The new senator for the Progressive Labour Party warned yesterday that care of the island’s growing seniors population will take “more than just money”.
Ianthia Simmons-Wade, a veteran healthcare worker and widow of former PLP leader Frederick Wade, replaces Jason Hayward in the Upper House.
Mr Hayward moved from the Senate to the House of Assembly after he won a by-election in Pembroke Central last month.
David Burt, the Premier, said after a swearing-in ceremony at Government House that Mrs Simmons-Wade would replace Derrick Burgess, a PLP backbencher, as chairwoman of the Ageing Well Committee and would also be junior health minister.
The group was set up in November 2017 to draw up a charter of rights for seniors and create plans to cope with the island’s increasing senior population.
Mr Burt said: “We have a really big challenge with our senior and ageing population in residential care. I don’t want to say there’s a looming crisis, but if we do not act decisively with investment, with changes in policy, we are going to be farther down that road.”
The Premier added: “Though we can do pension increases and make sure FutureCare is there, we have to have a better long-term care strategy.”
There were 8,716 people aged 65 or over in 2010, but that figure is expected to top 12,000 next year.
Mr Burt said the appointment of Mrs Simmons-Wade to the Senate sent “a message that we are serious about tackling the issues of long-term care for seniors”.
Mrs Simmons-Wade, 63, said she had “a connection and alliance to what my husband stood for, and what he believed was best for this country, which was a PLP government”.
She added: “But I don’t want people to think that Mrs Wade is Mr Freddie Wade’s widow — I’m walking in my own footsteps.”
Mrs Simmons-Wade has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Howard University, as well as a master’s degree in health service administration from George Washington University and took postgraduate studies in medical law and ethics at De Montford University.
She was administrator at the Summerhaven assisted-living centre for the disabled in Smith’s.
Summerhaven suspended her for financial mismanagement in 2008, but the trust that runs the centre withdrew all allegations against her in 2010.
Mrs Simmons-Wade said she had also worked at the Matilda Smith Williams home for the elderly in Devonshire.
She added: “I have worked with Government as a consultant for seniors and the disabled. I have worked lately with smaller nursing homes to help them become more compliant with legislation.”
Mrs Simmons-Wade said she would prioritise the island’s “very serious problem that we have with our rapidly increasing senior population”.
She said: “The solution is not always money. It is important for the public to understand it is not the Government’s responsibility to totally take over what is required for seniors.
“It involves planning in advance. It involves the community. It’s a community effort.”
Mrs Simmons-Wade added: “It’s important that you make preparations and plan for ageing, make investments and look at what you do when you age.
“Too often, people think of ageing well and don’t think of having to go into a rest home, a nursing home, or being incapable of working or providing for themselves.”
Mrs Simmons-Wade said there were alternatives to rest homes for seniors.
She explained: “One of the things that has been put in place with FutureCare is enabling family members to get money to keep family members at home.
“We’re encouraging people, as safely as possible, to keep family members at home. Then, we have to look at what other countries are doing and think outside of the box.
“Very often they’re not rest homes. It’s group living, which is very different. It’s not just rest homes and nursing homes. There’s living with others that are your same age, or staying home with your family.
She said: “Wherever that senior may be, they have to be safe and secure.”
• To read Ianthia Simmons-Wade’s comments at the swearing-in ceremony, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”