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Grand hall of fame for our super seniors

No sooner were we done lamenting the low-key approach to Senior Citizens Month this year, we were presented with the inaugural recognition project Hall Of Fame For Centenarians. And it was a moment of significance for all of us who hold dearly to our ageing and aged, and ever respect and honour their contribution, and acknowledge their sacrifices –– in particular, those of our centenarians.

And we now have greater cause –– and the facility –– to recognize their efforts and express our gratefulness publicly –– and may we never cease!

Noteworthy is that the introduction of the Barbados Hall Of Fame For Centenarians would feature the mother of the man himself veteran entertainer Desmond Weekes, who year after year has been promoting the virtues, values and glory of others’ mothers. For the effort and love he puts into his annual Mother’s Day show Mum, This One’s For You, it was a deserving turn of fate.

The hall of fame launch at the George Lamming Primary School yesterday morning featured Desmond’s mum Elise Weekes as being the first inductee in a programme that will see such celebration spread across schools of choice of the honoured or their families.

The coincidence of Ms Weekes’ 100 birthday yesterday, the very day of the inauguration of the Barbados Hall Of Fame For Centenarians, and the anniversary of Senior Citizens’ Month underscores even more the significance of the thought behind and intent of this humane and social deed.

Not to take away from this scintillating moment for Ms Weekes, who now joins 50 plus other living centenarians, whose names we believe will make it too into the hall of fame in their various jurisdictions, we concur with Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett that the project should have been introduced a long time ago. But we need not dwell on what ought to have been; we may expend our energies now instead on seeing to it that the programme is sustained.

   And we gravitate to the notion of a profile, with picture, of those Barbadians who reach the age of 100 being placed in a school or community centre with which they have been associated for the benefit of the knowledge of others, and as a point of reference and connection.

We applaud, therefore, Government advisor on social policy Hamilton Lashley, whose brainchild the programme was, and the team of organizers who have brought it to fruition.

We will accept too, as Mr Lashley has said, that benefits to be derived from this Barbados Hall Of Fame For Centenarians programme will be “the preservation of our oral traditions, the preservation of our indigenous cultural heritage, and adopting healthier lifestyles”, though we tread carefully with the idea that the last practice will significantly “reduce our food import bill”. But we can see some of the younger among us, on account of our super seniors, taking to healthier foods.

We will not differ from Minister Blackett that we “can learn a lot from our centenarians”, or that “we have a rich heritage based on the contributions and sacrifices their generation has made to help Barbados develop into a nation we can be truly proud of”.

Says Mr Blackett: “Many of them will tell you that they have reached the ripe age of 100 through a diet based on ground provisions [yam, eddoes, cassava and breadfruit], being hard workers and, most of all, having an abiding faith in God . . . .”

And, we learn, Elise Weekes exemplified all three of these modes of living. And by her magnanimity, we are told by son Desmond, she gathered unto her her own and other children in her Tweedside, Carrington Village, St Michael district “and from nearby communities” unto her, inspired by her passion for sharing, and never leaving any in need.

Her humanity she would take with her to New York, United States –– where she still lives –– dedicating “her life to raising her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and also many other children of Barbadian parents” staying in America.

How did she do it? By reliance on the Almighty –– through prayer and Bible reading.

Much to learn from centenarian Elise Weekes, we say. And she is excellent reason not to despise your mother when she is old (Proverbs 23:22); and a worthy exemplar of being the first inductee into Barbados Hall Of Fame For Centenarians.

Let’s keep making Senior Citizens’ Month 2014 one to remember!

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