Rice-Bowen: Salute the “unpaid caregiver”

It is important to recognise and highlight the hard work of society’s resilient, older women who laid the foundation for Barbados to be what it is today.

That was the opinion of President of Barbados Association of Retired Persons (BARP), Marilyn Rice-Bowen, speaking to Nation Online on the occasion of International Day of Older Persons, marked annually on October 1.

Rice-Bowen believes this year’s theme, “Resilience of Older Persons in a Changing World”, is significant because those women are the backbone of the society we see today.

“I look at the Barbadian older woman and I salute her for her resilience; her resilience as the person who was endowed with the spirit of enterprise and thrift. She educated her children, she bought real estate, maintained her property, all through thrift, selling pudding and souse, baking bread, sewing all through the night, but her family was her focus,” Rice-Bowen said.

“Her role as a caregiver was selected, she didn’t have a choice. She was selected because of her gender and probably her level of education, but despite not choosing that role, she displayed a high level of commitment and dedication to those she looked after and we ought to salute that Barbadian woman, the unpaid caregiver.”

Rice-Bowen, who has been BARP president for three years, added that when it comes time to retire, those women are entirely dependent on the state to look out for them.

“When her other peers are receiving their pensions, her only pension would be what she received from the state and occasionally she might take ill. If she does, then again, the only healthcare available to her would come from Government institutions because she was never afforded the opportunity to enquire for health insurance.”

One of the women she highlighted for their resilience was Erma Rock who was born on May 24, 1910. She started the Rocklyn Bus Company with her husband George Rock. At first it was just one bus travelling between St Joseph and Bridgetown.

Due to her hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, the business soon blossomed and they had a fleet of 40 buses which travelled St Andrew, St James, St Thomas and St Michael, making Rock the largest private bus concessionaire in Barbados. Her business created jobs and it also allowed people to sell their produce in Bridgetown.

On December 14, 1990, the United Nations General Assembly chose October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons. According to the United Nations, between 1950 and 2010, life expectancy worldwide rose from 46 years to 68 years old. As of 2019, there were 703 million people aged 65 or over.

The United States Census, which tracks ageing trends, states that as of October 2021, among developing countries Barbados has one of the highest proportions of older people, with 17 per cent of the population aged 65 and over and nearly 11 per cent having reached or surpassed age 65.


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