man and woman in their 30’s who will become seniors one day.

    These are revolutionary times that need revolutionary thinking.

    We need to develop policy – but not in isolation.

    We also need to develop plans for the implementation of that policy.

    In our current world, which has a growing population of older people, we have to view ageing as a life-long and society-wide phenomenon.

    The pictures around you display seniors being active.

    This is very deliberate.

    We want you to grasp the concept of active ageing.

    We want you to have images fixed in your mind of seniors being engaged in some activity…so as you deliberate you will be able to move Bermuda towards this new concept of active ageing.

    But why act now?...

    The current global financial crisis and its impact on Bermuda demands a new approach to business.

    The past three years have clearly shown that the global economy excludes no region or country.

    It has demonstrated that we are linked more than we were prepared to admit in the past.

    The need to have a strategic, evidenced-based, well researched and formulated National Ageing Plan has been identified as we looked at our healthcare systems.

    Recognition must be given to my predecessors, the former Ministers of Health, the late Honorable Nelson Bascome, JP, MP, and the Honorable Walter Roban, JP, MP for their vision.

    In 2009 the Honorable Premier, at the request of Minister Bascome, transferred the National Office for Seniors and Physically Challenged to the Ministry of Health.

    This was intended to improve the synergy between the functions of that Office and the projects within the Ministry of Health.

    What became clear is that the threads that link the different parts of the system providing services to seniors weaves a complex pattern.

    Issues such as respite care, elder abuse, long term care, community support for care givers, transportation and financial aid are all threads within the same fabric.

    Pull one thread, and the pattern in another part of the fabric can be impacted.

    It was clear that we needed to have a holistic approach to resolve the issues.

    Here are some expectations that have been agreed on by one of the pre-conference subcommittees:

    • Persons who wish to, and are able to, should be cared for in their own homes;
    • Residential long term care should not be the first, nor only, option, but one of a wide range of housing options;
    • Facilities should provide a continuum of care so that residents don’t have to relocate when their needs change;
    • Health promotion and prevention should be key components of home healthcare delivery;
    • Seniors should have choices regarding transport that take in to account their differing needs and abilities;
    • Informal care givers should have access to support; and
    • Seniors should have easy access to information about, and be familiar with, the range of services offered on the island.

    These are just a few of the expectations that already exist.

    However, along with expectations is a need to identify gaps in the process.

    Yesterday you heard from a number of speakers who identified a range of gaps in the system.

    In the past, we have not been good at addressing the gaps.

    We have talked a lot, documented a lot but we have experienced challenges when it comes to implementation.

    Don’t get me wrong…I am not saying nothing has been done, accomplished or achieved.

    What is being said is, that in order to be effective, we need to have a plan that allows us to implement in a logical and methodical fashion.

    That has been the missing piece.

    We need to plan and in order to have a plan we need to collaborate at the national level.

    However it is the Government that must take the lead on the development of policy.

    Sometimes we might need to be pushed and pulled, and that’s the role of the advocacy groups.

    But the Plan belongs to the country, and the Government is responsible and accountable for that Plan.

    There are fundamental questions to be answered, and the answers will determine how we, as a society, look after one of our more vulnerable groups.

    But even that statement may be a misnomer.

    It implies that all seniors are vulnerable.

    Are we sure of that? Would all of you agree with that?

    Are seniors more vulnerable than any other segment of the population?

    Or are seniors a contributing, valuable part of our larger population?

    The timing of this Conference couldn’t be better from the point of view that it ties in with the recently released National Health Plan Consultation Paper.

    We believe that the National Health Plan will lay the foundation for a 21st century health system for Bermuda

    The National Health Plan has two pillars: equity and sustainability. These are the core values that we propose should be the foundation of our health system.

    In addition, the Plan has eleven goals which are designed to achieve those core values.

    Many of these goals will address issues faced by our seniors, but as you continue with your deliberations today, I ask you to remember that healthcare and long term care are not the only issues which need to be addressed.

    If we are to deliver on the vision of Active Ageing for Bermuda, we have to look at much more than just medical care and nursing homes.

    We have to consider:

    • The environments in which are seniors live,
    • Physical accessibility issues,
    • Nutrition programmes,
    • Legal issues,
    • Financial issues,
    • The challenges faced by care givers;
    • Family dynamics, and many, many more.

    Please spend your day productively. Put your heads together and make sure that the two days that you spend here result in:

    • a Plan that you can be proud of;
    • a Plan that can be implemented; and
    • a Plan that will benefit all seniors in Bermuda.

    Thank You.


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    Thursday, March 31 2011

    Age Concern calls for help for seniors over health care costs

    Age Concern calls for help for seniors over health care costs

    Age Concern today criticised Government for increasing the cost of health insurance and called for immediate help for seniors on the Island.

    “It is with a great deal of disappointment and regret that we have heard the news that premium plans for FutureCare will rise from $600 to $635, and that Heath Insurance Plan (HIP) premium will also rise to $384 a month starting April 1,” said Executive Director of Age Concern Bermuda Claudette Fleming.
    The Board of Directors of Age Concern Bermuda met recently to discuss the potential impact of the increases, particularly during the recession, and determined it could not support the increases. The meeting also agreed that Government should review the high cost of health care for seniors, particularly the costs of the FutureCare programme “that was designed among other things, to minimize health insurance costs”.
    Ottiwell Simmons, Age Concern Board Director, said: “Surely we cannot ignore the cries of dissatisfaction from our ageing citizens.”
    Mr Simmons urged that more effort be given to reducing the spectrum of healthcare costs experienced by seniors, including the provision of health care services rather than transferring the burden of payment onto seniors who are on fixed incomes.
    Age Concern said it has received inquiries demanding that something be done about the extremely high cost of every aspect of health care and Age Concern Director and long-term insurance, Charles Jeffers said: “Our ageing population is seeking immediate help in this regard.
    “The news of another increase, particularly during these challenging economic times is causing us to seriously question whether the current configuration of the FutureCare and HIP programs are sufficient enough to sustain the health and well-being of our seniors.
    “I feel very passionately that we must implement a new and radical change in the provision of health care services and health care coverage in order to safeguard the health and financial well-being of everyone, especially our seniors.”
    In a statement Age Concern said it “has been very gracious in its response to recent budget cuts for several ageing programs, including its own, in recognition of the dilemma that there is a shrinking tax base in which to support Government efforts”.
    But the statement added: “However, we cannot seek to pay our current bills at the expense and health of our older citizens who have already provided so much to this country. A line must be clearly drawn between the optional and the essential.
    “Affordable healthcare for seniors must remain an essential priority, to do anything less will equate to a significant failure of the Government to make good on its promise to our elders. We must honestly ask ourselves if the current state of affairs is honourable or acceptable.”


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    Friday, April 15 2011

    Elder abuse law needs teeth, says activist

    Elder abuse law needs teeth, says activist

    By Sam Strangeways

    Not one person has been convicted under a law passed three years ago to protect Bermuda's seniors from abuse, The Royal Gazette can reveal. And the only case to make it to court under the Senior Abuse Register Act 2008 was thrown out by a magistrate due to insufficient evidence.
    The legislation allowed for the creation of a register of offenders for inflicting physical, emotional, financial or sexual abuse on the Island's elderly and brought in fines and jail sentences for those convicted. But so far there are no names on the list.
    Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming says the charity receives constant calls from people concerned about the suspected mistreatment of seniors, which it refers to the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC).
    Recent cases include two elderly people living without electricity at separate properties.
    But Ms Fleming said the NOSPC didn't have the resources or power to properly deal with the allegations and suggested Government should pump more money into helping seniors.
    “We knew from the beginning that the Senior Abuse Register Act needed a lot more teeth,” she said. “It has to be done with more frequent monitoring. The National Office has to be given the resources to do this job well.”
    The charity boss claimed Bermuda lacked the infrastructure necessary to prevent abuse and needed the equivalent of child protection officers for older people. John Payne, acting manager of the NOSPC, told The Royal Gazette only one person had been prosecuted so far under the 2008 law. “They were not convicted,” he said. “The magistrate threw the case out because the burden of proof that was being used, the magistrate wasn't satisfied.
    “The issue, as I understand it, was the prosecution was using the standard normally in a civil case which is less than would be required in a criminal case.”
    He added: “No one has been prosecuted in the past year-and-a-half. So no one is on the register. There have been several investigations [including] one that required that a domestic protection order be obtained. This was a family member and not a care worker. Many of the complaints that are investigated relate to family members or care workers, where there is an unhappy situation.
    “Often, once investigated, there is no need to follow through with prosecution. We resolve matters by clarification of roles or assist the family or care giver to put a proper care plan in place.”
    Mr Payne, who is the Senior Abuse Registrar, said statistics on the number of abuse allegations received by the NOSPC were not “available at the moment”. And he added that the goal of the legislation was “not really to have a lot of people locked up or on the register”.
    “We work closely with the Attorney General's Chambers and the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the police service,” he said. “The legislation is relatively new and we are clarifying the role of the Registrar and the legislation as we proceed. One area that we are focusing on is awareness.”
    He said it was more beneficial to the community to increase the understanding by professionals of their responsibility regarding reporting; to clarify what abuse is; and to reduce the frustration by family members and care givers by NOSPC acting as a resource for services and information.
    Shadow Health and Senior Minister Louise Jackson said the law had not been a success.
    “Today we still have a Registrar and an Act that the average person in Bermuda doesn't know anything about. Senior abuse on many levels is still happening.”


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    Wednesday, April 20 2011

    Double blow for needy islanders

    Double blow for needy islanders

    Help agencies see demand soar as funds get slashed

    James Whittaker
    Senior Reporter

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    WEDNESDAY, APR. 20: Sweeping budget cuts have crippled Bermuda’s ability to help the most vulnerable at a time when they need it most.

    With Government’s own Financial Assistance programme slashed by $1million, charities and non-profit aid agencies are struggling to pick up the slack.

    Many are struggling to survive amid a double whammy of increased demand and diminishing funds. Focus drug and alcohol counselling, the Sunshine League Children’s Home and Age Concern were among the agencies to see their grants cut in half at the Budget.

    The LCCA — which provides zero-interest loans for seriously ill patients to get treatment overseas —saw its grant reduced from $2 million to $1 million.

    And the political mantra following Paula Cox’s cost-cutting budget was how Bermuda must do “more with less”.

    Aid agencies say the reality is that they are having to do “less with less”.

    The LCCA helped 90 critically ill patients get treated overseas last year. This year it will be able to help a maximum of 50.

    Teen Services, which runs a school for pregnant teenagers as well as a home for young mums, has seen its budget slashed by almost 50 per cent. Director Michelle Wade said they would have to consider cutting some services if alternative donors could not be found.

    Age Concern has already aborted plans for a new hotline designed to help the elderly because of substantial cuts to its grant.

    Sandy Butterfield, of FOCUS addiction counselling, remains upbeat despite the cuts.

    “We are struggling but we have all faith that Bermuda will come to our rescue. We are determined to stay open despite the budget cuts.”

    She said the organization, which sees around 20 patients a day for drug and alcohol related “harm reduction” at its “clubhouse”, was looking to the private sector for much needed funds.

    The agency, which also provides residential counselling for addicts, had its Government grant cut by 54 per cent to $216,000 for the coming financial year.

    Veronica Harvey of the LCCA said its capacity to offer assistance had been drastically impacted by the cuts.

    “We can only help as far as the money goes. We used to get $2million and now we get $1million. Last year we had 90 people. With half the budget we can probably do half as much.”

    The organization is also funded by repayment of previous loans. But Ms Harvey said she was not expecting many patients to be paying back large amounts in the coming year.

    “The repayments are likely to be less in this economy. Someone may have signed up to pay $500 a month but if they have lost their job they may only be able to pay $50 a month.”

    She said it would be up to the Government to decide who was approved for an LCCA loan in the coming year and what limitations would be required to stretch the funding.

    Other agencies, like Habitat for Humanity, don’t get Government grants. But they have been impacted by the cuts in the form of increased competition for corporate dollars.

    Zakiya Johnson, interim president of the Sunshine League Children’s Home, said the $100,000 cut in its budget meant it would have to rethink its strategy. She said the board was currently in discussions to figure out how it would cope.

    “The recent budget cuts and the impact of a struggling economy have resulted in the Sunshine League having to take a closer look at the direction of the organization.

    “These discussions are being undertaken with great care and with a desire to continue to meet the needs of Bermuda’s youth that are in the foster system.”

    Nicola Feldman, director of the charity, which does home refurbishments for poor families living in hazardous conditions, said the impact of the financial crisis had left them underfunded at a time when they were needed most.

    “Habitat for Humanity has faced significant difficulties with regard to successful grant applications and consequently is struggling to perform as effectively as it needs to be.”

    Ms Feldman, also the producer of a new documentary Poverty in Paradise, highlighting the plight of women living below the poverty line in Bermuda, said the budget cuts would only make the issue worse.


    “Times of social upheaval such as the current gang crisis are the critical moments when social programs are needed to help those in need but also to help prevent the next generation of children from growing into unproductive citizens.

    “If we cut vital programmes and services now, we will only be repeating the cycles of violence, antisocial behaviour and poor decision making in the younger generations.”

    Ms Wade, director of Teen Services, said the organisation was seeing an increase in demand for its services.

    She said it was in the midst of forming a strategic plan which she hopes will allow it to continue operating at full capacity, despite the cuts.

    She said ‘grassroots agencies’ could see first hand how demand for services was increasing.

    “We have to go out there and look for dollars from donors.

    “Everybody is trying their best to make their dollars work. We weren’t the only ones that got cut. It is very unfortunate.”

    Claudette Fleming of Age Concern, said plans for a new hotline for the elderly had been dropped because of the decrease in the Government grant.

    She said more pensioners were contacting the charity for help with basics like groceries and electric bills.

    No new programmes

    But she said its main role was to link needy seniors with the right services.

    Age Concern is largely funded by the corporate sector and is better equipped than most to survive the grant reduction.

    “We can’t grow any and we can’t put the communications systems in place that would help us become more efficient.

    “There are no new programmes on the horizon for the forthcoming year.”

    Zakiya Johnson, interim president of the Sunshine League Children’s Home, said the $100,000 cut in its budget meant it would have to rethink its strategy. She said the board was currently in discussions to figure out how it would cope.

    “The recent budget cuts and the impact of a struggling economy have resulted in the Sunshine League having to take a closer look at the direction of the organization.

    “These discussions are being undertaken with great care and with a desire to continue to meet the needs of Bermuda’s youth that are in the foster system.”


