Monthly Archives: March 2014

LONELINESS AND ITS EFFECTS ON THE ELDERLY

I express my heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Clifford Albert Mendes, better known as Man Himself, and pray they find comfort in their wonderful memories and God’s Grace.  Man Himself got a sendoff befitting the life he lived…truly a life well-lived.

 

There will be a follow-up session to discuss the “National Gender Policy on Equality and Equity,” on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at the Fort Young Hotel from 10am to 1pm.  We extend a special invitation to men to attend so we can get their contributions.  Contact us at VF Inc via info@vfinc.org or 767 449 9649.

 

This week we focus on “Loneliness and its effects on the Elderly.”  I presented the Feature address on the topic at the REACH”s “Poor Person Dinner” on March 22, 2014 and reproduce the majority of the speech here.

 

When we say that we are lonely, what are we saying?  For some of us, we are saying we are bored, for some it is we do not have enough to keep us occupied, for some of us, we are feeling unloved, uncared for and for some of us we are saying that life is not worth living, we have lost hope, we feel like we are in a dark hole and cannot find our way back to the light.  This demonstrates that loneliness is on a spectrum, with the worst cases being those have lost hope.  When we lose hope, we are no longer living.  We just exist and these are the people who often commit suicide.

 

Most people, if not all, at some point or other will experience some feelings of loneliness, often at the lower end of the spectrum, however there are some people, especially the elderly who experience loneliness at the higher ends for prolong periods and for a high percentage, this occurrence comes with age.  The findings of a Ministry of Health and Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) study on the Health and Care of the Elderly in Dominica in 2009, revealed a high percentage of depression and chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCD) among the elderly.  The table below summarises the findings of the Survey:

 

 

FINDING PERCENTAGE
Feelings of uselessness and worthlessness 73% – This compares to 43 in the USA and 33% in Trinidad
Unable to meet daily expenses and necessities 72%
Suffer from a chronic non-communicable disease (CNCD) 90%
37% of the 90% suffer from diabetes
63% of the 90% suffer from hypertension
Remembers no items 34%
Remembers three items 38%
Own Home 89%
29% of the 89% has no running water and toilet facilities
Participate in no physical activities 63%
Females having pap smears 16%
Females doing breast self-exam 14%
Men participating in prostrate cancer screening 25%

 

This data reveals a 73% rate of loneliness among our elderly.  What is your reaction to this data?  Are you comfortable with it?  We Dominicans pride ourselves on our hospitality and love, so how then do we account for 73% of our elderly feeling useless and worthless?  What leads a person to feel useless and worthless?  A lack of love is my simple answer, however this answer masks many of the issues resulting in loneliness among the elderly.

 

My research reveals that this phenomenon is not unique to Dominica but a worldwide phenomenon caused in part by the increasing ageing of society with higher percentages of the population being over 6o, than before.  Some of the reasons gleaned from my research include:

 

  1. Poverty
  2. Worry about their income and the increasing cost of living
  3. Eating alone
  4. No or infrequent visits from family
  5. Uncaring families
  6. Busy life of family members including children
  7. Health issues
  8. Race in America as racial discrimination meant many were underemployed and lived a lifetime of poverty
  9. Not spending sufficient time over their lifetime with their family, especially for men, and in old age end up outside the tight family circle.
  10. Women who were typically the caregivers are now in paid employment, away from the home
  11. Meaningless/dysfunctional relationships – Studies in the US reveal that 2/3 of the people who reported being lonely are either married or living with a partner
  12. Absence of deep meaningful communication
  13. Loneliness is contagious – the behaviours of lonely people often discourages others from wanting to spend time with them

 

Another dimension to not spending sufficient time with our children during their lifetime is the message we give tour children.  Sometimes we tell our children that they are to live their lives and focus on getting ahead in life and if this is the message they have been taught, then when their parents become elderly, they may be at the building stage of their lives and they I also believe the way we raise our children are important.  Some

 

 

What impact can this have on the elderly?

 

  1. Depression and in come cases dementia and Alzheimer.
  2. Increasing poor health as they do not eat properly and the growing rise of non communicable chronic diseases among the elderly, diabetes and hypertension
  3. Risky behavior and increase in AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.  A study in 2010 by the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America found that elderly in Harlem’s housing project are at a higher risk of getting HIV than other places (1 in 38 vs. 1 in 100), in large part due to loneliness.
  4. Self mutilation
  5. Suicide

 

So now that we know the causes and effect of loneliness on the Elderly, what are we going to do about it?  Some solutions include:

 

