Senior citizens around the world have been honoured today for their contribution to humanity.
October 1 is globally recognised as International Day of Older Persons, as it was declared by the United Nations in 1990. This year, it is commemorated under the theme ‘Stepping into the future: tapping the talents, contributions and participation of older persons in society’.
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe led national celebrations in Tshwane today at Noma Day Care Centre in Ga-Rankuwa.
“Senior citizens remain the treasure trove of our society… I am humbled by the fact that the theme for this year encourages all of us to look into the talents, contributions and participation of senior citizens.
“This theme allows us to maintain the intergenerational connection, so that younger generations can benefit from the experience, knowledge and wisdom of older citizens. Bridging the intergenerational gap also helps us to ensure that there is continuity in knowledge production.
“This theme also serves as a clarion call for all of us to recognise the human talents and contributions of senior citizens. It is their talents and resilient character which brought us where we are today as a country. As a nation, today we are able to enjoy the fruits of democracy and liberation from the chains of the oppressor,” said the Minister.
The aim of the day is to promote the development of a society for all ages without the exclusion of older persons. Minister Radebe said government commemorates this day as a way to teach South Africans, particularly the youth, to always take good care of senior citizens.
Embracing and protecting elders
Minister Radebe said South Africa has much to be grateful for in terms of the sacrifices made by its forebears for the country’s liberation.
“We therefore have a responsibility to embrace, uphold and protect the rights of senior citizens, as enshrined in the Constitution of our country and Older Persons Act 13 of 2006. The time is now that we begin to behave and act as ambassadors against abuse of senior citizens.”
The Minister warned that history will judge harshly those who fail to take care of those who sacrificed their lives for all to live in a better society. The Minister strongly condemned elder abuse.
“Keep in mind that one day we will grow old and expect our children, grandchildren and siblings to take care of us. We must always keep [senior citizens] close to us so they can impart their valuable knowledge and experience which money can never buy.
“Most of them are frail and cannot even walk to pay points to receive their social grants. As such, they must trust us with their pension money. The elderly must always feel free and safe to be among us.”
The Minister encouraged South Africans to reach out to communities and raise awareness about senior citizens’ rights.
Honouring the elderly
Minister Radebe was accompanied by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. They handed out certificates of recognition to two senior citizens aged 100 and 101 respectively.
Minister Dlamini said the awarding of certificates does not only serve as appreciation of the senior citizens, but also seeks to encourage younger generations to take care of themselves by living healthy lives.
The Minister said the Department of Social Development has identified the month of October to reach out, meet and interact with the poor citizens of South Africa, especially those who live in rural communities.
“This is conducted in the context of government’s vision of addressing the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality, and the month will be guided by the theme, ‘Working Together to Build Caring and Sustainable Communities for All.’
“This campaign will be taking place through the efforts of the department in collaboration with its entities, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the National Development Agency (NDA). All these will be done as part of government’s initiative to restore the dignity of our people throughout the month of October and beyond.”
“Let us take care of the young so that they can in return take care of the elderly… I challenge every one of you to think about older citizens that you will give care and love to. That is the best way we can celebrate International Older Persons Day.”
The celebration of elderly people coincided with the launch of Social Development Month.
“This month we focus on profiling the work done by the department. We will also align it with the life of Oliver Tambo, whose life we are celebrating this year. We will also be holding the Golden Games for Older Persons, as well as children’s programmes,” said Minister Dlamini.