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    Monday, April 25 2011

    Pitfalls facing pensioners as the first of the ‘baby boomers’ reach 65

    Pitfalls facing pensioners as the first of the ‘baby boomers’ reach 65

    Seven hundred post-war “baby boomers” will turn 65 in Bermuda this year but how many of them will be able to enjoy the retirement they expected? Sam Strangeways looks at some of the pitfalls facing pensioners and finds out why so many of the Island’s older residents are putting their leisure plans on hold.
    When Mark Selley starting delivering newspapers, aged seven, retirement was undoubtedly the last thing on his mind.
    Still, the 58-year-old insists, he had no choice but to hand over a small portion of the one pound and five shillings he picked up each week from his first job for the government’s “pension plan”.
    More than half a century later, self-employed Mr Selley, who suffered a stroke 20 years ago which left him paralysed on his left side, continues to work with no end in sight.
    When he reaches 65 in September 2017, he should be able to start claiming back the social insurance contributions he has made all his working life.
    But he will not be able to live on the benefit he expects to pick up, he says, not even combined with the income from an occupational pension plan he has had to pay into, in law, for more than ten years.
    “No way!” he replies emphatically when asked if he’ll quit his marine business in six years. “I’m not that type of person anyway but there is no way in this economy that I could afford to stop working.
    “Most people I have contact with can’t afford to stop. It’s not going to be better [in six years]. It’s going to be worse.”
    Mr Selley’s gloomy forecast is shared by many, including the actuaries who have assessed Bermuda’s public pension pot.
    They estimate that the Contributory Pensions Fund may not be enough to provide benefits to the thousands of people due to reach retirement over the next two decades.
    This year sees the first cohort of the post-war “baby boomers” turn 65 some 700 people expected to make a claim for benefits, compared to 276 in 2010.
    The Department of Social Insurance says it is the largest number of new pensioners in Bermuda’s history and “each year, over the next 20 years, we anticipate equal or greater numbers”.
    The expected 150 percent increase in the number of claimants comes as the working population paying social insurance into the fund decreases, due to falling birth rates and rising unemployment.
    It’s a problem faced by developed countries all over the world but that doesn’t make it any easier for Mr Selley, chairman of Bermuda Stroke and Family Support Association, and others like him.
    In Bermuda, unlike in places such as the UK and Canada, the majority of their pension is likely to be swallowed up by the ever-rising cost of health insurance.
    Government’s recently-published National Health Plan acknowledges this and proposes to change the way health care is funded, basing contributions on ability to pay though a detailed description of how this would work has yet to be released.
    The minimum monthly state pension here for a senior who has paid 100 percent of their social insurance contributions is just under $952 not enough to pay for a private major medical plan.
    Mr Selley’s health insurance costs him $1,200 per month, though he will eventually qualify for FutureCare, Government’s scheme for seniors, which costs $635 a month for those in phases two and three of the scheme.
    The Smith’s resident has poor circulation, needs a stick to move around due to his partial paralysis and takes a lot of prescription medication.
    Mr Selley wants to work past retirement age, in part, he says, for his “own sanity”. But he admits he also has to consider: “How am I going to be able to afford to live the rest of my life?”
    That’s a question constantly on the mind of Southampton grandmother Evelyn*.
    The 80-year-old lives with her daughter and grandson, while her “baby boomer” son Andrew*, who turned 65 in January, is in the apartment downstairs.
    Evelyn worked in a variety of jobs, some of them low-paying, “never sitting down”, until the age of 78. But she still has a mortgage to pay off and can’t charge her son rent since “he has no money, it’s as simple as that”.
    Andrew has been blind for more than 30 years and only able to work part-time, meaning he hasn’t paid enough social insurance to get a contributory pension.
    He continues to work one day a week to supplement the non-contributory benefit he receives from Government of about $447 a month. That’s not enough for FutureCare so he pays for HIP, the basic state health insurance plan, and is left with about $56 a month.
    “That ain’t much,” says Andrew. “I can’t live this way, not in these times, anyhow.”
    Despite his meagre income, he’s not expecting a handout from anyone and is “quite happy to keep on working” into his old age.
    “I ain’t going to retire,” he says. “So long as I’m in good health, I’m going to keep working until I drop. I’m alright. I have got a lot of health and strength.
    “I want the good things in life. I’m trying to save now but it seems like nothing is working out for me.”
    Nor is it working out for his mother, who readily states: “I would say, right now, life is a struggle.”
    Evelyn picks up a contributory pension of $740 a month, once her FutureCare phase one payment of $375 is taken out.
    She and her family need to find just under $2,000 a month for the mortgage an expense usually met by having a tenant. “Right now, we don’t have a tenant so we are struggling to the knees until we get another tenant,” she says.
    “My pension, period, goes towards the household. Everything is so expensive in the supermarkets. A loaf of bread is almost $6. I’m trying to feed myself and pay the doctor when we go to him.”
    Evelyn says a private insurance company boss recently lectured her on the need to provide for one’s retirement.
    Her voice rises as she recalls: “I said ‘You little upstart! What do you think I have been doing?’. I have been saving all my life but it doesn’t help. Houses need repairs. My money has gone on the household and my life.”
    Another 65-year-old, Daniel*, also of Southampton, never made it onto the property ladder, though he has worked since he was a teenager.
    He hasn’t paid enough social insurance to get a contributory pension, due to several spells living overseas.
    Daniel, who has a long-term illness that requires regular prescriptions, now works part-time as a self-employed maintenance man and expects to stop “when I drop dead”.
    “This isn’t the UK,” he says. “They don’t have a safety net.”
    He never anticipated that the bottom would fall out of the hotel industry, where he previously worked, or that health care costs and rents would rise so much.
    Last year, before he was eligible for FutureCare, he had to “go begging” to the LCCA (Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association) for money for overseas medical treatment not covered under HIP.
    He is still paying back the $8,000 he borrowed, on top of his monthly $1,300 rent and $635 FutureCare premium.
    “I don’t think about it much,” he says of retirement. “You just have to do what you do to survive. You don’t expect much from this Government.
    “The only advantage you get over 65 is supposedly the bus [free public transport]. You see those older people packing bags in the supermarket? What do you think they do it for? Because they need money.”
    It isn’t only blue-collar or unskilled workers who struggle to make ends meet after 65. Veronica*, 69, is an unmarried professional who expects to have to retire from her current job at 70, though she would rather not.
    “I will look for another job,” she says. “I like working. Being single, I like to get out and be with people. But more importantly, it means I’m on the health insurance. Thank God I kept working after 65 because last year I had to have my bladder removed because of cancer.”
    Veronica needed nine weeks of chemotherapy, a month-long stay in Boston for the operation and seven weeks of radiation treatment. “If I’d have had to face that on HIP, I’d be dead and buried,” she says.
    She has worked since the age of 17, always for non-profit organisations, and has rented rather than bought property, for financial reasons.
    “It’s always a lot more difficult when you live on your own,” she says. “With nobody sharing the rent, you never get yourself established.”
    She is now back at work three-and-a-half days a week and says she leads an unextravagant life, yet still worries what will happen when she can no longer earn.
    “I really take care all of the time,” she insists. “I don’t buy new clothes; I shop at thrift shops. I don’t waste electricity. I dry my clothes on the line.
    “I’m coping okay but I’m not quite sure how I’m going to go on in my later years.”
    It’s a concern that the majority of Bermuda’s citizens, regardless of whether they own property, need to take seriously.
    Another woman, Pamela*, tells this newspaper how her war veteran father found himself owing the Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts more than $100,000 after he needed open heart surgery.
    The octogenarian “worked hard for his kids” his whole life, according to his daughter, and stayed on his employers’ health insurance plan after retirement.
    But he ended up on HIP when the terms of the plan changed and his monthly premium went up to $4,000 a month an impossible amount on his combined contributory and occupational pension of little more than $1,000.
    The overseas treatment he needed for his heart wasn’t covered by the state health care plan, hence the huge medical bill.
    Since he and his wife owned property, they were not eligible for Financial Assistance and had to find the funds to pay back a loan from LCCA.
    Pamela says: “They had to scramble, they had to scrounge. They had to sell a whole lot of things because the health insurance failed.”
    The man’s war veteran status has now been recognised, meaning his health insurance premiums are paid. But his 86-year-old wife, who was a housewife and gets a non-contributory benefit of $200 a month, must find $635 for FutureCare.
    James McCulloch, a baby boomer turning 65 in July, knows he is in a better position that many of his generation and puts it down to good financial planning.
    The semi-retired freelance accountant and management consultant could retire if he wanted but says: “I do feel it important to carry on working anyway, keeping your brain going, keeping physically active.”
    The father-of-one and grandfather has drawn up a “bucket list” of things to do before he dies and is training to become a maths tutor through the Reading Clinic.
    He believes seniors have a huge amount to contribute to society but, as treasurer and a director of Age Concern, he knows all about the problems facing many.
    “I have heard a few years ago about people deciding to leave [after the age of 65] and it astonished me. I’m now hearing more about people deciding to leave and it doesn’t astonish me. People just do the math.”
    He says the lucky ones are those few who get to stay on their company health scheme after retirement effectively being subsidised by younger employees.
    That model needs to be adopted by Government, he believes, to fund health care for all. “The only option is to spread the insurance risk over a larger pool of people. It’s going to have to happen.
    “If you go as a single older person to an insurance company now, the premium is astonishing: over $1,000 a month.”
    Mr McCulloch, who moved here from the UK in 1983 and married a Bermudian, thinks social insurance, currently $30.40 a week for employees, may need to rise to pay for the growing geriatric population.
    And he says the law which requires Bermudians to pay five percent of their earnings into an occupational pension, along with five percent from their employers, needs to be revisited.
    Those who work for a company for less than two years, before the pension is vested, can take out their contributions and, if they wish, spend them. “The consequence is that when those people reach 65, they’ll have nothing. All they will have is the government pension which, realistically, is not going to be enough to live on.”
    Leon Albuoy turned 65 in June and has no plans to leave his job as distribution manager for AF Smith.
    He says he’s thankful to work for a “progressive” boss who is happy to employ seniors and adds: “I have a lot of life left in me. I have been working since I was 14 or 15. I’m not about to just sit around and, I guess, be non-productive.
    “Finances is one thing but even if I had a million bucks I still could not see myself, even at age 65, sitting back.”
    He believes the key to a happier old age is finding a job that you love and sticking at it, not playing golf or putting your feet up.
    “Once you find your little niche, no matter what age you are, even if you are financially able do it, you continue as long as you can. The word retirement to me doesn’t really exist.”
    If he ever does have to stop working, he’s not too worried about making ends meet. He and his wife, who have six grown-up children between them, have prepared for the future.
    “There’s a certain element of planning that’s required,” says Mr Albuoy, who lives in Hamilton Parish. “I credit my wife with some forward thinking with regards to this, as well.
    “The other element is that I’m a Christian. God has taken care of everything for me. He’ll take care of me from now until the day I die.”
    l Useful websites:
    Check your social insurance contributions at
    Read the Government’s National Health Plan at Feedback must be submitted by April 30.
    * Not their real names.
    ** Are you affected by this? E-mail sstrangeways[AT]


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    Monday, May 02 2011

    Outlawing age discrimination would ease pensions crisis, claims Age Concern director

    Outlawing age discrimination would ease pensions crisis, claims Age Concern director

    By Sam Strangeways

    A charity director claims the Island’s potential pensions crisis could be eased at almost no cost simply by adding a word to the Human Rights Act.
    James McCulloch, treasurer of Age Concern, says it is “high time” discrimination on the grounds of age is outlawed.
    And his wish may be about to come true. Families Minister Glenn Blakeney told The Royal Gazette that Government is actively looking into the issue, as part of a review of the Act.
    Mr McCulloch said banning age discrimination would allow people to work longer if they wished, keep earning and potentially remain on their occupational health insurance scheme.
    “It would mean people couldn’t be discriminated against when they went looking for a job, which is happening to a lot of people now,” he said. “People are turning them down just because they are 65.
    “Some people are suffering from age discrimination, which is still not illegal. It’s not in the Human Rights Act.”
    He said a change to the 1981 law would be swift and inexpensive and would ensure older job hunters could not be discriminated against because of their age.
    “To many people it would make all the difference in the world to be able to work and, in some cases, be able to join a health scheme if they could,” said Mr McCulloch.
    As highlighted in a special report in The Royal Gazette last week, there is expected to be a 150 percent increase in the number of new seniors claiming a benefit from the Contributory Pension Fund (CPS) in 2011.
    Meanwhile, the labour pool is shrinking, due to falling birth rates and unemployment.
    The minimum monthly benefit from the CPS for a senior with 100 percent paid social insurance contributions is $951.73, according to the Department of Social Insurance.
    Mr McCulloch said monthly premiums for most private health insurance plans for seniors were at least $1,000. FutureCare, the state health care plan for those aged 65 and above, costs $635 a month.
    The Ministry of Health said last week about ten percent of people in Bermuda have no health insurance at all, though it couldn’t give a figure for how many were seniors.
    Shadow Health and Seniors Minister Louise Jackson said she had long called for age to be included under the Human Rights Act but had never got anywhere.
    “They just look at me and roll their eyes,” she said. “They have never said that they are looking at it.”
    Mr Blakeney told this newspaper: “The Department of Human Affairs is reviewing the Human Rights Act 1981.
    “In order to consider the matter fully, there needs to be a great deal of stakeholder consultation with private sector employers, pension providers and others before any proposals can be recommended for consideration.”
    He said the Department had been researching information specifically relating to “age discrimination in employment”.
    The Minister added: “Moreover, the Bermuda Government has led the way in prohibiting discrimination in employment based on age and have, for example, amended the Public Service Commission Regulations to employ civil servants up to the age of 70, under specified circumstances.
    “The Ministry is cognisant of the fact that age discrimination can occur in other areas as well, including the availability of vocational and education opportunities.
    “As a result, research would not be complete if we did not consider the effect of age discrimination on young people, since discrimination based on age can also affect them.”
    Martin Law, executive officer of Bermuda Employers’ Council, said in some cases keeping a senior in a job could mean a younger person losing out on work, particularly as the Island’s unemployment rate continues to rise.
    “To mandate that you have to allow somebody to work after 65 is a very difficult concept to get your head around, he added. “This is not really a solution [to the pension crisis]. There are no simple solutions to these difficult problems.”
    Mr Law said many people older than 65 continued to work but it wasn’t always possible for an employer to keep a person on past retirement age.
    “It depends whether they are up to the job, whether the employer requires them. There are all sorts of considerations that have to be taken into account.”
    It wasn’t possible to reach HRC chairman Shade Subair for comment.
    Useful websites:,,,


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    Wednesday, May 25 2011

    Seniors are struggling warns charity

    Seniors are struggling warns charity

    By Nadia Arandjelovic

    Age Concern has been inundated with calls for help from seniors struggling to pay for basic essentials during the economic crisis.
    The agency estimates it received 7,000 calls from elderly people needing assistance in 2010/11, more than treble the figure from the previous year, with many saying they can’t afford food and electricity.
    Executive director Claudette Fleming said they recently had requests from two elderly people who were living in the dark because they couldn’t afford to pay lighting bills.
    Ms Fleming told The Royal Gazette: “There are many seniors who are struggling as we are all trying to adapt to this current economic climate.
    “My heart is broken a lot of times for these requests for food. Electricity can be one of the first things vulnerable people can be tempted to strike off their list because it may not be deemed as an essential.”
    Ms Fleming said Age Concern documented 3,500 calls from seniors in 2010/11, with another estimated 3,500 calls undocumented due to “database challenges”. In 2009/10, the total figure was around 2,100.
    Soaring costs of fuel and food, combined with rising unemployment, have prompted calls for price freezes on essential goods in recent weeks, with gas prices recently reaching a new high of $2.15 per litre.
    Union leaders have urged Government to do all it can to make groceries more affordable.
    Ms Fleming warned issues are not going to get any easier for the older generation, saying: “The Bermudian population is ageing and there may be more people who are not prepared for it based on the increased demographic numbers alone.”
    She said many of the support systems relied upon by elderly people in the past have also begun to dissolve: families are less able to help out and more grandparents are being relied upon financially to assist with living costs.
    Some of these people do not qualify for Government’s financial assistance programme because they own homes and other assets. Ms Fleming said she knew of one lady who was struggling financially, exasperated by the fact her husband was suffering from health problems.
    The woman was asked to give up her car to apply for financial assistance, but that would have added to her problems, making her more reliant on family or church members.
    Ms Fleming said the issue is compounded as older members of staff past are often the first to go when companies downsize by attrition. Some are still mentally active and capable of working and don’t know what to do with themselves throughout the day.
    She added: “On the other hand we have older people who are working who really do not have the money to stop.”
    Age Concern has heard from redundant seniors who have now been advised to consider jobs like driving other seniors to the grocery store, or house keeping, which doesn’t require any additional qualifications.
    Ms Fleming said: “As a Country we have to get serious about tackling the ageing issue as a macro-socioeconomic issue.
    “This would mean that we must build infrastructure and capacity to meet the needs of this growing population. It may be time to consider an entire Ministry devoted to seniors, inclusive of the budget, human and financial resources and policy required to be strategically effective at meeting the needs of seniors.”
    According to Janet Ferguson, the executive director of the seniors learning centre at Bermuda College, enrolment has recently surged from people aged 55 and over.
    In addition to traditional leisure courses, more seniors are taking up programmes in computer skills, world and current affairs and Bermudian social history.
    She said there has also been more interest in life course programmes. This can sometimes be prompted by a redundancy or an unexpected job loss, she explained.
    “Seniors are affected by any economic downturn as they more than any other sector of community must survive on income or sources of revenue that more or less remain fixed.
    “We are very concerned about the ability of our members to continue to afford to pay for some of our core offerings like keep fit and yoga. Consistent physical exercise is a core component of a healthy lifestyle for active ageing.
    “We are worried and concerned that some of our members under the current economic conditions may have to make difficult choices.”


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    Friday, May 27 2011

    Don’t get conned

    Don't get conned, Seniors must beware of scammers on the Internet

    By Jessie Moniz

    If you are a senior citizen you may have done everything to protect yourself including putting extra locks on the doors, shuttering the windows, and buying one of those gadgets that alert emergency services if you have a fall.
    Unfortunately, danger could be lurking in a much more innocuous place - your home computer.
    Claudette Fleming of Age Concern said Bermuda seniors are just as vulnerable to Internet fraud as their American counterparts.
    “Internet fraud is probably more common with our seniors than other types of scams such as lottery scams,” she said. “This is probably because they aren't interacting as much on the computer as younger people, so they are not used to being computer savvy. A few months ago we had an issue with an e-mail going around claiming to be from a bank. The e-mail asked for bank pin numbers and credit card information.”
    Senior citizens are going online in record numbers, often helped along by community computer courses. There is a saying, ‘I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night'. Unfortunately, when it comes to many senior citizens and the Internet, it often might as well have been last night. Senior citizens can be easy targets for fraud. They are attractive to con artists because they often have a nest egg. They also sometimes have poor memories which makes it hard for them to report the details of the crime.
    Many of these fraudsters are located outside the United States which makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to track them down. Internet scams most commonly originate from the Ukraine, Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Lithuania, Egypt, Romania, Turkey, Russia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Israel and Nigeria.
    A new study recently released by the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) Foundation in the United States found there are certain behaviours that make senior citizens particularly vulnerable to being scammed. The study found that millions of older Americans are defrauded by scammers, but only a quarter report the crime. The study found that certain behaviours increased the older person's risk of being defrauded. These behaviours included opening and reading all junk mail and e-mails, attending free lunch seminars, entering draws to win a free prize and inviting salespeople into the home.
    Local banks have stated time and again that they would never ask for banking details through an e-mail. Some scammer e-mails include links to websites that look exactly like the bank's website and even include the bank's logo. Remember that websites are easy to create.
    “Don't respond to e-mails claiming to be from your bank,” said Mrs Fleming. “If you aren't sure, telephone the bank and ask.”
    And have you ever had one of these e-mails or letters? It goes something like: The King of Pogoland has just been murdered. His daughter wants to rush $10 million out of the country, and she needs your credit card information and bank account details to do it. Of course, she'll share the proceeds with you. Oh yeah, she has cancer, is a Christian and has 13 little children to feed. They all have childhood cancer also. She's pretty cute too, apparently.
    There's a simple way to sum this scam up, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Never respond to e-mails or letters like this one.
    The AARP study found that educated people were just as likely to fall for scams as uneducated people, but what they fell for differed. Married, well-educated, high-earning older men were more likely to be victims of investment fraud, while single older men and women with lower incomes and education levels tended to fall prey to lottery scams.
    Victims of drug scams and identity thefts were more likely to be single, lower earning, less-educated women.
    Doug Shadel, co-author of the study, said the amount of the fraud can be considerable, depending on the type of scam. In investment fraud cases victims can lose thousands of dollars.
    Often, senior citizens are too embarrassed to report the fraud to police, and sometimes they simply don't know who to report the crime to.
    Mr Shadel and his team advised people to be proactive to avoid scams. They suggested people check references and wait 24 hours before making a decision to buy something. For tricky or difficult situations a refusal script could be useful against the persuasive tactics of a con artist.
    “Every con man I have interviewed said his central goal is to get people into a heightened emotional state so they make a bad decision. We say never make a buying decision at the time of the sales pitch. Always wait at least 24 hours to cool down,” Mr Shadel said.
    If you suspect that someone is trying to defraud you, or you have been defrauded contact the police fraud unit on 295-0011.