  1. Families to care more for their elderly family, making arrangements for the elderly to have company for the most part of the day, or hiring caregivers and/or nurses to provide love, care and company.  The Bardouilles of Mahaut formed a twenty-four hour care program whereby there was also a child, grandchild or other family member with their mother while she was sick.  This was truly remarkable for their mother was in a vegetative state for at least five years.
  2. Build relationships during our lifetime with family and friends to ensure a circle of love and support in our old age
  3. Make our visit count – When you visit the Elderly, be present, not just in body but also in spirit.  Engage them in meaningful communication or be silently present if that is what is needed.  Give the cellphones a break – does it really count for a visit if you spend the majority of the time on your cellphone, talking, texting or playing games?  Show that you are happy to be there, that you are there out of love and not obligation.  Demonstrate your love.
  4. Document their stories so we can learn from their vast experiences while at the same time giving them the opportunity to share and meaningfully contribute.
  5. Obtain their advice; place them on advisory committees or boards.  Many elderly persons are in good health, are of sound mind and have so much on events.  Elderly
  6. Associations of the Elderly to engage in programs and activities that provide stimulation for the elderly
  7. Day care centres and Homes for the elderly to provide them with activity and purpose
  8. Intergeneration communication to be encouraged so that children and young persons spend time with the elderly, providing a mentoring/caring relationship.  Natasha Jervier, one of our Youth Ambassadors, plan for the “Bridging the Generation Gap; Adopt a Grandchild” should be given support by the DCOA, REACH and the Gov’t
  9. Live-in communities whereby the elderly, who are still independent and healthy, with no one to care for them, can live in community.

 

The only commandment with a promise is “Honour your mother and father so that your days may be long.”  Let us honour our parents and show more love, respect and honour to our elderly members of society.  I commend the many persons and groups who have made it their mission to care for the elderly.  This includes REACH,

St. Vincent, The Paul Society, DCOA, Yes, We Care, DNCW, Mrs. Ignatia Pascal of Grandbay

 

Until we meet again, May the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands!

IN PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

Happy 8th Anniversary to VF Inc!  I give God all the thanks, praise and glory for his favour over the last eight years and pray his continued favour over us in the coming years.  I thank my employees, past and present, associate consultants, strategic partners, clients, PCWS and Youth Series participants, parents and guardians of Youth Series participants, suppliers and all those who have walked with us over the years and pray for their continued support in the coming years.  I give you Thanks!  I also say Happy Birthday to Raschida as she celebrates an important milestone.  May the Lord continue to shower her with his blessings and may she walk resolutely towards her purpose.  Raschi, Blessings, Blessings and Much Love!  Happy International Women’s Day to all women and pray for our continued economic, social and political advancement for the benefit of our nations.

Today, the topic, “In Pursuit of Excellence,” is not a review of the book of the same name by Terry Orlick, though it will draw reference from it.  Last week, the calls for King Dice to step down after winning the calypso monarchy for the seventh time to allow others the chance to win the crown disturbed me.  Instead of focusing on the feat, never before achieved by anyone in Dominica, and giving King Dice the praise and recognition due, it appeared our focus was meant on denigrating the young man.   This prompted some research on Trinidad calypso for I am sure many who are calling for him to step aside after only about eleven years in the calypso ring, are great fans of the Mighty Sparrow, Chalkdust, as well as other artists, from the region and internationally who have competed and performed over several decades.

My research revealed that Mighty Sparrow, known as “Calypso King of the World,” won the monarchy eight times, the road match crown eight times and twice “King of Kings.”  He first competed for the calypso monarchy in 1954, won his first crown in 1956 and his last crown in 1992, achieving a three-peat from 1972-1974.  This is a thirty-eight year span.  During that time, he toured extensively and produced many albums having signed with RCA records.  My research did not reveal but I am confident that during that time none called for Mighty Sparrow to step down because he had won enough, toured enough, recorded enough or was popular enough, and he should give others a chance.

Mighty Sparrow is not the only Trinidadian calypsonian to achieve eight crowns.  Chalkdust, the school principal and later university professor began singing calypso in 1967 and in 2009 earned his eighth crown, matching Mighty Sparrow’s record.  He won his first crown in 1976.  He never achieved a three-peat though he successfully defended his crown twice in 1977 and in 2005.  He won Carifesta in 1976, World Calypso King in St. Thomas eight times and Calypso King of the World in New York twice.  He has recorded over 300 calypsos.

In Trinidad and the Caribbean, these two men are celebrated.  I don’t think anyone would say it is time for them to retire to give others a chance.  Mighty Sparrow held his last performance in January 2014 in New York, after recovering from a coma late in 2013.  I know many Dominicans prayed for his recovery and mourned when it was rumoured he died last year.  The show from reports was well attended.  People were just so happy he survived.  I am confident that not all of Mighty Sparrow and Chalkdust wins were popular and there were times when they were not crowned that people felt they should have been crowned.  Once there is a competition, there will always be a segment, no matter how small, who believes someone else should have won.  However, as we all know the judges’ decision is final, and we accept and move on.