    Some tips from the FBI to avoid being scammed:
    lShred credit card receipts and old bank statements.
    lClose unused credit card or bank accounts.
    llDon't give out personal information via the phone, mail, or Internet unless you initiated the contact.
    lNever respond to an offer you don't understand.
    lTalk over investments with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor.
    lRequire all plans and purchases to be in writing.
    lDon't pay in advance for services.

    Useful website:


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    Tuesday, June 14 2011

    Future pensioners may face hard times, according to an economist.

    Hard times predicted for future seniors

    By Tim Smith

    Future seniors face abject poverty unless Santa Claus bails them out because there’s so little in Bermuda’s pensions pot, according to economist Robert Stewart.
    Mr Stewart, a fierce critic of Government’s handling of pensions, says new figures reveal an average $72,000 has been saved for each worker, indicating many face a major struggle after retirement.
    The Pension Commission argued Mr Stewart had over-simplified his calculations, and stressed it’s doing everything it can to protect seniors although it warned many seniors will get only modest rewards on their investment.
    The 2007 Pension Commission report, released this month, shows 19,449 employees or self-employed people were taking part in registered pension plans four years ago, with $1.4 billion in pension assets at that time.
    Mr Stewart told The Royal Gazette: “This means the average is about $71,983 per employee. Not much.”
    He complained people close to retirement are unable to see how well covered they are because the report offered no breakdown by age.
    “I suspect there is little saved for retirement by those in the 50-60 age group which means horrible poverty in the future for seniors as there is a reasonable expectation that people will live for around a further 20 years,” he said.
    “With little savings, who will support them? Santa Claus?”
    The Commission responded: “You cannot simply take the total assets in pension plans and divide them by the number of members in pension plans, as some members receive greater contributions than others based upon their overall salary and wage levels, and some have been in pension plans longer.
    “In addition, contribution levels payable by both the employer and employee were initially low, gradually increasing from one percent in 2000 to five percent in 2004.
    “It should also be noted that most plan members have their pension assets in very conservative investments and so their returns will be modest.
    “However, being this conservative should place them in a good position when examining investment performance during the financial crises starting at the end of 2008.
    “Although it is recognised that those employees nearing retirement after the introduction of the National Pension Scheme (Occupational Pensions) Act 1998 would not have the ability to accumulate as much pension as those employees in the future having the benefit of 40 years or more of contributions and investment earnings, how much more difficult would the recent retirees’ financial position have been if mandatory occupational pension schemes had not been introduced by this Government?
    “The Commission is a regulatory body and not a financial assistance organisation responsible for ensuring that seniors have adequate resources to sustain their standards of living during retirement. However, the Commission will do everything in its power to ensure that employees in private pension plans under its supervision and regulation receive the utmost of protection as provided for under the Act.”
    Mr Stewart also pointed out there were nearly 25,000 employees or self-employed people at the end of 2007, meaning one out of every five wasn’t participating in a registered pensions plan.
    “Why are only 19,449 employees enrolled in a pension plan?” he asked.
    “Surely this means that over 5,000 employees are not covered and are therefore being robbed of their pension.
    “Only two employers had an action taken against them. What about the others? Did they get away with defrauding their employees? Surely, the Pension Commission should be on top of this.”
    The Commission responded that, as of December 31, 2010, the number of people on registered plans had climbed to 23,166.
    It added: “Furthermore, all members in plans required to be registered under the Act receive the same level of protection. The fact that a plan’s registration has not been finalised does not exempt employers or employees from the requirement to make the required contributions.
    “The report states that the Commission initiated civil debt recovery proceedings against two employers. This does not mean that the Commission was not successful in ensuring employers were compliant.
    “Indeed, the report also states that over 125 compliance meetings were held with employers and plan members. As a result of these meetings and other enforcement actions taken by the Commission, but not stated in the report, employers were made to comply with their requirements. It should also be noted that there were fewer delinquent employers in 2007 than 2006.”
    The 2006 Pension Commission report was tabled in 2008; Mr Stewart questioned why the 2007 report had only been released this month.
    “Why is the report three years late? he said. “Surely, an annual report should be available at the latest by June 30 of the following year.”
    The Commission responded that the 2007 report was late mainly due to staff shortages in the Auditor General’s Department.
    Mr Stewart said: “This is a disappointing document which tells the public very little about the pension situation. I would give them two out of ten.
    “This is surprising because there are a few talented and hard working people on the Commission, and [Commission CEO] Peter Sousa is no slouch when it comes to financial matters.
    “I suspect Government wants to keep the bad news out of the press because seniors are being given a bum deal. But it is only a suspicion as we all know Government is on top of the financial situation.”
    He added that the plight of seniors has likely got even more precarious since the report because the stock market has plunged since 2007.
    Mr Stewart has repeatedly warned Bermuda faces a pensions crisis which is only going to get worse as a result of the ageing population.
    Last year, his research showed the Social Security Pension Fund deficit was $2.8 billion, Civil Service Pension Fund deficit $760 million and MPs Pension Fund deficit $8 million.


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    Friday, June 24 2011

    Just how many retirees can Bermuda afford?

    Just how many retirees can Bermuda afford?

    JUNE 24, 2011

    By Claudette Fleming, MSW

    Personalize a mantra around the factors for your ageing success. At Age Concern, our mantra has become: know, connect and grow. Know You must know the facts. Bermuda has three demographic realities facing it: (1) According to the last census Bermuda has an ageing population. A country is considered to be ‘aged’ when over 7 per cent of its people are over the age of 64 years. Persons 64 years and older currently represent 11 per cent of Bermuda’s entire population. (2) Simultaneously, Bermuda has been experiencing a declining birthrate since the 1970s. As the last census indicates, “Bermudian women are not having sufficient numbers of children to replace themselves” (p. 37). (3) Finally, an increasing dependency ratio is another demographic reality currently facing Bermuda. A dependency ratio is an indicator that is used to measure the demographic ratio of dependants (youth and aged) to the working age population. The 2000 Census recorded an increase in the total dependency ratio, more specifically the old-aged dependency ratio for the Bermudian population was recorded as 19 older persons for every 100 working age persons (pp. 27-28). Connect the facts To recap the facts . . . over time, declining fertility rates will mean that fewer Bermudians will actually enter the workforce, an ageing population will mean more persons leaving the workforce than ever before and an increasing old-age dependency ratio will mean that a smaller number of younger workers will exist to support a larger older population. Few can argue that under these circumstances forcing persons to cease working after the age of 65 will not prove profitable for Bermuda or practical for Bermudians in the future. Current retirement trends, add another level of scepticism about the wisdom of requiring retirement at age 65. According to the report the ‘Changing Face of Seniors 2004’, persons over 65 years report to have been most active in the production, transport and service sectors, indicating that today’s typical retiree has retired from a blue collar job. This trend, coupled with the spiraling costs in healthcare, housing and everyday living in Bermuda, means that for the retiree who has not made adequate provisions, traditional retirement is not a feasible option. Still, despite the growing affluence of today’s worker, Bermuda’s isolated geographic position, vibrant economic climate and shrinking local working population, by its very nature, will inevitably dictate that future use of human capital must be expanded to include the retiree. As a wise saying goes, a crisis can be the sign of both danger and opportunity. And, while the demographic realities of our ageing population may seem an imminent danger to some, it is these very same factors that present Bermuda with tremendous opportunities and options. It should come as no surprise then, that as an advocate for older persons, to me the best option and opportunity for Bermuda lies in an investment in the retired worker. At Age Concern, we encourage you today, whether individual, employer or policy maker, to personalize your own ‘know, connect and grow’ strategy, as we strongly believe that if everyone were to make such a commitment, then the issue of affording retirement in the future will be less of an issue for us all. n Claudette Fleming MSW, is Executive Director at Age Concern Bermuda.


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    Friday, July 22 2011

    How long do we have to wait for a national ageing strategy?

    How long do we have to wait for a national ageing strategy?

    By Claudette Fleming MSW
    Age Concern Bermuda

    Friday, July 22, 2011

    Bermuda’s population is ageing rapidly.

    Many have found themselves unprepared for retirement and many more have accepted early retirement packages as a result of the current economic climate.

    In the meantime, health care costs have gone up, and while social insurance pay outs may have been increased by three per cent, cost of living expenses have also increased, probably well beyond the three per cent social insurance pay out.

    Curiously, reaction by policy makers to the changing dynamics of our time is dubious.

    At our recent Annual General Meeting we were privileged to have The Hon. Zane Desilva JP MP speak to our membership about the progress of the delivery and implementation on the national ageing strategy.

    I believe that Minister Desilva has a strong conviction to see that the average working person has what they need to be responsibly engaged in society.

    With this belief in mind, when pressed by a donor to provide a date of delivery for a national ageing strategy, Minister Desilva could only respond that he “hoped” it would be soon.

    Now putting his answer into context, we can certainly appreciate that the Ministry of Health has a very broad mandate to accomplish including; the rebuilding of the hospital; the rolling out of the National Health Plan, in addition to its numerous other regulatory functions. However, after hearing that there has been no timeline set for implementation of the national ageing strategy, one does have to question how likely it will be that the much needed plan for the future of our lives, will ever happen.

    Of course, I am hoping that the issues of the ageing in Bermuda will become a top priority for this country before it reaches an even greater crisis in the future.

    Recently, I went to my doctor and she has reminded me (for about the fifth time) that I must lose weight before I begin to develop any health problems. Luckily, to date I am healthy. Since it was about the fifth time that I had been given this warning, my doctor was a little less patient with me. Now imagine if she said to me, I think you need to set a date, give me a time line and plan on how you will reduce this weight. And suppose, I said to her well….I “hope” it will be soon. Do you think that answer would cut it? Probably not, I don’t think she would take my intention to commit very seriously.

    And so it is with our lives, our loved ones and Bermuda senior citizen population. We need a definitive commitment backed by the appropriate public resources to get the job done. We may only beginning to see the tip of the iceberg of financial and physical hardship, which is why we must pursue with zeal and haste, the important planning matters of today before they become the urgent or catastrophic consequences of tomorrow.

    The national ageing strategy is an important part of Bermuda’s financial future. Let’s get serious about it.

    In the meantime, I’ll see you out walking.


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    Sunday, July 24 2011

    MPs clash on take note motion on seniors’ quality of life

    MPs clash on take note motion on seniors’ quality of life

    By Elizabeth Roberts, Jonathan Bell

    The Opposition tried to highlight the plight of Bermuda’s seniors while Government argued it is doing its best to help them during a stormy debate in the House of Assembly.
    Shadow Minister for Seniors and Social Assistance Louise Jackson kicked off proceedings a few minutes into Saturday morning, and MPs continued to butt heads over the issue until nearly 3am on Saturday.
    Mrs Jackson’s motion asked that MPs “take note of the challenges faced by Bermuda’s seniors in maintaining a healthy and secure quality of life”.
    Although she was later forced by Government to change the wording into something more positive, the Opposition continued to press their concerns.
    Mrs Jackson said her ‘take note motion,’ which was tabled to spark debate rather than bring in legislation, was “designed to point out that there are significant gaps in our programmes for seniors; in our legislation for seniors”.
    She said this has impacted on the quality of life for many of Bermuda’s elderly people.
    In addition, she said: “Senior abuse is unfortunately still a problem in Bermuda today. You all know here in the House that we have the Senior Abuse Register Act, 2008. Not one person has been convicted under this act.”
    The legislation allows for a list to be kept of abusers but no names have been added.
    Deputy speaker Randy Horton had to remonstrate with hecklers several times as Mrs Jackson proceeded with the motion.
    Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess spoke on a point of order, telling Mrs Jackson: “If anyone is abusing you, you go to the police.”
    Mrs Jackson responded that Government had failed to grasp the “depth and complexity” of abuse in the community.
    She added that the One Bermuda Alliance was committed to getting discrimination on the grounds of age outlawed under the Human Rights Act.
    She also criticised Government’s FutureCare programme as unsustainable, called the Island’s facilities for Alzheimer’s patients inadequate, and said money allocated for the refurbishment of quarters at the Lefroy House rest home had still not been spent.
    Saying that a number of residents at the Sandys facility remained in alternative accommodation in the Sylvia Richardson home at the other end of the Island, Mrs Jackson added that she had recently gone to visit Lefroy House and been denied entry.
    Health Minister Zane DeSilva responded that Mrs Jackson was misleading the House.
    “She took a reporter with her,” Mr DeSilva said. “My people were not happy with that at all.”
    Mrs Jackson said: “What did they want to hide?”
    She went on to say that other countries have comprehensive legislation protecting the elderly and surprise inspections of facilities, and questioned why Bermuda does not. She went on to highlight the risks posed by uneven surfaces in public parks, and criticised the closing of the medical clinic at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, saying that the OBA would reopen it.
    Buses and taxis that could accommodate the physically challenged were few in Bermuda, she said, and said purpose-built buses with wheelchair lifts were not in use. Mrs Jackson also said that family members of elderly people were having to give up their jobs to care for them.
    Mr DeSilva then moved to amend her motion, to read that the House “take note of the Government’s initiatives to assist Bermuda’s seniors with the challenges they face in maintaining a healthy and secure quality of life”. The amendment was passed by a majority vote, and Mr DeSilva went on to discuss studies of Bermuda’s seniors.
    In the 2008 Age Concern survey, he said, 90 percent of seniors reported having access to all the services they needed.
    “All in all, for the most part, seniors are doing reasonably well,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that all are doing well. We as Government know that some are struggling. Some are having troubles paying their rent.”
    He said: “In short, we get it.”
    Mr DeSilva said that Government understood the issues faced by seniors, and that the National Health Plan, of which the National Ageing Strategy would be a subset, was also addressing the issues.
    United Bermuda Party MP Kim Swan hailed Mrs Jackson as “a champion on behalf of seniors” and praised her consistency.
    Shadow Education Minister Grant Gibbons also threw in his appreciation. “She has been absolutely consistent since she was elected in 2003,” Dr Gibbons said. Noting that the elderly population is increasing, he added: “FutureCare is unsustainable when you have almost a doubling of seniors and a declining younger population over the next 20 years.”
    Shadow Business Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said: “The Minister indicated that our seniors are doing well. The ones doing well are not the ones who come up on our radar screens.”
    She asked when the next study of Bermuda’s elderly population would be done, and said that, in the case of homeless seniors, “we can’t take for granted that every one of them has found their way to the Minister’s office. A lot of seniors are proud, and don’t want to go cap in hand and beg for assistance.”
    She went on to ask how strictly nursing homes are being policed, and said she has come across Alzheimers patients tied to chairs to stop them wandering and seniors sitting in wet clothing during visits to her own mother, who is in a home.
    “To what extent are the regulations being implemented and what sort of system exists for there to be inspections?” she asked.
    Government backbencher Walter Lister said Government spends up to $80 million per year on seniors, not including Financial Assistance payouts.
    “You can’t just go and criticise Government loosely,” he complained. He said people have duty to plan for their old age, but when they unavoidably fall into financial difficulty, Government helps. He said new accommodation in Rockaway, Southampton, is housing 100 seniors who have a “good quality of life”.
    Earlier this month, Government increased pensions for the tenth time since it came to power in 1998. Mr Lister, who is 69, added: “If I had known it would be such fun, I would have been a senior citizen years ago.
    “I don’t have to pay to license my car thanks to this Government. I don’t have to pay the tax on the residence in which I live thanks to this Government. I could go on and on.”


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    Friday, August 12 2011

    Islanders need to learn to ‘age successfully’

    Islanders need to learn to ‘age successfully’

    By Jonathan Bell

    Bermudians need to educate themselves on how to “age successfully”, a seniors advocate has warned.
    “What we really need is a plan for how to educate people of all ages,” Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming told Hamilton Rotary Club this week.
    “There are more than 100 care service providers in Bermuda, but they are fragmented and segmented.”
    She described an industry with abundant resources but “a lack of integrating services”.
    “I’ve been with Age Concern for 11 years and I’ve been in the industry for longer,” she said. “I have never seen the buck passed so many times. We’ve never really had a leader for this industry, and we’ve never really enjoyed any consistency.”
    As Government develops a national ageing strategy for Bermuda, Age Concern has worked on its own advocacy campaign to influence policy, she said.
    The charity works to link seniors with helpful services, and addresses the needs of anyone above the age of 50.
    “It will come as no surprise to anyone to hear that in Bermuda our older adult population is increasing,” she said. “Our birth rates are declining, our life expectancy is increasing, family structures are changing, and people are retiring earlier at least before the economic crisis.”
    Since the summer of 2010, the charity has been heavily involved in research, with part of its campaign modelled on similar campaigns in Ireland.
    Ms Fleming said: “Our next task is to get out to the public with our five areas of focus, and starting drilling it into people to prepare.”
    These focal points are financial security, the integration of services, healthcare and disease prevention, advocacy, and planning and accountability.
    With the analysis phase complete, Ms Fleming said: “Age Concern is entering phase two of its advocacy plan informing and educating the people of Bermuda about what will be required of them to age successfully.”
    Useful website:


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    Friday, September 30 2011

    Work, retirement and pensions: A retiree’s perspective

    There are few certainties in this life but we can all be sure of one thing

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    Friday, September 30 2011

    Pensions: From a union’s viewpoint

    Trade Unions believe that pension plans are one of an employee’s most important financial assets that they will acquire in their lives.

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    Monday, October 17 2011

    VSB radio news interview. James McCulloch talks to VSB Radio news


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    Wednesday, October 19 2011

    Island faces challenges from ageing population, warns advocate

    Island faces challenges from ageing population, warns advocate

    By Jonathan Bell

    Advocates for Bermuda’s elderly say the ageing of the population revealed in the latest Census has “profound implications” for Bermuda’s social assistance programmes.
    The Census shows that Bermuda’s senior population has risen from 11 percent to 14 percent over the past decade.
    This coincided with a drop in those aged five to 19 (from 18 percent of the population to 16 percent), 20 to 29 (13 percent to 12 percent), and particularly in the 30 to 44 category (from 28 percent to 23 percent)
    “When it comes to programmes we’ve put in place for the elderly, we will have to be not just creative, but courageous,” Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming said.
    “If we have a shrinking younger population, we’ll have to re-evaluate and prioritise how we finance social assistance. Government does a great deal, but is it all coordinated? Is it all things that people need?”
    Privileges such as free licence renewals for the elderly could be up for the chop, she said.
    “There are concessions when you turn 65 that are not needs-based but based just on your age, regardless of your income,” Ms Fleming said. “It’s not just licensing, but land tax concessions as well. We might need to rethink that.”
    The ageing of Bermuda’s workforce will require a bolstering of the economy, she added.
    “For seniors, if we have a slowing of the economy and less people contributing, will we see a raising of the retirement age and more older people being brought into the workforce?”
    Based on population projections, the Island’s seniors are expected to double from 11 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2030.
    Ms Fleming predicted “a crisis on top of a crisis” in the future, if today’s cash-strapped Bermudians continue to tap into their pension funds.
    Premier Paula Cox has said that people will be allowed to dip into their private pensions on an emergency basis only. People who are struggling to pay rent or mortgages have been given the green light to apply to the Pension Committee for permission to use a portion of the fund.
    However, Ms Fleming said: “People are taking this money, and if they’re out of work, that means they’re not contributing to the pension fund.
    “Pensions should be sacred, because there will be more people at the end of this journey, and we can’t guarantee that there will be public funds to support them. People should never be allowed to access their pension funds.”
    She added: “Our children don’t have a clue what’s facing them. They’re the ones who will end up paying for it.”
    Projections based on the Census show the Island’s dependency ratio the numbers of people working and those not working rising from 19 percent in 2000, to 45 percent by the year 2030.
    Bermuda Health Council CEO Jennifer Attride-Stirling said the figures showed a potential burden on the working population to provide resources and services to the non-working population.
    “This includes healthcare services and funding for health and social services for the young and the elderly,” she said. “The work of the Health Council takes this into consideration when reviewing the health system in the short and long term.”
    Although the ageing of Bermuda’s population has an impact on the demand for healthcare, she added, it is not the only factor impinging on health costs.
    “For example, Japan and a number of European countries have larger senior populations than Bermuda, but lower health costs overall,” she said.
    Dealing with an increasing senior population was the focus of the Island’s Conference on Ageing, held in March.
    A Ministry of Health spokesman said policy recommendations are currently being drafted, as part of a national ageing plan.


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    Wednesday, October 19 2011

    Spiralling costs spark fears of elder abuse

    Spiraling costs spark fears of elder abuse

    Raymond Hainey
    Senior Reporter

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19: An ageing population and the spiralling cost of rest homes could lead to abuse of elders, campaigners warned on Tuesday.

    Age Concern director Claudette Fleming said that a combination of more old people and high fees could mean more older people failing to get the care they need.

    Ms Fleming was speaking as the 2010 census figures revealed a greying population — but fewer care homes in business compared to 2000, which she blamed on homes closing due to the huge cost of care.

    She added: “It’s a crisis — and it’s very well-known to anyone who has a parent who needs residential care.”

    “To have someone in a care facility is becoming out of reach for the average person. The Government runs some residential care facilities, but there are long waiting lists.

    “The rest are all private — we did a survey a few years ago and that gave us an idea of the financial picture of care homes. Every single one of those homes was in the red.

    “It’s very expensive to run a home — most of the costs are in personnel and the sicker residents become, the more they need professional care like nurses.

    “Those numbers were becoming unsustainable for these homes which don’t, by and large, get any Government money as institutions, although they may get some Government assistance for individual patients.

    “We’re already seeing rises in the number of cases of parental abuse and the nice new hospital will have wards full of older people because we don’t have the infrastructure to care for the long-term needs of the elderly.”

    The 2010 census showed that the percentage of the population aged 65 or over had increased from 11 to 14 per cent over the decade.

    The group aged 45-64 also increased, from 24 per cent of the population to 30 per cent between 2000 and 2010.

    But all other age groups showed a drop or – in the case of those aged from birth to four years old – remained static at six per cent.

    A report on the census said: “According to the latest population projections, the proportion of seniors is expected to reach 22 per cent by 2030, while the proportion of children is expected to continue falling.

    “If these demographic shifts continue, they will have a major impact on the size of the labour force, on pension and health insurance plans and, in general, on Bermuda’s economy and society.”

    Insiders told the Bermuda Sun that rates for care homes in Bermuda can range from $2-3,000 a month for independent seniors, up to $6,000 a month for intermediate care and up to $10,000 a month for those needing constant care.

    Another said: “Staff do not come cheap in Bermuda and – rightly – there are Government standards which have to be met. Against that background, it’s not suprising that nursing homes have been struggling.”

    Ms Fleming said health insurance did not cover private long-term care, while people who own homes are no longer eligible for Government financial assistance programmes.

    She added that Government was pushing for more family responsibility for care at home.

    Ms Fleming said: “Seniors want to age at home, so in one respect, that’s good, but the challenge is the financing is missing. We don’t have a proper social services system in place that can attend to people’s needs at home.

    “We have a declining birthrate as well, which makes the crisis even more serious because there are fewer children around to provide this type of care.

    “Older people don’t have choices and we leave them vulnerable because other people make decisions and they sometimes don’t make the right financial decisions, especially on property issues.

    “In the longer term, we must focus on prevention so people are healthier longer and we’re starting to see some of that. In the short term, there are no easy answers.

    “We also need to allow people to work longer, for their economic, mental and general health and push the social benefit entitlement age up.

    “As individuals, we also have to take personal responsibility. If we’re not taking care of ourselves physically and financially, we’re going to leave ourselves to the mercies of the powers-that-be.”


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    Wednesday, October 26 2011

    Seniors draw on radical past to pressure candidates

    Seniors draw on radical past to pressure candidates

    Raymond Hainey
    Senior Reporter

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26: Bermuda’s seniors yesterday vowed to get more radical in a bid to push their agenda on to the front burner of politics.

    And the growing grey population signaled that their increasing political power would be wielded to win better treatment from parliamentarians.

    Age Concern’s Claudette Fleming said: “The population is ageing, they have a voice and they represent a significant proportion of voters — they have a significant amount of power.”

    Ms Fleming was speaking after an Age Concern-organized forum quizzed the three candidates in the upcoming Devonshire South Central by-election on their plans to help seniors.

    She said: “The most important thing the candidates said is that seniors will be included in the process going forward. That was the part they really needed to get, because the issues will change.

    “Some of our members told me ‘we have to get a bit more radical’ — I now have to figure out what that means. We’re talking about people who came out of the era of the 1960s and the movements that were powerful then. These are people who know what it means to be radical.

    “I think older people are going to get more forceful — we represent our members the way they want to be represented and we will continue to do that.

    “Bermuda is a very polite place, but we will be asking our members what they want us to look like and take our cues from that.”

    Members of Age Concern met OBA leader Craig Cannonier, the PLP’s Anthony Richardson and Independent candidate David Sullivan at the Peace Lutheran Church in South Shore Road, Devonshire as the three gear up for the November 1 contest.

    They heard Bermuda’s seniors express concern over forced retirement at 65, the cost of healthcare and making ends meet.

    Sen. Cannonier said that healthcare should be available at the same cost to all.

    He added that more homes especially built with seniors in mind should be made available at a reasonable cost, while Government should provide better transport for elderly people.

    Sen. Cannonier said: “We need to eliminate age discrimination. It’s been out there for too long and it must be eradicated as soon as possible.”

    He said the OBA would look at re-opening the hospital clinic aimed at those without insurance, while older people who owned their own homes would get access to Government-funded Financial Assistance.

    Mr Richardson added: “My vision for Bermuda is simply one of respect – where there is a challenge, to come to you and ask you, take your opinions and act on them.

    “If we can get to a stage of having more respect for seniors, we will have taken a step towards the kind of Bermuda we want to live in.”

    He added that there was no law governing the private sector that said people had to retire at 65 – and encouraged employers to look past birthdates.

    Mr Richardson added that older people who sign their homes over to their children could be abused – and dumped in a home by unscrupulous offspring.

    He said: “We need to have a policy in place for these people to protect them.” And he defended the closure of the hospital indigent clinic, which was replaced by Future Care, which provided “a better service” and allowed people to stay with their own doctor.

    Mr Sullivan added that seniors had become “a specialist interest” and were told they had to retire to make room for younger people.

    But he told the meeting: “There has to be an opportunity made available for you to be back in our society and contributing if you wish. I would support anything which gets seniors off the liability side and on to the asset side.”

    And he added: “Whatever you want to call it, good healthcare should be available to our senior citizens.”

    Ms Fleming said: “The candidates showed they got the message, but the evidence will be in the execution.

    “Our members took careful note of what they said and will hold them to account.”


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    Wednesday, October 26 2011

    Devonshire South Central candidates meet seniors at Age Concern forum

    Devonshire South Central candidates meet seniors at Age Concern forum

    By Ayo Johnson

    One Bermuda Alliance Leader, Craig Cannonier yesterday promised that his party would eliminate age discrimination in the workplace, and ensure affordable and equitable health insurance and financial assistance for seniors.
    But according to the ruling party’s Anthony Richardson, one of Mr Cannonier’s opponents in the upcoming Devonshire South Central by-election, voting him into parliament is the best way to deliver such benefits to senior citizens.
    And he advocated policies which would prevent adult children of senior citizens from abusing their homeowning parents.
    And independent candidate David Sullivan stressed that including senior citizens in the life of the country is key.
    Seniors advocacy organisation, Age Concern, had invited the three Devonshire South Central by-election candidates to speak with senior citizens. About 40 people showed up for the lunchtime forum at the Peace Lutheran Church Hall.
    In the final part of the wide-ranging discussion, the three were read out a summary of the findings of a recent focus group discussion during which seniors highlighted their vision of a senior friendly Bermuda.
    Seniors had called for a healthier interaction with young people, human contact with service providers such as banks as opposed to automated answering machines, safety measures such as footpaths and sidewalks and inclusion of homeowners in Government’s financial assistance scheme.
    The seniors had also called for the ability to continuing working despite their age and for society to “value seniors as participants and contributors in the workplace.”
    “If you wish to continue to work after 65, that option should be available to you without any ramifications for that,” Mr Cannonier said. “Work never killed anyone. But it certainly will keep you alive, and I’m sure that at 65 you want to continue doing what it is that you do.”
    He said the OBA will make it a priority to eliminate age discrimination, adding that the issue had been bounced around but Government “hasn’t moved on it”.
    “We’re going to move on it immediately, to eradicate it. It must be done.”
    Turning to healthcare he said the current system was “another form of discrimination” and should be reviewed to “ensure that it is affordable and equitable so that everyone is paying the same price for the same care”.
    On financial assistance, Mr Cannonier said that seniors should not be denied financial assistance because they own a home. “Here you are, you have provided a home that your family, in future days, will be able to take advantage of.
    “Yet, us as a people, Bermuda and the Government are saying you don’t have any cash, you can’t pay electricity, nothing I can do about it. And you’ve paid your dues to society. That can no longer go on.”
    He said: “It would be a dire shame if we continue to allow these kinds of things to be on the law books of Bermuda without eradicating them. That must be done now. We cannot wait any longer to eradicate them because you are too valuable a resource to be on the sideline as if you are a cheerleader and you’re not a part of the game. You are a vital part of the game.”
    Anthony Richardson said that there was a misunderstanding about the Government retirement age.
    “The Government Pension scheme talks about retirement at the age of 65. But there is no law that I am aware of that makes any other private employer require the employees to go at age 65.”
    Mr Richardson noted that, historically, insurers denied health insurance to people over 65. “It’s about respect. It’s really about saying the seniors themselves are requesting for us to go beyond 65. Do it right away,” he said. “As of tomorrow, it can be done.”
    He told the gathering that there was an advantage in putting him in parliament.
    “If I am successful on Tuesday, the Government, Bermuda, has to wake up and pay attention,” he said. “What it really means is that you are prepared to make a change” and there would be a recognition by the Premier that the administration would have to immediately respond to changes demanded by the voters.
    Mr Richardson advocated a policy whereby adult children who took control of their parents’ homes were prevented from abusing them.
    “As people get older, sometimes they pass their houses to their children. And the children themselves abuse the parents by putting them into a snooze home. That has to be stopped,” he said.
    He said such practices could be stopped through a policy preventing people from putting their parents out of their own homes. “I can assure everyone in this room that, no matter who you are, no matter what your family circumstances are, if you pass your house on too early, children themselves do not always react appropriately. We need to have a policy for that.”
    Mr Sullivan said that the fact that many organisations had abandoned a human interface and turned to technology to handle customers was a symptom of the fact that “we have not encouraged the business community to consider people who are experienced to have a small job, just to do something every day”.
    “It gives an opportunity for experienced members of the community to come out, have a reason to get up in the morning and go out and create an environment of friendliness which is what our island is famous for. We are a friendly island, a friendly people,” Mr Sullivan said.
    “The opportunity we have before us, I think, is about inclusion.”


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    Friday, October 28 2011

    Planning for long-term care

    Planning for long-term care

    Dr David Harries
    Age Concern

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    For seniors and their families the decision to move into long-term care is often the most difficult and traumatic they ever have to make.

    Few people willingly relinquish their independence yet there may come a time when their needs can no longer be met at home and placement becomes the only option.

    The process usually involves some financial and needs assessment, after which efforts are made to match the individual to the institution most suited to meet their care requirements.


    There may be delays. There are about 600 places available in facilities, ranging from independent living units through residential care homes to skilled nursing facilities, and many have lengthy waiting-lists, particularly those few units offering specialized dementia care which are few in number.

    The cost of care varies widely, averaging about $5,000 a month for residential care all the way up to $1,3000 a month for a place in the extended care unit of the hospital.

    How much the individual contributes depends on their financial resources.

    As our population ages, the need for long-term care, whether in institutions or at home is bound to increase.

    As a responsible society we need to be planning for this now.

    You can begin the planning process by ensuring that you remain in good physical, mental and financial health.

    Good eating habits, exercise and rest go a long way in reducing the potential negative impact that the ageing process can have on you.

    You should also consider including your family in the planning discussions.

    Families can often be unprepared to respond to a sudden illness or drastic change in a medical or health condition.

    Family members can be included in discussions such as creating a healthcare directive or living will, helping to determine the type of long-term care that you may want, along with your ability to finance that care and end of life planning.

    These can be difficult subject matters, but they don’t have to be if they take place before the need for long-term care occurs.

    If you are an older adult and have concerns about your long-term care needs never hesitate to speak to your own doctor.

    He or she can be a valuable resource in your planning process.