The talents and gifts of Mighty Sparrow and Chalkdust were recognized early, long before they had won seven crowns and every effort was made to provide them with regional and international exposure, hence the reason they are household names.  An oft-heard criticism is that King Dice cannot compete elsewhere, however, in all honesty, what efforts have been expended to provide King Dice with regional or international exposure?   Another criticism is that his material is limited to the Dominican context.   I have asked Pat Aaron, the writer for the lyrics of all of King’s Dice’s song so I can do an analysis and thereby determine the veracity of this claim.  An even more repeated claim is that King Dice does not write his songs, so he is not a true calypsonian.  How many of Mighty Sparrow songs did he pen?  Another criticism is about King Dice the person.  Truth is many who make these complaints do not know him personally.  And while it is true in the early years of King Dice’s entry into the ring, there were many reported cases of bad behavior, there has been a marked improvement but instead of focusing on that and encouraging him to be better, every effort is being made to bring him back to the old days.  Doesn’t he deserve a second chance?

These attacks led me to reflect on the words of Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.”  I think people are afraid of King Dice’s Light.  I say to King Dice to not be afraid of your Light, your Gift with which God has blessed you and do not let others’ fear cause you to diminish or extinguish your Light.  You must keep shining brighter, embrace the role and responsibilities that come with that gift and thus liberate others to be their best.  I say to those who want King Dice to step down, don’t fear his Light and Gift instead encourage him to be his best self, while working on being your best self.

King Dice is not invincible.  Hunter dethroned him in 2007 and denied him a four-peat.  Tasha P denied him the opportunity to regain the crown on his re-entry into the arena after a two-year hiatus when she won the crown and became Dominica’s first female monarch in 2011.   King Dice ensures the others up their game.  Karessah, Hunter, The Bobb, Webb and the others know he is a formidable competitor and they have to put their best feet forward to dethrone him, hence the reason for all the showmanship and performance we see from them, enhancing the standard of the Show.

This brings me back to my topic, “In Pursuit of Excellence,” what does it mean?  Excellence is defined as a “talent or quality that is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards,” (Wikipedia).   In other words, it is extra-ordinary, outstanding.  Terry Orlick defines it as reaching your full potential.  In other words it is being your best.   Orlick book is subdivided in four segments: 1) Envisioning Excellence; 2) Preparing the Mind for Excellence; 3) Building Towards Excellence and 4) Realising Excellence.  He writes about the Wheel of Excellence and identifies seven critical elements:

  1. Focus – This is the core.  We have to envision what we want and focus on it.  It is keeping our eyes on the prize and in so doing we determine what we need to do to achieve our goal.  We are prepared to do the work and walk the walk and walk the talk.  We are not interested in taking shortcuts.  We are prepared to do all that is needed and necessary to achieve our goal and realise our vision.
  2. Commitment – We have to be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve that goal and realise the vision.  We have to be disciplined.  This will mean having to give up something and sometimes some people who are hindrances to the attainment of our goals.  We need to look for buoys and stay away from anchors.  This also means surrounding ourselves with positive energy and people and being positive and optimistic, while being conscious of the realities.
  3. Mental Readiness – We have to be mentally prepared and mentally strong.  This will help us to discern what is needed to ensure our decisions are the right ones.  Obstacles and naysayers will not daunt us.  We will persevere in the face of opposition and challenges and see the opportunities they disguise.
  4. Positive Image – We need to not only think positive, we have to live positively so that our lives present the example for others.
  5. Confidence – Belief and confidence in God and in self are important for us to excel.  We have to know and believe that we have the abilities and gift to undertake the task at hand.  That confidence is sometimes mistaken for arrogance
  6. Distraction Control – There are so many things to distract us from our vision and our goal, to steal our focus, and we have to employ strategies to keep them at bay.  Commitment and mental readiness are key tools to control distraction.
  7. Ongoing Learning – This is critical for excellence; this is why it is often referred to as a commitment to excellence.  We recognise that the world is constantly changing and we need to stay abreast of the changes that may impact the attainment of our vision.

I think King Dice displays many of the traits above and this may hold the key to his success.  I think the Dominica Calypso Association, Dominica Festival Commission and Showdown Mas Camp need to work together to ensure that King Dice realizes his full potential in and out of Dominica, that he builds on his strengths and works toward eliminating his weaknesses, providing the support and encouragement needed to be his best self and continue his pursuit of excellence.  We, the public, need to acknowledge his gift, give him his flowers and encourage him to use his gift wisely.

King Dice, too, has a key role to play.  He has to recognise and accept that with these seven crowns come a great responsibility and to whom much is given, much is expected.  God has blessed him with a tremendous gift and he has to continue to use it wisely, be a role model for the youth of the land and to share his gift and talent with others, especially the youth.  He has to multiply his talents, shine his light brightly from the mountaintop and not hidden under the bushel, thus giving glory to God and permission to others to shine brightly in their world, so that he will be commended as “the good and faithful servant.”   I pray God’s continued blessings and favour on this young man.