    Dr David Harries is the geriatrician at the Continuing Care Unit of the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. He is a member of Age Concern’s campaign for Successful Ageing. To learn more about the campaign contact Age Concern at 238-7525 or visit the website


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    Saturday, November 05 2011

    Pledge to end age discrimination is welcomed

    Pledge to end age discrimination is welcomed

    By Jonathan Bell

    Opposition spokeswoman for seniors Louise Jackson has questioned why Throne Speech promises for Bermuda’s elderly weren’t implemented years ago.
    “Better late than never,” said Ms Jackson, of the pledge to table an amendment to the Human Rights Act eliminating age discrimination.
    A change to the law would do away with a mandatory retirement age of 65.
    “The One Bermuda Alliance certainly appreciates that Government has finally recognised so many problems that seniors have suffered for years,” Ms Jackson said.
    “However, most of the statements they have made haven’t been promises, as such.”In the speech, Government said elder abuse legislation and health insurance reforms would be introduced.
    The issue of upfront payments for medical treatment was said to be “already being addressed”.
    Responded Ms Jackson: “They say that, but the Health Council has also said that this is a very difficult problems that they can’t see to fruition. They’re not saying what they’re actually going to do.”
    She added that a promise to review the eligibility criteria for Financial Assistance so that seniors who own their own homes could qualify “isn’t the same as saying they will actually do it”.
    Ms Jackson said: “These are issues I’ve been talking about for the last eight years. How many people have suffered in the meantime?”
    Age Concern director Claudette Fleming commended the speech’s attention to seniors, saying that many of the items brought up in the Throne Speech had been on the agenda at a recent meeting of the charity.
    Age Concern aired its views last week, with the various political candidates for the Devonshire South Central by-election.
    “It seems like the concerns of our members made it straight to the top,” Ms Fleming said.
    “In particular, addressing the fact that some, I stress not all but some, seniors want the option of being able to work past 65, makes the amendment to the Human Rights Act to include anti-age discrimination very important.”
    Amendments to the Elder Abuse Act would hopefully include assets protection, she said, to protect the elderly from family members and others who take over their homes but neglect their needs.
    Ms Fleming said the group was in “total support” of amendments to Financial Assistance for senior homeowners.
    “In addition, Age Concern is encouraged about the mention in the Throne Speech of working more with the non-profit sector. We have continuously expressed our desire to be at the planning table with a view of being delegated some of the work that needs to be done.
    “We want to work and we want to work with our public sector leaders that are committed to making Bermuda a place to age that is the envy of the world. We therefore look forward to sitting at the National Ageing Strategy table, making our contribution and strengthening our commitment to work through collaborative and decisive action.”
    Government has said senior will be the focus of the National Strategy on Ageing, which remains a work in progress.


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    Friday, November 25 2011

    Successful ageing

    Successful ageing: Be prepared for the challenges ahead

    By Veronica Baptista

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 25: Caring for a loved one as their health falters and then fades is not an easy task.

    Here in Bermuda many of us face this struggle, but why then do we feel so alone?

    Why do we not speak out and talk about the unique issues which make caring for our loved ones such a challenge?

    My grandfather passed away about 18 months ago.

    He was bedridden for three months before he died, making it impossible for my grandmother to care for him independently.

    As a family, we realized that my grandparents would not be able to afford the $5,000 per month price tag of a nursing home. (In fact, had we know that my grandfather would only be alive for three months, they probably could have dealt with the cost, but at the time, we had no idea how little time we had left with him.)

    Another difficulty was that since my grandfather was not Bermudian, he did not qualify for any Government assistance; a harsh reality given the fact that my grandfather lived and worked here for the vast majority of his working life.

    Fortunately, we were able to keep my grandfather home, which is where he died. We were able to “take shifts” during the late afternoons into the night.

    During “working hours” we were able to hire some help to look after my grandfather for a couple of hours.

    In a way, our family was fortunate that we did not have to go through this for years and years.

    Many families do. Many people have to quit their jobs to stay home to look after their loved ones.

    Many people get no break whatsoever; caregiving is their life — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    Many people suffer terrible health problems from heavy lifting, stress or fatigue.

    For so many, life is not easy on this island paradise.

    There are so many issues to consider when we talk about looking after our ageing or medically fragile loved ones.

    I think that the only way that we can move forward and start to really support each other is by starting to discuss the challenges that we face.

    Hopefully, by becoming a unified voice, we can find ways to fill in the gaps that exist within our community.

    Age Concern’s Campaign for Successful Ageing is about ensuring that older adults, their families and their caregivers are prepared for the challenging times that may lie ahead.

    These times do not have to be so challenging if we plan beforehand and know where to turn when we need help.

    For more information on caregiving support and services that can assist you call Age Concern on 238-7525.

    Veronica Baptista is a registered nurse and a member of Age Concern Bermuda’s Campaign for Successful Ageing. If you would like to comment on this article or learn more about the Campaign, e-mail:


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    Wednesday, December 07 2011

    Age Concern calls on Govt to provide relief to seniors hit by FutureCare coverage shortfall

    Age Concern calls on Govt. to provide relief to seniors hit by FutureCare coverage shortfall

    By Ayo Johnson

    Seniors advocacy group, Age Concern, is calling on Government to review FutureCare legislation and provide financial assistance to eligible seniors following revelations of a glitch in the system which led to overpayments to healthcare providers.
    “We have to question whether the Future Care programme is doing what it was created to do, that is, eradicate the financial hardship that the elderly were experiencing, as a result of expensive healthcare coverage,” said Age Concern Director Claudette Fleming.
    “The current situation is not good and is not a reflection of our understanding of the programme’s initial intent.”
    Ms Fleming was reacting to yesterday’s story in this newspaper which reported that a “system implementation error” had led to the scheme reimbursing doctors 100 percent of their costs for certain procedures done at the local hospital, instead of 75 percent.
    The error was corrected in April this year, and going forward doctors now have to bill their patients for 25 percent of the cost of certain procedures they do at the local hospital something that seniors did not have to be concerned about since the scheme’s inception in 2009.
    Clients and doctors believed that the benefits policy for such procedures was 100 percent coverage.
    FutureCare administrators failed to directly inform healthcare providers and their clients of the error and its correction with Health Minister Zane DeSilva saying that policyholders are not informed every time the automated system is “tweaked” as that constitutes “routine configuration and maintenance”.
    And because of a lag in claims processing, at least one doctor’s office was not aware of the change when contacted by The Royal Gazette but was able to confirm that they were no longer receiving 100 percent reimbursements when they checked their records.
    Another doctor’s office said they noticed the reduction in reimbursement and questioned the Health Insurance Department repeatedly but as of last week had not received a clear explanation.
    “In light of the lack of an immediate alternative, Age Concern would support a review of the legislation to include 100 percent coverage as a long-term solution, and the offer of financial assistance to those persons who would undergo further financial hardship as a result of the 25 percent coverage shortfall in the short term,” Ms Fleming continued.
    And she called on FutureCare clients to register their experience with her organisation “so that cases are properly documented, in order that decision makers have a good understanding of the degree to which individuals are being personally impacted.
    “To expect that seniors should ‘bear this and grin’, is unreasonable, especially considering all that they have already contributed to this island.”
    The Opposition One Bermuda Alliance has criticised the Government for not properly informing seniors about the benefits available under the programme, a claim robustly denied by Minister DeSilva.
    Shadow Health Minister, Senator Michael Dunkley last night issued this statement in response to the news.
    “My colleague Louise Jackson has raised legitimate concerns about the Government not properly informing seniors of their financial obligations under FutureCare.
    “This morning’s story in The Royal Gazette reveals the Government has more work to do to make sure seniors and even doctors are properly informed about FutureCare coverages.
    “The reported implementation last April of a 75-25 co-pay to replace 100 percent coverage for procedures performed at the hospital without any kind of notification to the people affected is astonishing.
    “That the Minister said policyholders were not typically informed when the system was “tweaked” is an unacceptable response.
    “That the Minister blamed it on a ‘system implementation error’ is a weak attempt to somehow spin blame to something beyond people control.
    “We urge the Minister to take responsibility and get this programme’s act together. It appears to be disconcerting the system, the people it was designed to help and their families, all of whom are on the line for the anticipated and unanticipated costs of seniors’ healthcare.”
    Government is yet to respond to additional queries from this newspaper seeking information as to the size of the overpayments, whether other benefits have been affected by the system implementation error and who, if anyone, will be made accountable for the error.


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    Friday, December 09 2011

    Butterfield seniors urged to weigh up retirement offer

    Butterfield seniors urged to weigh up retirement offer

    By Marina Mello

    Age Concern yesterday warned seniors to weigh Butterfield Bank’s voluntary retirement offer fully before accepting it.
    James McCulloch, co-chair of the group’s Advocacy Committee, said the offer may suit some seniors, but not others.
    And he commended the bank for saying that it would be allowing the retirees to remain as members of its health insurance plan.
    The Bank has asked 46 employees to consider voluntary early retirement. All the employees targeted for possible early retirement were aged between 60 to 65.
    “The offer by Butterfield Bank may well be attractive to several of the selected senior employees,” Mr McCulloch said.
    “Previous experience, both in Bermuda and around the world, indicates that successful outcomes from voluntary early retirement are more common where the employees are nearer to their normal retirement ages. This appears to be the case here where the relevant employees are aged between 60 and 65 years.
    “However, all employees have different attitudes to work and security, and varying financial and health needs.”
    Mr McCulloch said questions the employees affected should consider include: Are they happy in their work?, is their mortgage paid off yet?, will any pre-existing health conditions be covered in future if they accept this offer?, and do they have plans for post-employment activities which can be brought forward?
    He suggested that all the employees offered the retirement packages should get independent financial and personal advice before making a decision.
    “Perhaps the bank would pay for this,” he said. “Providing such advice would improve both the take-up rate and the likelihood of future success for the individual.
    “The danger of finding themselves regretting this move in future will mostly depend upon the employees’ need for future employment so as to maintain their standard of living or financial security.
    “Jobs of all kinds, both full and part-time, are difficult to find these days especially for someone in their sixties. So if you will be dependant upon future employment outside the bank then our advice would tend be to stay in your present employment unless you have a guaranteed position lined up.”


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    Thursday, December 15 2011

    Age Concern sees merit in reconsidering pensioners’ land tax exemption

    Age Concern sees merit in reconsidering pensioners’ land tax exemption

    By Owain Johnston-Barnes

    A rethink on the land tax exemption for pensioners could be positive if the correct measures are implemented, according to Age Concern.
    Government stated, in the recently released Pre-Budget Report, it was reconsidering the current exemption in an effort to make up for a predicted revenue shortfall.
    A section of the report read: “In 2005 the Government exempted all pensioners from land tax. Prior to this change, homes owned by pensioners with an ARV of less than $40,000 were exempt from land tax.
    “It is not envisioned that the Government would look to remove this exemption in its entirety; however, the Government will examine ways to continue to provide this relief to a vast majority of pensioners while reducing this annual tax expenditure of $6 million.”
    Speaking on the issue, Age Concern director Claudette Fleming said: “If the appropriate balance of a secure safety net for the disadvantaged and reasonable tax expectations is imposed on those who can afford it, we are collectively in a better position to weather the current economic storm.”
    She said that it was understandable that Government wants to raise revenue, but that Government must not do so at the expense of those who are most vulnerable.
    “I think in these challenging economic times we can expect that Government will examine areas where it is losing revenue,” Mrs Fleming said.
    “What is critical in these decisions is that we must be careful to ensure that policy changes will not impact the economically vulnerable who often rely on Government concessions to assist in minimising their own daily expenses.”


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    Friday, December 30 2011

    Who Cares for the Elderly?

    Levels of responsibility: Who Cares for the Elderly?

    By Claudette Fleming

    Friday, December 30, 2011

    The print media and talk shows have been buzzing with talk, commentary and opinions on issues that have recently been highlighted about the plight of an elderly woman.

    The events of the last few weeks have caused me to reflect once again on the issue of responsibility in ageing.

    The truth of the matter is that each of us has some degree of responsibility for the welfare of our older citizens, and ourselves as we age.

    The first level of responsibility rests with us as individuals.

    We must plan properly for old age; take care of our health; understand and exercise our rights and responsibilities; and ensure that our lives are and relationships are healthy and balanced.

    We must take care of the things that are within our control as long as we can while they remain under our control to do so.

    The second level of responsibility is to our biological families.

    How many of us have an uncle or an aunt, brother or sister, or in-laws that have no living spouse, and no children.

    I have several people within my own family that fit into that category. And when I can, I remind them to take care of themselves as responsibly as possible because if and when they are not in a position to care for themselves, the responsibility of care may find itself on the doorstep of my immediate family.

    The same family that has children in university, children in kindergarten, a mortgage and car while also aiming to practice what we preach by adhering to our own retirement savings.

    In cases such as these, it requires a family effort to ensure that the family does not implode under the pressure.

    But even with the pressure, families do have an important role to play within the context of their ability.

    Still, as idealistic as it sounds, every social, health or financial issue cannot always be met by the average Bermudian family.

    We as a country must decide what type of safety net will be put in place to ensure that when families are unable to carry the load, that the community of Bermuda will fall in as the next line of support.

    What should the Bermuda community safety net look like?

    Should it be publicly funded and lead, charitable acts or both?

    Should seniors turn to the charity of others for help when there is no other place to turn or does the Government have a more significant role to play?

    And then, once we decide on exactly what we are prepared to do for our growing senior population, how will we hold our elected official, civil servants, religious, non-profit leaders and the like, accountable to get the job done?

    Done enough?

    When it is all said and done, we must ask ourselves if we can go to bed at night with the confidence that we have done all that we can whether it be as individuals, families, neighbours, religious groups, a community, the Government, private or charitable sectors.

    As individuals we must ask ourselves are we planning for our own futures while at the same time helping our own families?

    As families we must ask ourselves are we giving all that we can according to our ability?

    As a Government we must ask are we adequately planning and making appropriate provision and service for the well-being of our ageing people?

    As the holidays draw near we would like to extend our well wishes to those public leaders who have the responsibility to ensure that collectively, we get it right.

    These include: Minister, the Hon. Zane DeSilva JP MP, Mrs. Louise Jackson, JP MP and Mr. John Payne, acting manager of the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged and many other public leaders and workers.

    We recognize and honour you and the significant responsibility you have in leading the way.

    We also extend holiday wishes to the dozens of individuals and groups within the Bermuda community that have donated an unprecedented amount of money, food and gifts for Age Concern to distribute to our clientele in need this year.

    In addition to the churches and volunteers that have worked so diligently to deliver these items.

    And finally, we extend well wishes to our seniors and their families during the holiday season and the New Year to come.

    May we as a country, enter the New Year with the understanding that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’.

    Let us always remember that as a prosperous country, we are enjoying the fruits of the labour of our older citizens, it is therefore only honourable to expect that we will do our best to do right by them in whatever way we can, according to our own ability and level of responsi-bility.

    Claudette Fleming is the Executive Director of Age Concern Bermuda. Email:


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    Wednesday, January 04 2012

    Good Samaritans come to aid of Belco customers

    Good Samaritans come to aid of Belco customers

    By Ceola Wilson

    Several thousand dollars have been deposited into a newly formed account aimed at assisting senior citizens, especially those on fixed incomes, who are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet and keep their lights on.
    This follows Royal Gazette report last May that highlighted the increasing number of private residences faced with the threat of no electrical power by householders out of work and without means to pay.
    The Royal Gazette understands that not only has there been an inundation of financial support from the community to make sure that there were happy homes during the Christmas season, there’s word of another form of generosity through the newly formed Age Concern the Belco Hardship Fund for seniors.
    Age Concern Executive Director Claudette Fleming confirmed yesterday that “several thousands of dollars have been allocated to this newly formed fund by anonymous donors, in the form of electricity bill vouchers paid to Belco or Age Concern”, to keep the lights on in an increasing number of homes where householders, particularly those out of work for extended periods, are in desperate need of assistance.
    Ms Fleming, who said last May that Age Concern documented 3,500 calls from seniors in 2010/11 citing soaring costs for fuel and the rising cost of food in Bermuda, said her deepest fear was whether the number of people needing such support was growing.
    “We have not been administering this service long enough to determine whether what we are currently experiencing by way of referrals is ‘unusual’ however, if so, what will Age Concern’s capacity be to meet the demand for help in the future?” she asked.
    “It appears for the most part that seniors are making every effort to stay current with their electric light bill payments,” she added. “Typically these are responsible individuals who simply need a temporary hand up, because of an unexpected medical situation, the loss of a job within the family, or some other legitimate reason.
    “Many times people are hesitant to walk through our doors to get help,” she said. “But we have to assure them that it’s ‘okay’ because our organisation exits to help. When we are not able to help, we do our best to find other supporting resources.”
    The Age Concern-Belco Hardship Fund was set up in the third quarter of 2011, after members of the public and corporate donors responded to an interview in The Royal Gazette, when Ms Fleming emphasised the rise in numbers to Age Concern’s call centre, and specified the paying of electricity bills among the calls for help.
    At that time, in follow up to that report, she said the public responded with donations and “we immediately commenced a dialogue with Belco to set up a monetary hardship fund”.
    Shortly after that a formal written agreement and partnership was established with clear guidelines set up on how the fund would be administered.
    “As it stands now,” Ms Fleming stated, “donations can be made by the public to either Age Concern or Belco with specific instructions that monies be used for the hardship fund.
    “Cases of hardship are mostly identified by Belco, who refer those who qualify over the age of 65 with delinquent payments to us. We have a documented assessment procedure and if the applicants qualify, we notify Belco and make a payment.
    “Age Concern’s intervention is a short-term, one-time payment. We have averaged about one case a month, with more cases being assessed over the holidays due to our one-time advertisement about the programme.
    “In all cases, overdue balances have been paid in full. The person’s information remains confidential and although I approve the payments, most times I am unaware of the actual names of the applicants, however I am aware of the individual circumstances.”
    She added: “It appears for the most part, seniors are making every effort to stay current with their electric light payments.
    “On average we have paid out approximately $618 per case, with some cases being higher or lower. What we have generally found is that the senior has had difficulty with one payment and that has made subsequent payments delinquent.
    “What I am always amazed about is the quality of senior that we have helped.
    “Typically, these are responsible individuals who simply need a temporary hands up, because of an unintended medical situation, the loss of a job within a family, or some other legitimate reason.
    "As a part of our successful Ageing Campaign, Age Concern is attempting to get to the bottom of the threat of financial hardship that is currently being faced by seniors by providing tools and information sessions for individuals to prepare for old age.”
    But Ms Fleming was quick to note: “The question of how we can prepare people to be better financially equipped in old age is always on our minds. One of the answers that Age Concern has pursued at the national level for some time is the development of a National Strategy for the Aged.
    “With all the personal planning in the world, there will always be circumstances that are beyond our control. The current global economic crisis is beyond our control but its effects on our economy are trickling right down to our seniors.
    “We need to build a network around them that can see them through unpredictable times. It would never be my wish to see anyone have to rely on charity as a part of their retirement plan.
    “However, I am extremely gratified that through our partnership with Belco and the generous support of the community that we can at least fill the gap for now until something more substantive is put in place to protect our seniors from economic vulnerability in any climate.”
    Her deepest fear is that “ten, 20, 30 years from now our measure of success will be to have moved the current statistic of one to two hardship cases a month to zero cases”.
    “Every individual person, family, community leader, employer and politician reading this article can help us get there by being proactive in their respective roles to help Bermudians plan successfully for their future as older adults.
    “If we consciously choose to ignore this message by giving into the temptation of only focusing on the immediate crisis situations, we are paving the path to a greater social need in the future.”
    When contacted by The Royal Gazette, Belco spokeswoman Susan McGrath-Smith said: “The percentage of Belco customers with outstanding bill payments has remained relatively consistent throughout 2011, although the list changes all the time, as customers pay off their bills.
    “The majority of customers do successfully make payments and, as stated throughout the year, we work with them to put payment plans in place.”
    On a positive note she added, “Although we have not quantified this, we have noticed an uptick in the number of electricity gift certificates purchased and gift payments (including anonymous payments) made in 2011, suggesting that the Bermuda community is reaching out to help family, friends and neighbours perhaps analogous to the ‘Secret Santas’ who have paid off layaway bills for toys being purchased by parents in the US, Bermuda and elsewhere.”
    Belco is also working with Age Concern to identify senior citizens who qualify for assistance with their bills, based on proven financial need; any questions about the programme should be directed to Age Concern also seniors in need should contact Age Concern directly.
    Ms McGrath-Smith added: “One of our staff did quantify the assistance that people have provided via anonymous payments and gift vouchers, which was a lot more than in 2010, since we started the electricity vouchers this year. We’ve had a lot of donations this season.”
    Close to $20,000 was cited as the total from several anonymous donors, with another $5,340 in Electricity Vouchers purchased.
    Earlier in the year there were donations in the amounts $4,350, $1,000 and another $2,325 in anonymous donations, with another $5,900 in vouchers purchased.
    In addition to the numbers provided last week, in 2011, Ms. McGrath said: “Donors wishing to remain anonymous contributed approximately $3,400 to the Age Concern programme through our offices.”
    As for the total numbers of those having difficulty in keeping up with their utility bill payments, she said: “The number is not a constant number it changes all the time, as people pay their bills or make pay arrangments; the number is different from one day to the next.”
    That said, she added that “our customer service and accounts people are extremely busy this week with customer queries and year end so not able to supply most recent numbers.”
    Belco put up signs near the cashiers’ windows after Thanksgiving, letting customers know that vouchers were an option.
    Ms McGrath-Smith added: “We did not advertise the vouchers via the media, as we didn’t want anyone to feel that we were ‘pushing’ people to spend their Christmas dollars on electricity. Vouchers are available all year round.
    “There are also people who come in and pay on bills for family and friends. There would be no real way of knowing how many of those occurred, as people do it, but don’t say anything about it being a gift. There was also $3,450 from donors to the Age Concern Hardship Fund.”
    Meantime Age Concern plans to put out the word on this new form of assistance in the months ahead. Anyone wishing to be a part of this community-oriented form of sponsorship is urged to contact either Belco or Age Concern for more information.


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    Tuesday, January 10 2012

    CellOne launches new phone aimed at seniors

    CellOne launches new phone aimed at seniors

    By Lindsay Kelly

    CellOne is looking to appeal to Bermuda’s ageing population with a user-friendly phone and discounted payment plan for seniors.
    Yesterday, the company announced the launch of “EasyTalk” senior’s package that featured a flip phone designed for the older mobile phone user combined with a basic rate plan.
    According to the cell phone company, it’s the most affordable in Bermuda.
    “CellOne is cognisant of the ageing population of Bermuda and being a major partner and supporter of Age Concern over the years, we’ve had great insight into what seniors are looking for in wireless services,” said Frank Amaral, chief operating officer of CellOne.
    Aimed at customers 65 and older, the phone model Doro 610 is a flip phone that features larger buttons, a loud speaker for the hearing-impaired and an “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) feature where all personal health information on the owner can be stored. The phone is also is hearing aid compatible.
    The payment plan offers 100 ‘anytime minutes’ for $27 per month, and customers can add unlimited nights and weekends and unlimited text messaging to the plan for an additional monthly charge. People who are members of AgeConcern can present their membership cards when activating their new accounts and receive free service for one month and a free group seminar on how to use the device.
    According to CellOne, another significant feature of the Doro 610 is the emergency security key located on the backside of the device.
    “This security key is a programmable panic button which when pressed sets off a loud 5 second alarm to alert the surrounding public of a crisis,” the company said in a press release. “The Doro 610 will then escalate an unanswered alarm by attempting to contact up to five emergency contacts added by the user. Emergency contacts will be called and text messaged in the sequence that has been manually programmed until the contact is reached.”
    “The Doro 610 is an excellent device for our older customer, offering what is most important to them safety and security,” added Mr Amaral.
    Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern, said: “Age Concern Bermuda is pleased to endorse its LINK Partner, CellOne in its launch of the new Easy Talk plan and the Doro 610 mobile phone for seniors. We hope that with the introduction of the mobile phone and plan, more seniors will reap the benefits of a phone designed especially to meet their unique needs.”

    For more information on the new ‘Easy Talk’ plan for seniors and Doro 610 senior phone, visit one of CellOne’s three retail stores, located on Church Street in Hamilton, York Street in St George’s or Mangrove Bay Road in Somerset.


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    Tuesday, January 17 2012

    Bermuda Gas launches free water heater programme for seniors

    Bermuda Gas launches free water heater programme for seniors

    By Lindsay Kelly

    Seniors will have the opportunity to lower their energy bill through a programme with Bermuda Gas.
    The appliance company is offering members of Age Concern a tankless water heater that is powered by propane. According to Bermuda Gas, tankless water heaters provide unlimited hot water, whenever it’s needed, without the inefficiency of a reservoir that must be constantly reheated.
    The majority of homes have traditional hot water heaters, which consume the most amount of energy on an average electricity bill.
    “Heating hot water continuously by traditional means contributes more to the average household electric bill than any other single component apart from air conditioning in the summer months,” said Judith Uddin, general manager of Bermuda Gas. “That’s why we’re partnering with Age Concern to offer their members a free tankless water heater that’s powered by propane.”
    The discount represents a $1,875 value; Age Concern members pay installation. The discount will be offered through the end of January.
    Along with Bermuda Gas, Claudette Fleming, the executive director of Age Concern, is hosting a special members-only open house tomorrow at the new Bermuda Gas showroom to learn more about the programme.
    Anyone over the age of 50 years wishing to become a member of Age Concern is invited to visit the office at Charities House, 25 Point Finger Road in Paget or to sign up at the Open House event.
    The open house will take place from 2.30pm to 4.30pm on Wednesday January 18 at 25 Serpentine Road. Attendees will also have a chance to enter a draw for a free cylinder of gas.

    Additional information about the Age Concern Discount Programme is available by visiting the Age Concern page on the Bermuda Gas web site


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    Thursday, January 19 2012

    Families Minister promises changes to legislation for aid for seniors

    Families Minister promises changes to legislation for aid for seniors

    By Sam Strangeways

    Seniors who have an interest in a property will be eligible for financial aid from Government under a proposed change to the law.
    Youth, Families and Sport Minister Glenn Blakeney told a meeting last night that “amendments to certain pieces of legislation, particularly with Financial Assistance” were on the way.
    His announcement comes a month after The Royal Gazette revealed the plight of 98-year-old Mrs O, a widow in desperate need of 24-hour care, who was denied Financial Assistance because of a life interest in her family home.
    Mrs O does not own the dilapidated one-storey property but does have the right to live there until she dies. Under the Financial Assistance Regulations 2004, that precludes her from claiming anything from the Department of Financial Assistance.
    Government pledged in its 2011 Throne Speech to amend the regulations so home-owning seniors were no longer ineligible for aid.
    Mr Blakeney added last night that those aged 65 and over with an interest in a property would also be able to seek assistance from Government in the future.
    The Minister said Government had “noble, good intentions” to cut costs and ensure the truly needy benefited from Financial Assistance when it amended the law in 2004.
    But, without mentioning Mrs O, he added: “We came to find out through our experience that there were some special hardships.”
    He said: “Now we are making amendments so we can catch those anomalies that we didn’t really consider when we were making the adjustments.”
    Mr Blakeney was speaking at Dalton E Tucker Primary School in Southampton, at the first of a series of town hall meetings organised by Premier Paula Cox on the forthcoming Budget.
    Ms Cox was asked by Corporation of Hamilton Councillor Marshall Minors if pensions would be raised in the next fiscal year.
    He said many seniors were struggling and added: “Government really needs to look at increasing that pension.”
    The Premier said she could not say if it would go up as such a decision would be based on actuarial assessments and the amount of money available in the Budget.
    Ms Cox began the meeting by explaining that the idea was to gain the “people’s perspective” on how taxpayer dollars should be allocated across Government.
    She said members of the public had already submitted interesting suggestions as part of her “open budget” initiative.
    One such idea was to introduce unemployment insurance. Finance Minister Ms Cox said that had been raised before but the issue was always whether employers and employees were willing to pay more in taxes to fund such a plan.
    “If not, how will Government raise the additional revenue to fund the scheme?” she asked.
    Ms Cox said another suggestion was to look at getting value for money on government vehicles.
    She added that changes were on the way which would save about £1 million in that area.
    The Premier defended her recent decision to provide payroll tax relief to retailers and increase the import duty at the airport.
    “The duty was raised to 35 percent,” she said. “Many criticised the decision. Many still criticise the decision. Many feel they have the right to spend their money as they choose.”
    Ms Cox said every million dollars spent locally in shops supported about four jobs in the sector, while every cent spent overseas supported jobs in other countries.
    Attorney General Kim Wilson spoke of plans within her Ministry to establish a mental health treatment programme in 2012/13.
    She said such a scheme was needed as some offenders with mental health problems were not getting the help they needed.
    Senator Wilson said money would also be spent on the substance abuse treatment programme for offenders and on treating sexual offenders.
    She said some 25 percent of the Ministry of Justice’s budget would go on such programmes and that funds would also be spent on enhancing security to prevent contraband material getting into prisons.
    Sen Wilson said she was seeking to contain the costs of Legal Aid and introduce a system for those who couldn’t afford legal fees similar to in the US, where there is a public defenders’ office.
    Health Minister Zane DeSilva told the meeting that the new hospital being built to replace King Edward VII Memorial Hospital was “on budget and on time”. He said the Island’s first public private partnership was progressing well and that if the contractors did fall behind in their schedule “the dime is on them, not on Government”.
    * The next town hall meeting on the Budget is at 7.30pm on January 25 at the Leopard’s Club in Hamilton.


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    Wednesday, February 15 2012

    Argus launches cut-price home insurance for seniors

    Argus launches cut-price home insurance for seniors

    By Marina Mello

    Argus Group said yesterday it’s launched a new home insurance for seniors that’s 25 percent below market price.
    The company said it was launching the product at a time when Bermuda’s senior population was rapidly growing.
    According to the Social Insurance Department, 700 residents retired in 2010, compared to just 276 during the year before. And with falling birth rates, people living longer and the “baby boomer” generation preparing to retire, this trend is likely to continue.
    Argus Group said the new product, Home Essentials, was designed specifically for Bermuda’s seniors and has been endorsed by Age Concern.
    Home Essentials provides coverage for a wide range of perils including fire, flood, hurricane, burglary and escape of water.
    Argus said some benefits that could be considered unnecessary for seniors have been removed, allowing Argus to provide the product at an affordable rate for those aged 65 years or older.
    “These are difficult times and no one knows this more than our seniors, the majority of whom are on a fixed income after they retire,” said John Doherty, executive vice president of Argus Property & Casualty.
    “We have designed Home Essentials to provide retirees with coverage that responds to the most common causes of loss, while keeping the cost of premiums affordable. We have also made it fast and easy for anyone 65 years or older to qualify, whether their current policy is with Argus or not. At Argus we recognise that this is a growing segment of our population, and it is important that we take care of them.”
    Argus said the product has been endorsed by Age Concern and as of February 1 of this year, Argus became a certified LINK partner with Age Concern. LINK is Age Concern’s programme to connect seniors to services that meet their needs.
    “It is important for seniors to have insurance, but standard premiums can be expensive and often cover items that don’t apply to the senior population,” said Claudette Fleming, director of Age Concern.
    “For seniors concerned about their monthly costs, this new offering will provide peace of mind. And those caring for an ageing relative can also talk to Argus about how Home Essentials can help their loved ones. It is a great new option for seniors.”
    Home Essentials will be featured at the Argus display (booths 23 to 25) at the Coldwell Banker Home Show at CedarBridge Academy on Friday from 3pm until 8pm and Saturday, February 18 from 9.30am until 4.30pm.


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    Tuesday, March 06 2012

    Hard up seniors choose between food, medication or electricity

    Hard up seniors choose between food, medication or electricity

    By Ceola Wilson

    The advocacy group for seniors, Age Concern, has been inundated with calls for assistance to help keep the lights on. The Age Concern Belco Hardship Fund was established last June to assist senior citizens on fixed incomes who are having trouble making ends meet.
    Director James McCulloch, who assesses the cases attributes the increase to the fact that several seniors have reached the limit on their health insurance allowances that cover 80 percent of costs for prescription drugs.
    In some cases the need is so bad that seniors are having to choose between buying food, medication that keeps them alive or pay their light bills.
    With $24,000 in donations 25 households have been assisted to the tune of $15,000.
    In an interview with The Royal Gazette, Mr McCulloch said: “This is the worst we’ve ever seen it, they keep coming and the numbers are accelerating.
    “The insurance coverage runs on the same financial year as government. The new financial year starts April 1 and by this time of year many of the applicants have reached the ceiling.
    “Until next month they either pay the full price for medicine or they don’t buy it, or they fall behind on other bills it’s a sign of the times.”
    “Most of the people I meet they are proud, they’re embarrassed about having to ask, they’re grateful for any help they can get and many of them are at their wits end.
    “They’re stressed, many are single or widowed, 70 percent are women. I see elderly married couples and single male applicants as well, most are being threatened with a disconnect, their bills range from $250 to $2,000.
    “The largest single bill paid was $2,000 for a man who is out of work who is over the age of 65 but there’s a lot of people are haunted by being out of work. The son or daughter who chipped in before are now unemployed.
    “We can’t give every month it’s a one-off payment; we give them a hand up just to get over one crisis in the hope that things will get better in the spring or in the summer.
    “Some people are in jobs that depend on the tourism industry, taxi drivers say they’ll be able to get work in April but they need help now because they cannot pay their bills.”
    “We must be able to see that there is a prospect of them being able to cope with their electricity bill if we just take care of this one. They must be in danger of being disconnected or actually be disconnected, I’ve been to houses that are actually in the dark.
    “It’s very real when you have somebody who has already had a stroke or he’s got a pacemaker and is in in desperate need. The level of family support varies, sometimes they’re all chipping in and sometimes they’re not.”
    “It makes for a very lonely situation for a lot of senior citizens, at the rate we’re going all the money will soon be all gone. We do need some help, our budget has been cut for the last two years. We get grants from Government, charities and others but we’re all facing the same story; charitable donations are difficult to find.”
    The most troubling cases he has seen so far involves an elderly woman in her 80s who has already had a stroke. She is on medication to prevent her from having another stroke and in January she was told her coverage has run out.
    “She took her last bit of money out of the bank to pay for either her prescription or she bought food, but she has stopped taking her medication.
    “I don’t see the logic from a countrywide point of view. If she has another stroke, there’s considerable chances that not only will her lifestyle be impaired but she might end up in long term care which will cost a fortune.
    “It would be far better to keep her on preventive medicine than it will to deal with the consequences of her having another stroke or even a heart attack. She was two months in arrears, her light bill was $400 but it’s hard to catch up once you fall behind.
    “The problem does not discriminate it doesn’t matter what colour you are I am seeing them all, I’m meeting and seeing people from all walks of life.”
    Mr McCulloch also questioned what he termed the short sightedness of the decision by Government to relax the rules to allow people to dip into their pension funds due to hardtimes.
    “I meet people who don’t have much income by way of pensions, they get an occupational pension or sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they have a full government pension of about $1,100, but there are those who don’t have a full contribution record.
    “I would be very reluctant to dip into my own pension fund no matter how hard times are because it affects your future, it means you’ll have less pension going forward.
    “A pension payment holiday in some ways I think its madness. I see people now who don’t have enough to live on, in 20 years we’ll be finding more people who’s income is reduced partly because they took advantage of this.
    “All it does is let you steal from your own future. In a world of instant gratification some people just won’t care and that’s exactly the point.
    “The most insidious thing is its tempting, its attractive and it gives you something now, but its not going to help you later. All it means is another set of elderly poor people, a new underclass. There is a price to be paid for dipping into your pension now, it means poverty when you’re 65.”