I can be reached at info@vfinc.org or Tel: 767 449 9649.

Until we meet again, may God continue to hold us in the Palm of His Hands.

The Power of Words

Congratulations to King Dice, Queen Francine, Prince (Junior Monarch) Irish Kid, Princess Kitanna, winners of all other Carnival shows throughout Dominica, as well as to the participants of all the shows.  Well Done!  I wish everyone a safe peaceful and enjoyable carnival.  As we revel, let us be minded of what we do and say.

 

This week, we are discussing the power of words.  There were quite a few calypsos, which followed the theme of Halibut’s “Long Tongue,” which earned him the Cadence Lypso crown last year.  It is said that calypso represents the pulse of the nation, and so does the focus on the power of the tongue suggest that we need to pay more attention to what we say and how?  Does it suggest like Halibut advised, we need to give our tongues a vacation?  As I write these words I think I should do a review of the calypsos, however this is not what spurred this article and given I don’t have the words of all the songs, I will defer this for another time.  This is an idea worth exploring.

 

The genesis of this article came from a conversation last week with a good friend, who was lamenting that Dominicans, especially women, find it difficult to say anything good to others and seem to have difficulty in having a conversation with her beyond her weight and her luck in having her husband…a handsome man!  She in exasperation continued, “Isn’t there more to me than my weight?  Isn’t my husband blessed to have me as a wife?  This year, we will be married for twenty years, and I played no part in ensuring that this marriage survived?  Isn’t he blessed that I mothered his children?  Isn’t he blessed that I take care of our home, ensuring that there is food on the table, clothes to wear and a clean and peaceful home to come home to?  I can count only four persons, you included, who will start a conversation with me outside of my weight and who say things to uplift me.    I am fed up of these Dominicans!

 

I felt her pain and could empathise, for we, women really seem to have a preoccupation with people’s weight and seem to make this our centerpiece of conversation.  I, too, am regularly confronted with the same, except I don’t allow it to get to me.  I remember a woman staying at the entrance of the Fish Market shouting at me standing at the entrance of the Roseau Market about how big I was.  Just two days after this conversation, I was dressed in a little black dress, and had received many compliments, when in approaching a friend, she called out, “Valda, Well! Well!”   The tone of this greeting signaled it was going to be a discussion on my weight, so I continued my walk with no comment.  She continued, “Whey! Whey!”  Again with no response from me, she said, “What is it, are you trying to give me competition?  Where are you going with that size?  This is not the Valda I knew.”  I did not take the bait, I responded cheerily, “Good morning!  How are you doing this blessed and sunny day?  How are the children?  How is your husband?”  The conversation then proceeded with her telling me all about herself and family and I got an update, as I had not seen her for sometime.

 

This exchange brought back in sharp focus my friend’s lament.  I also reflected that we had not seen each other for more than a year, yet the first exchange, if I had taken the bait of her greeting would have been on my weight, and given she is a few times bigger than I am, her weight. Such a superficial conversation!  The very next day, another friend met me and after inquiring about my well being commented, “Valda, you are losing weight.  I am not even seeing your stomach!”  I laughed!  I said only yesterday, I was chastised about my weight gain and today I am praised about my weight loss!  You see the point I am making.  I am not saying that we cannot speak and express our concerns to our family, friends and others about their weight, however before we do so, let us enquire about their wellbeing and let us ensure we do it constructively.  There may be several reasons for weight gain or loss, and often our comments instead of motivating a person to make lifestyle changes, may have the opposite effect.  The person may in fact be losing weight however if we shout out about their continued weight gain, the person may say what’s the point of trying when it is clearly not visible.  Let us guard our words.

 

The tongue is a powerful force.  It has the power of life or death, so let us use our words to give life.   The Bible provides many instructions and guidance for us on the use of our tongue.  We need to do some introspection.  We need to ask, “Are my words life or death giving?  Are my words more positive than negative?  Are my words more inspiring and motivating than condemning?  Are my words more truthful than fabrication of the truth?  We need to also examine the motivations behind our words.  What is the source of these words?  Our words are a reflection of who we are, as Leona reminded us in her song, “Bad people giving good people bad name.”  Luke 6:45 tells us, “A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.”

 

The Rotarian Four Way Pledge is a practical application of Luke 6:45 in our lives:

“Of the things we think, say and do:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”

 

As we approach the closing of Carnival season in the next two days and enter the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday, may we make a pledge to use our words wisely, to use our words to bring comfort, joy and inspiration to others and to give our words a vacation when we find it does not build and empower ourselves and others.

 

Happy, Safe and Peaceful Carnival!

 

I can be reached at info@vfinc.org or 767 449 9649.

 

Until we meet again, May the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.  Blessings Aplenty!