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    Monday, March 12 2012

    Age Concern worried about pension ‘holidays’

    Age Concern worried about pension ‘holidays’

    By Owain Johnston-Barnes

    Senior’s advocacy group Age Concern said it is disappointed by rollbacks of policies supporting seniors, but more concerned about the effects of potential pension “holidays”.
    In a statement, the organisation said: “We want the public to avoid the misconception that retirement savings is something only to be concerned about at the point of retirement.
    “Good retirement planning is continuous and should happen as early and consistent in a person’s working life as possible. There is no guarantee that Bermuda will have a financial safety net available for older people to rely on in the future.”
    If employers do take advantage of the holiday, the organisation said they should be required in the future to pay back the money they didn’t contribute.
    Announcing the 2012/13 Budget last month, Premier Paula Cox announced that private companies would be able to take a “holiday” in pension contributions, which would in turn save the employer from matching that contribution and leave the employee with more money in pocket.
    However the proposal has been a target for criticism, with some saying the future cost for the public would be far greater than today’s benefits.
    Ms Cox also announced that Government would modify land tax exemptions for seniors, causing seniors with homes valued at more than $1 million to pay land tax, and change vehicle licence exemptions so that seniors will have to pay to licence larger vehicles.
    Responding to the changes, Age Concern said it was disappointed, but glad to see that exemptions will still exist for smaller vehicles and homes.
    While the amendments to licencing fees are intended to curb abuse of the system, Age Concern said that not every case of a senior licencing a larger vehicle is a case of abuse.
    “There are some persons who require larger vehicles for medical reasons and we would like for special consideration for full exemption to be provided for individuals who fit into this category,” she said.
    “It is understood that more than half of all persons over the age of 65 years own a valid driver’s license. The ability to afford a personal vehicle can sometimes mean the difference between isolation and a fulfilling quality of life.”
    Age Concern however praised proposed amendments to the Financial Assistance programme which would allow senior homeowners to qualify, saying: “We look forward to a speedy legislative amendment process.
    “Seniors have always been prepared to do their part in contributing to the success of our economy. In fact, the Bermuda we know today has been built on their efforts.
    “We therefore hope that the budgetary measures that have been proposed will not cause any adverse financial burden to our ageing population.”


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    Tuesday, April 17 2012

    Even more families seek relief

    Even more families seek relief

    By Tim Smith
    Soaring numbers of families and seniors are finding it impossible to cope with rocketing food prices, charities warned yesterday.
    Age Concern called for tax breaks for the elderly after noting the cost of staple items such as bread, potatoes and rice has shot up by 50 percent or more since 2002.
    The Salvation Army says rapidly escalating prices, at a time when families are blighted by the economic crisis, have led to a dramatic rise in the number of people needing help.
    An average 325 households per month require assistance from the Salvation Army this year, up from between 210 and 250 per month in 2011.
    This week, The Royal Gazette’s The Cost of Living series will examine the true extent of the rising cost of essential goods in Bermuda, and the resulting impact on people.
    Government figures on supermarket prices show a loaf of wheat bread is now 67 percent more expensive than ten years ago, while potatoes have gone up 50 percent. Rice has increased by 67 percent, milk by 44 percent, butter by 130 percent and codfish by 28 percent.
    This newspaper found a sample basket of goods costing less than $50 in January 2002 would come to $73.70 in January 2012.
    Evaluating the statistics, Age Concern pointed to a 4.4 percent yearly increase in the average cost for a basket of goods, which clearly outpaces the 2.5 percent rate of inflation.
    The charity called for adjustments in social insurance and tax exemptions to help out the elderly.
    “While we are sensitive to the fact that commodity prices, coupled with increased fuel and energy costs, mean grocers and other retailers need to charge more for the same product to keep their margins, seniors are disproportionately impacted by these escalating prices,” said Age Concern in a statement.
    “Seniors have no choice but to buy food, therefore when it comes to staple foodstuffs, there is little discretionary spending involved. In fact, relative to their fixed incomes, seniors are placed at a financial disadvantage when prices rise, which puts them in an inherent situation of double jeopardy.
    “The collective and cumulative effect of increased costs for essential goods and services such as food, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and other basic needs, can put an even greater strain on our growing senior population.
    “For example, if there is a rise in costs on healthy foods, it can be more difficult for seniors to maintain a healthy lifestyle that can prevent them from having to purchase prescription drugs and from having excessive visits to their doctor.”
    The statement called for policymakers to evaluate the impact of the economy on seniors on an ongoing basis.
    “Comparisons should be made with respect to fluctuations in the Consumer Price Index and corresponding adjustments to social insurance, tax exemptions and other such entitlements,” it said.
    “We must also ask ourselves whether fair play is being exercised to ensure that equal standards of compensation exist for pensioners as they do for publicly funded positions.
    “In the meantime, we encourage seniors to continue to make healthy food choices whenever possible. We also challenge seniors to use their power as a collective group of consumers by determining what products and grocers will provide them with the best value for their money.
    “We likewise encourage grocers to extend their senior discount days so that more seniors can benefit from such offerings.”
    Wholesalers argue they shop around for the best deals before bringing goods to Bermuda, and that prices are sometimes forced up by factors beyond their control, such as the cost of oil.
    In recent months, a Price Control Commission, set up by Premier Paula Cox, has been evaluating the issue but has suggested price controls are an unlikely scenario in Bermuda.
    Salvation Army Divisional Commander Major Shawn Critch said increases in food, accommodation and transportation costs had all hit people hard.
    “Individuals coming to the Salvation Army for assistance are certainly dealing with the impact of increased cost of living as well as ongoing fallout of the economic realities facing Bermuda,” said Mr Critch.
    “I say that to indicate we are dealing with more than just inflationary realities. And just as it is becoming increasingly challenging for individuals it is also becoming increasingly challenges for the Salvation Army to the increased demand upon various programmes.
    “Over the past three years we have seen an significant increase in demand. Last year we were averaging between 210 and 250 households each month. Since February of this year we are averaging 325 households per month.
    “Corporate partnerships and the general financial support of the residents of Bermuda are essential as we extend the helping hand to those coming to us for assistance.”
    One temporarily homeless man, who asked us to refer to him by his first name, Derrick, told this newspaper: “Food prices are crazy. We are given $25 vouchers for the supermarket. It’s helpful and we are thankful, but it doesn’t go far.
    “You can buy some noodles, chicken wings, two sodas and maybe if you’re lucky a can of deodorant. And that’s the $25.
    “I’ve seen prices go up and up and it’s like, where’s the relief? The smaller stores have no choice because they can’t buy in bulk, so it’s up to the bigger stores to do the right thing and lower their prices.”
    Butterfield & Vallis president Jim Butterfield has previously ruled out a price freeze, noting wholesalers face fixed overheads such as shipping and ports fees, wages, electricity and costs set by overseas retailers.
    “Bermuda’s prices follow worldwide trends,” said Mr Butterfield. “If you look at the past ten years, the range is all over the place because some items have gone up more than others, and each item has its own reason for its own price.
    “But if the price of New Zealand lamb goes up significantly, we do too. If the prices in the United States go up, so do we.


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    Wednesday, May 02 2012

    Fears for seniors facing rising Belco bills

    Call for senior to be protected from future abuse

    By Sam Strangeways

    A charity has raised concerns about how an elderly woman who was financially exploited by her granddaughters will be protected from abuse in the future.
    Age Concern said yesterday the Supreme Court convictions of sisters Lorraine Smith and Audra-Ann Bean for the senior abuse of 87-year-old Lenice Tucker were “best characterised as a victory that is bittersweet”.
    Smith and Bean, who stole almost half a million dollars from their grandmother, are the first to be found guilty of an offence under the Senior Abuse Register Act 2008. Their names will be the first to be added to the Island’s Senior Abuse Register.
    Claudette Fleming, Age Concern’s executive director, said in a statement: “As advocates for older persons we are pleased to see that there is an opportunity for justice when elder abuse has occurred.
    “However, we also recognise that as a result of the abuse there are no real winners in this family. Ms Tucker may have lost the connection to at least one of her favourite grandchildren and her granddaughters and their families must now bear the shame that comes with the conviction.
    “We hope that, in some meaningful way, the family may be able to restore relationships that may seem hopelessly severed.”
    Ms Fleming said of even greater concern was the “continued protection of Ms Tucker for her remaining years”.
    “Hopefully, the money that she has lost will be fully recovered,” she added. “However, before that is done, careful consideration must be given by the authorities as to who will monitor and advise Ms Tucker about where and how her money should be spent and safeguarded.
    “Our chief concern is whether Ms Tucker may still be at risk from other financial predators. We would urge the courts or any other relevant government authority, if it be within their powers, to ensure that mechanisms are in place to protect Ms Tucker going forward. It would be a further tragedy to see history repeat itself.”
    Smith, 46, and Bean, 44, both of Warwick, were found guilty by a Supreme Court jury on Thursday of senior abuse and theft. They will be sentenced at a later date.
    They deceived Ms Tucker, of Southampton, into adding them to her bank accounts when she was grieving the death of her 91-year-old sister and then siphoned off her funds for their own use.
    Ms Fleming said she hoped publicity surrounding the case meant the general public would have a greater appreciation for the importance of “informed estate and financial planning, in addition to the severe consequences that can arise when an older adult is abused, whether deliberately or in ignorance”.
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    Wednesday, May 02 2012

    Seniors urged to protect their assets

    Seniors urged to protect their assets

    Simon Jones

    Wednesday, May 02, 2012

    WEDNESDAY, MAY 2: Seniors are being urged to get their estates in order as soon as possible so they do not fall victim to greedy relatives.

    The warning comes after sisters Audra-Ann Bean and Lorraine Smith were convicted of fleecing their 87-year-old grandmother, Lenice Tucker, of nearly half a million dollars.

    Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern, said the case highlighted the need for seniors to be given more information on the way they can protect their possessions.

    She told the Sun families also had a role to play by not taking offence when they are left out of the decision-making process.

    Ms Fleming added: “We can not say if the kind of senior abuse suffered by Ms Tucker is more prevalent now. But over the years we have seen more seniors take advantage of legal clinics so they understand what options are open to them with regard to their money and estate.

    “Seniors have to be educated about the value of their assets and how they can be best protected. This can be done without providing family members with joint ownership or the power of attorney. We hope that as a result of Ms Tucker’s case, the general public will have a greater appreciation for the importance of informed estate and financial planning, in addition to the severe consequences that can arise when an older adult is abused, whether deliberately or in ignorance.”

    Probate lawyers say they often tell older clients to get their estates in order as early as possible.

    Michael Mello QC, from Appleby, told the Sun: “If you leave it too late to arrange your personal and estate affairs you may not have the necessary legal (i.e. mental) capacity to sign the required legal documentation to do so, such as a Power of Attorney or Will.

    "Some very elderly persons may not even have sufficient capacity to fully understand the consequences or the risks of making more simple arrangements such as making a friend or family member joint owner/signatory on their bank accounts to assist in managing their affairs.

    “Clients need to have sufficient legal capacity to fully understand the documentation they are signing or the other arrangements they may deem necessary to make due to illness or incapacity.

    "The best time to make these critical life decisions is when you are young and healthy enough to fully understand them and not when you are infirm and possibly physically and/or emotionally dependent upon (and maybe even under the influence of) the person you are trusting with your life savings.

    “ Because people are living much longer these days , they often become physically or mentally incapable due to age or illness to look after their own affairs and more frequently go into rest homes where caring family members' visits are not always frequent, rather than (as in the past) being cared for at home by their immediate family members who would ordinarily look out for their physical and financial well being.”

    Nathan Samuels, an associate attorney in property, trusts and estates at MJM Ltd, works with Age Concern to provide information and advice to seniors.

    He said: “I think seniors need to be made more aware of their rights.

    “What I often see is a lot of misconceptions and family difficulties that are caused as a result of trying to get a senior’s estate in order too late in the day. In general, the earlier the planning takes place, the better the outcome.”

    Sisters Bean, 44, and Smith, 46, were both convicted of financially exploiting Ms Tucker last Thursday. The pair were remanded in custody and face a jail term when they are sentenced at a later date.

    Ms Fleming described the conviction as a ‘bittersweet victory’, and said that Age Concern was pleased there had been justice for Ms Tucker.

    But she added: “We hope that in some meaningful way the family may be able to restore relationships that may seem hopelessly severed.

    “But perhaps, what is of even greater concern for us at this time is the continued protection of Ms Tucker for her remaining years. Hopefully, the money that she has lost will be fully recovered.

    “However, before that is done, careful consideration must be given by the authorities as to who will monitor and advise Ms Tucker about where and how her money should be spent and safeguarded.

    “Our chief concern is whether Ms Tucker may still be at risk from other financial predators.”


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    Wednesday, May 02 2012

    Call for senior to be protected from future abuse

    Call for senior to be protected from future abuse

    By Sam Strangeways

    A charity has raised concerns about how an elderly woman who was financially exploited by her granddaughters will be protected from abuse in the future.
    Age Concern said yesterday the Supreme Court convictions of sisters Lorraine Smith and Audra-Ann Bean for the senior abuse of 87-year-old Lenice Tucker were “best characterised as a victory that is bittersweet”.
    Smith and Bean, who stole almost half a million dollars from their grandmother, are the first to be found guilty of an offence under the Senior Abuse Register Act 2008. Their names will be the first to be added to the Island’s Senior Abuse Register.
    Claudette Fleming, Age Concern’s executive director, said in a statement: “As advocates for older persons we are pleased to see that there is an opportunity for justice when elder abuse has occurred.
    “However, we also recognise that as a result of the abuse there are no real winners in this family. Ms Tucker may have lost the connection to at least one of her favourite grandchildren and her granddaughters and their families must now bear the shame that comes with the conviction.
    “We hope that, in some meaningful way, the family may be able to restore relationships that may seem hopelessly severed.”
    Ms Fleming said of even greater concern was the “continued protection of Ms Tucker for her remaining years”.
    “Hopefully, the money that she has lost will be fully recovered,” she added. “However, before that is done, careful consideration must be given by the authorities as to who will monitor and advise Ms Tucker about where and how her money should be spent and safeguarded.
    “Our chief concern is whether Ms Tucker may still be at risk from other financial predators. We would urge the courts or any other relevant government authority, if it be within their powers, to ensure that mechanisms are in place to protect Ms Tucker going forward. It would be a further tragedy to see history repeat itself.”
    Smith, 46, and Bean, 44, both of Warwick, were found guilty by a Supreme Court jury on Thursday of senior abuse and theft. They will be sentenced at a later date.
    They deceived Ms Tucker, of Southampton, into adding them to her bank accounts when she was grieving the death of her 91-year-old sister and then siphoned off her funds for their own use.
    Ms Fleming said she hoped publicity surrounding the case meant the general public would have a greater appreciation for the importance of “informed estate and financial planning, in addition to the severe consequences that can arise when an older adult is abused, whether deliberately or in ignorance”.
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    Friday, July 27 2012

    Let’s celebrate the legacy of our social work pioneers

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Let's celebrate the legacy of our social work pioneers

    Claudette Fleming
    Age Concern Bermuda

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Formal social work practice started in Bermuda in the Sixties, through the informal efforts of many groups including the Salvation Army, the Brangman Home, The Sunshine League, parish vestries, nurses and probation services.

    As a result of these loosely knit efforts, a formal Council was formed under Gloria McPhee, the then Minister of Health and Social Services.

    She was concerned with the state of Bermuda’s children as the number of children’s orphanages was growing and so was the need to monitor and regulate them.

    Mrs McPhee started the Government Department of Social Services under the directorship of Allan Robinson.


    Due to the growing number of children needing help, the Government decided to send a few individuals to Dalhousie University to obtain Masters degrees, in order to have qualified social workers.

    David Critchley, a Bermudian, had graduated and become a social work lecturer there.

    In 1972 he returned to Bermuda under the request of Mrs McPhee and assumed the role of the Director of Child and Family Services.

    He started Child Development and reorganized the adoption system.

    Ida James became the first qualified Bermudian social worker, having obtained a Masters Degree from Dalhousie. She returned to Bermuda to join a team of expatriate contemporaries.

    Over time however, local clients preferred local social workers and the field of social work began to attract more local talent.

    Mr Critchley is believed to be the visionary for Bermuda’s public social services system.

    Shortly after assuming the post of Director of Child and Family Services he branched out to look at seniors and the disabled.

    He extended other services such as Government-run residential care facilities, extending Child and Family Services.

    Medical social work at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital had also taken form.


    Mary Lees was the original hospital social worker. Mrs Lees’ work was financially supported by Sir Richard Gorham of Gorham’s Supermarket.

    Sir Richard established a foundation that financially supported hospital clients in need of help, locally and abroad.

    In 1981, social workers in Bermuda became unionized. They fought for pay increases, as by now most social workers had Masters degrees but were being paid at a Bachelor’s level.

    The social workers won their battle for pay increases.

    In the backdrop of these activities, an Association of Social Workers was formed.

    One of their first tasks was to help people being denied help from the parish vestry.

    Parish vestries were given money from the Government to take care of members of their parish in need.

    However some parishioners were not qualifying for this help and many were being evicted from their homes due to arrears in rent.

    Members of the Social Work Association started writing to Government representatives about this growing housing problem, and the Bermuda Housing Corporation was born.

    The association went on to become very active, hosting conferences and undertaking numerous advocacy initiatives.

    Among the associations’ original members were Olga Scott, Randy Dickinson and the late Ida James.

    These individuals are among the social work pioneers of Bermuda, as they later went on in their careers to become an intricate part of Mr Critchley’s vision of a more comprehensive social system.

    Many of our social services heroes of the past have retired or passed on but they have left their mark on the early development of a social services system that would support one of the most prosperous economies in the world.

    Where are we today?

    Today, we face some of the most challenging social issues of our time: Chilling gang violence; a challenged public education system; and the ageing of our population, all against the backdrop of a contracting economy.

    In order to honour the legacy our social work pioneers, today’s social warriors must rise.

    How will you answer this most important call?

  • Claudette Fleming MSW is the executive director of Age Concern Bermuda. This article was written in memory of the late Ida James, who provided content for the history of social work. Ms James’ impact in the social services continues to thrive in the lives of those she has touched and inspired. The 66-year-old was found dead at her Paget home in September 2011. A 53-year-old man was charged with murder and is awaiting trial.

  • News

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    Tuesday, October 23 2012

    Care for elderly a ‘sleeping time bomb’

    Care for elderly a ‘sleeping time bomb’

    By Ceola Wilson

    The combination of the Island’s escalating healthcare costs and the state of elder care is a “sleeping time bomb” in need of an immediate fix, seniors’ advocate Claudette Fleming has claimed.
    And pensioners can’t afford to wait until a Government review of healthcare is completed, she insisted.
    “I understand that the acting manager of National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged has been charged under the National Health Plan task force to look at the issue extensively. However, most individuals who need long-term care need viable solutions today,” said Ms Fleming.
    Residential elder care in Bermuda means “long waiting lists, limited facilities and sizeable monthly fees and crippling staffing costs with little private financing options and no insurance provisions private or public”.
    She continued: “It’s the sleeping time bomb of the ageing population. Most people in need of immediate long-term care can expect to encounter a waiting list, limited facility options and sizeable monthly fees. Those wanting to get into and stay in the business have to be creative of how to avoid crippling staffing costs.”
    The costs for residential care range from $3,500 to $14,000 a month.
    Ms Fleming noted: “There are few private financing options except perhaps individual private savings, and no long-term care insurance provisions private or public.
    “The Government heavily subsidises long-term care through grants to facilities such as Lefroy House, Sylvia Richardson and the Continuing Care Unit. Individual seniors who are deemed poor enough can get support through Financial Assistance but even the Financial Assistance Department will have to establish its support limits as the population ages, if it has not done so already.
    “Perhaps the most efficient and cost-effective way to go is to provide financial support to families to keep their ageing relatives at home for as long as possible.
    “But, this will only prove to be a viable option if families are supported financially and in the workplace and if we transition to a more community-focused delivery of healthcare within the home setting that supports the family’s efforts.
    “Still, there will always be those persons who will require residential, long-term care so there will always be a need for some facilities to be in existence.
    According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Bermuda is the second most expensive country for healthcare and that’s without universal coverage. Senior citizens also represent the fastest growing segment of Bermuda’s population.
    Ms Fleming said: “The silence on the issue of long-term care is deafening. To say the buck keeps getting passed is an understatement, we can’t even find the buck anymore.
    “We could help tremendously by implementing a national agenda on how to systematically address these types of ageing issues. We continue to extend our support, wherever possible, to bring a national ageing plan into fruition in the sincere interest of the successful ageing of the people of Bermuda.”
    Elder care is one of many issues being tackled under the proposed National Health Plan.
    “CCU continues to be over-subscribed,” said Health Minister Zane DeSilva at a recent press conference. “The long-term task group, that is in their remit and I expect that to be part of their final report. It won’t be in the new hospital. The CCU will stay where it is and it will continue to be funded as it is and you will know that most of that funding is through subsidy through the Government.
    “There is a long waiting list for CCU as there are for many of our homes throughout the Island, that is going to be addressed by the long-term task group.”
    Westmeath Residential and Nursing Care Home raised residential rates this month. Administrator Chrissie Kempe would not state what the new fees were.
    “Disclosing to you the details of these increases would breach private contractual information between residents and Westmeath,” she said
    “In the current economic climate Westmeath, as a non-profit organisation, must be mindful of the increasing costs associated with care and the obligation to our employees. Westmeath does not believe this is a topic to be debated in the press.”
    The general consensus expressed at other rest homes was that they “could use a rate hike to match rising costs”.
    A spokeswoman at Matilda Smith Williams Home said they haven’t had an increase in years.
    That sentiment was echoed at Packwood Home where there are 28 residents in a facility with 30 beds paying approximately $5,000 a month for elder care.
    Jennifer Attride-Stirling of the Bermuda Health Council said: “The Bermuda Health Council doesn’t regulate the price of residential care facilities. There is no legislated mandate to do so.
    “The extent to which long-term care is deemed an essential health service is an issue that is being considered under the National Health Plan.”


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    Sunday, October 28 2012

    50+ Years, Fastest Growing Population Segment

    13,730 persons in Bermuda are between the working ages of 50-64 years old.

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    Monday, November 05 2012

    Govt health insurance coverage to be expanded

    Government Health Insurance will expand to cover bills for generic drugs and GP visits, according to the Throne Speech. Prescription drug benefits under the FutureCare insurance plan are also to be amended, to pay the full cost of generic medications.  Name-brand drugs will still get 80 percent cover, however — and the limit of $2,000 a year will stay in place. Meanwhile, clients of FutureCare and HIP who receive Financial Assistance are to become eligible for the full cost of visits to their general practitioners. Asked for details, a Health Ministry spokeswoman said the proposal for extra FutureCare and HIP benefits had been priced at an extra $1 million in total claims. “This represents a less than two percent claims increase in HIP claims over 2010/11 levels, and about a five percent increase in FutureCare’s 2010/11 claims,” she added. 

    On the question of possible premiums increases or the coverage of cost increases by Government’s insurance subsidy, the spokeswoman said such decisions lay ultimately with Cabinet. She added: “To keep in mind the wider context, Government spends less than one percent of its overall budget to directly and specifically subsidise FutureCare.” The insurance plans for the legislative year ahead were commended by Age Concern Executive Director Claudette Fleming.

    “Hopefully, the covering of co-pays will mean that seniors will be proactive with their healthcare needs, rather than avoiding visiting the doctor because they do not have the money to pay for the service,” Ms Fleming said, adding that Government was “on the right track” in addressing the cost of heath care.

    Curbing “unnecessary diagnostic tests” and offering insurance cover for “services in settings less expensive than the hospital” were other measures Ms Fleming said would be best addressed by the Bermuda Health Council.

    The speech drew a tough line on the issue of obesity, with the Ministry of Education to push the agenda of active lifestyles and healthy eating for students. The version of the speech read by Governor George Fergusson included a paragraph deleted from the print version, touching on the issue of higher import duties for junk food, and possible changes to the displaying of tobacco products in shops.

    A statement issued shortly afterward said such matters remained under policy review, and “do not constitute official Government policy”. Such measures have been speculated upon in the past by Health Minister Zane DeSilva, who once told The Royal Gazette he would like to see higher price tags put on unhealthy food products and cigarettes. 

    The Throne Speech also reiterated the call for public input on cost containment measures for the National Health Plan, which remains a work in progress. One year into the Plan, Mr Fergusson said, some of the Island’s “best and brightest minds” were working on “creative and bold solutions”.


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    Monday, November 05 2012

    Throne Speech pledge will address discrimination against seniors

    Throne Speech pledge will address discrimination against seniors

    The latest Throne Speech pledged to formalise financial aid for seniors in need who own their own homes or have interests in real estate.
    It was a promise declared in last year’s speech, and acted upon during the last session of the House of Assembly: Youth, Families and Sports Minister Glenn Blakeney said in March that pensioners left out in the cold had been made eligible for Financial Assistance.
    However, this year’s speech promised to amend the 2004 regulations so that elderly homeowners in need could be assured of getting assessed for benefits.
    Government also vowed to put in place “a schedule of sightseeing outings for seniors who are in elder care facilities”. And amendments to the Human Rights Act will specifically address age during the Parliamentary the year ahead. Seniors advocate Claudette Fleming said addressing discrimination against the elderly was “well overdue”.
    However, she saw nothing “innovative” to address the Island’s ever-rising elderly population, set to reach 25 percent by 2033.
    “Of particular disappointment is a failure to provide substantive information on how The Bermuda Government plans to undertake and implement a National Ageing Strategy — a 2011 Throne Speech promise,” Ms Fleming said.
    “It’s nice to know that more ‘social’ outings will be planned for seniors by the Government but, as a matter of priority the Government must remain focused on addressing the significant barriers that exist to a high quality of life which include a reasonable standard of living and manageable healthcare costs. Simply announcing that there will be more talking about these issues does not provide confidence that anything immediate will be implemented.”


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    Monday, November 05 2012

    ‘Long overdue’ equality pledge is welcomed

    ‘Long overdue’ equality pledge is welcomed

    By Ceola Wilson

    Government has pledged to replace Bermuda’s outdated Human Rights Act with broader legislation that addresses sexual orientation and age discrimination.
    The current legislation “no longer meets the standard for human rights in a 21st century democracy”, it declared in the Throne Speech.
    Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming described the potential change in law regarding seniors as “well overdue”.
    Meanwhile former Government MP Renee Webb, who tried to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2006, said she was “extremely pleased”.
    “It is long overdue, and I trust that it will be addressed post haste in this Parliamentary session, along with any other clauses that demonstrate that equality is what we all believe in rather then playing lip service to it,” she said.
    “Politics and religion should never get in the way of all people being treated fairly with dignity and equality.”
    She continued: “I look forward to this amendment becoming law, and want to commend [advocates] Two Words and a Comma, which I founded in 2004 with Ayo Johnson, and Susanne Mayall, for all of their hard work.
    “The group continued to get the message out that this form of discrimination needs to end.”
    Managing director of the Centre for Justice, Venous Memari said: “The promise in this year’s speech represents a step in the right direction. We look forward to seeing the proposed Bill.”
    Ms Fleming welcomed the news that seniors could soon be protected under the law from discrimination.
    “We are always keen to see seniors featured as a key target audience with respect to Throne Speech initiatives and likewise are keen to welcome any initiatives that seek to improve their quality of life,” she said.
    “We look forward to seeing the amendment of the Human Rights legislation as a matter of priority in the next series of House sessions.”
    She said she was disappointed that Government failed to provide more information on a 2011 Throne Speech promise a National Ageing Strategy.
    “And no definitive date was given for the implementation of the National Health Plan, which has promised to bring more equitable and affordable healthcare coverage to all Bermudians, most significantly to the economically vulnerable of which many seniors are a part,” said Ms Fleming.
    “The issues of proper planning with respect to ageing policy and affordable healthcare represent the meat and potatoes of what is needed to sustain a productive ageing population.”
    She added: “Simply announcing that there will be more talking about these issues does not provide confidence that anything immediate will be implemented.”
    The Throne Speech “did not reveal anything exceptionally new or innovative” on plans to address the increasing ageing population in Bermuda, she said.
    “We remain hopeful that these issues will be addressed adequately in subsequent party platforms and future Government action.”


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    Tuesday, November 27 2012

    Rising costs are biggest issue

    Cost has become a priority for all stakeholders in Bermuda’s healthcare system.

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    Wednesday, November 28 2012

    50+: The fastest growing segment of the population

    The 2010 Census reveals that 22,413 people in Bermuda are fifty years and older, representing almost one third of Bermuda’s ageing population.


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    Monday, December 03 2012

    The high cost of health insurance for the elderly

    “The major reasons given for not having health insurance coverage were unemployed (75 percent) and an unable to afford coverage (eight percent).”

    View Article on the Royal Gazette 


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    Monday, December 10 2012

    A shrinking working population will have to carry financially many more persons.

    A shrinking working population will have to carry financially many more persons...

    By Cordell Riley, MSc., J.P.

    The western trend of an ageing population has not escaped Bermuda. In 2010, the population of seniors, persons aged 65 and over, increased to 14% from 11%, or from 6,722 to 8,678 persons. This ageing of the population will have far-reaching impacts for Bermuda as a whole and it would be advantageous to understand these impacts so that appropriate policies and procedures are put in place to effectively manage them.

    More Seniors to Support
    The most common impact of an ageing population is a rising dependency ratio. The dependency ratio can be expressed as the number of people under 18, plus the number of people over 64, divided by the total working population (and expressed as a ratio out of 100). Bermuda’s dependency ratio is likely to increase from about 44% in 2000 to an estimated 55% in 2025. In its basic form, this ratio expresses the extent to which the working population has to carry financially, those segments that are unable or least able, to care for themselves. The lower dependency ratio, the more favourable a position to be in, as this means that there is a larger working population taking care of a smaller dependent population. The 44% mentioned above is acceptable and in line with other western countries.

    Shrinking Working Population

    By 2025, Bermuda’s dependency ratio could reach 55%, meaning that a shrinking working population will have to carry financially many more persons who are least able to care for themselves.

    In fact, this date is significant for another reason. It is estimated that also by 2025, those over 65, will outnumber those under 18, most likely for the first time in recent history. This phenomenon will have major implications of which policy makers and other stakeholders should be aware.

    Fewer People to Pay Taxes

    A shrinking workforce means fewer payroll and other taxes, and fewer payments being made into pension plans. At the same time, pension payments will be increasing.

    Higher Health Expenses

    In addition, seniors have a higher propensity for ailments than their younger counterparts, so health costs are likely to increase as well as contributions to health insurance, from that same shrinking workforce. And since seniors are living longer, those costs will have to be sustained over a much longer period of time.

    Less Young People

    With tax revenue most certainly declining, Government will have to find creative ways to raise funds to meet the needs of seniors, in addition to the rest of the population. At the same time, as the younger population steadily decreases due to declining fertility rates, services geared to them will have to decline as those to seniors will have to increase. School closures, for instance, are highly possible and day-care and other such facilities for seniors are expected to be in greater demand.

    Blacks May Have to Work Longer

    There are also some other demographic trends to watch. Blacks are likely to comprise 60% of the ageing population, with whites accounting for some 27%. Whites tend to be wealthier than blacks so they may be financially able to support themselves in their twilight years. Blacks, on the other hand, if they are able, may have to continue in the workforce well beyond retirement years, making senior labour force participation rates, the proportion of seniors working out of all seniors, complementary to labour force participation rates for the general population – above 70%. We already see examples of increased levels of seniors, typically beyond the age of 70, in the workforce.

    More Females Living Alone

    Another possibility is that there is likely to be more senior females living alone. Females are expected to outlive males by at least five years. This will necessitate the need for more secure, group-living facilities.

    What’s the Plan?

    In order to address the issues of an ageing population, planning, which is likely to have already begun, is critical. How will the government raise the funds necessary to deal with the increased senior needs from a shrinking working population? How will medical costs be kept in check? What will be the quality of life be like for seniors who remain in the workforce well beyond the age of 65? How will the community respond to smaller schools and more children in the classrooms? There are many questions for which answers must be found.

    Some Western countries, however, are not too concerned about the ageing population. They take the view that medical advances will provide seniors with more productive years and that they will be well able to care for themselves then some previously had thought, lessoning the financial burden on the community. This could prove to be true, but so does that old adage about failing to plan.                         


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    Tuesday, December 18 2012

    Seniors need help all year round

    “The importance of volunteering often comes to the forefront at Christmas the ‘spirit of giving’ message is driven home in everything from commercial advertising to church sermons.”

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    Tuesday, March 05 2013

    Age Concern hopeful for compromise on seniors vehicle licensing change

    “Seniors’ rights group Age Concern is confident that a compromise with Government will be reached over plans to reinstate the vehicle licensing fee for some older motorists.”

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    Wednesday, April 03 2013

    Age Concern statement reveals ‘deep concern’ over insurance hike

    Age Concern statement reveals 'deep concern' over insurance hike

    By Ayo Johnson
    Seniors advocacy organisation Age Concern is not throwing out the welcome mat for health insurance premium increases.
    Health Minister Zane DeSilva announced on Monday that premiums for both HIP and FutureCare are to increase as of Sunday.
    "In these times any increase is a burden, especially since some seniors will now be faced with additional land tax payments and licensing fees," reads a statement from the board of Age Concern.
    "We are deeply concerned that accumulative rate hikes like these, no matter how small, will further disadvantage more seniors, and potentially may put an even greater strain on the public purse with respect to financial assistance subsidies."
    The HIP premium is set to increase to $390 from $385 per month, while the FutureCare premium for phase one policyholders goes up to $385 from the current $375 per month.


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    Wednesday, May 08 2013

    Age Concern “Disappointed” Over Non-Inclusion

    "The Board of Directors of Age Concern said they are “deeply disappointed and curious about the non-inclusion of age discrimination in the workplace” in the proposed amendments mentioned by Minister of Community and Cultural Development Wayne Scott.”

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    Wednesday, June 05 2013

    Age Concern Bermuda Announces New Board

    "Age Concern Bermuda conducted its 35th Annual General Meeting and have ushered in a new Board. Age Concern’s Executive Director, Claudette Fleming announced today [June 5] that she is “excited to see the addition of new members who are not only respected in their own right but who are well versed in the issues currently facing Bermuda community”.

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    Thursday, June 06 2013

    A ban on workplace age discrimination still under consideration

    “Mr Scott told the Annual General Meeting for Age Concern yesterday that Government is dedicated to ending all forms of age discrimination, but more work must still be done to prevent unintended consequences.”

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    Tuesday, August 06 2013

    Age Concern says mandatory retirement at 65 may lead to ‘social catastrophe’

    "A recommendation by the SAGE Commission that Government implement the mandatory retirement policy for its workers has been met with dismay and a warning from advocacy group Age Concern."

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