The Honourable Fitzgerald Hinds M.P., Minister of National Security

• Mr Peter Pena, President of TTARP and other Members of the TTARP Executive

• Dr Jennifer Rouse, Gerontologist

• Members of TTARP

• Members of the Media

• Other Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to be able to join you this morning, as TTARP celebrates its 30th anniversary. The theme of this year’s anniversary celebrations is, as we have heard, “Together We Are Stronger”. I could not have imagined a better theme, myself. In fact, when one thinks about it, the words “Together We Are Stronger” are apt, not just as a theme for our anniversary celebrations, but as a powerful reminder to the entire country of the need for our citizenry to collaborate and cooperate with one another in our march towards community development and national advancement.

You will notice that I have spoken about “our” anniversary celebrations. This is not simply because I am qualified, by reason of my age, to be part of the organisation (my husband has already teased me and told me that I am way over-qualified where that is concerned); rather, it is because I have had not only the good fortune to have been invited to be the organisation’s patron, but, so my husband has also told me (although, in this respect, he happens to be right), I have also had the good sense to have accepted that kind invitation. And so, I have spoken about “our” anniversary celebrations, in thankful recognition of the gift which the Universe has so kindly given me of this opportunity to be joined with you, in more ways than one.

For 30 years, TTARP has been working tirelessly to enable persons aged 50 years and over to fulfil their greatest potential. One of the reasons I embraced the opportunity to be patron of the organisation so readily, is the invaluable and essential service the organisation provides to people in their golden—and, I dare say, their best—years. The other is because TTARP, as a non-profit civil organisation, is, I believe, a reflection of what is best about Trinidad and Tobago – our people’s willingness to give of themselves, in service to others, without seeking the least reward.

Honouring our forebears and all who have gone before us, by making proper provisions for them in their later years, is a noble endeavour. In the Christian Bible, it is the only commandment to which a promise is attached: “Honour thy Father and thy Mother, and thy days shall be long in the land”. In West Indian societies, elder people have long occupied a special place in the family unit. Elder persons help raise grandchildren or other children of the family; ensure that valuable life skills and wisdom are passed on; and are often the glue that binds together the entire family unit. In the wider community, they are the stalwarts, community leaders and people who can be counted on to impart pearls of wisdom, knowledge and experience. Having worked for decades; raised generations; and contributed to the social and economic wellbeing of the country in both tangible and intangible ways, elder people have earned the right to be honoured.

TTARP helps our nation to honour our elder population by advocating for and assisting them in many ways. This year’s anniversary Expo showcases just some of the many products and services that are geared specifically towards elder persons, by which TTARP tangibly honours our elder population. These include impressive discounts on a wide range of goods and services in more than sixty-two categories throughout Trinidad and Tobago. I look forward to viewing the ‘World of TTARP’ exhibition later, which is sure to answer more than a few of the public’s questions about TTARP, and provide a deeper insight into what membership in TTARP means and all that membership has to offer.

Ageing can, and should be, a wonderful thing. In fact, some say that life begins at 50. However, growing older does come with specific issues and concerns, many of which TTARP’s efforts have gone a long way towards alleviating.

One of the paramount concerns about getting older, is financial wellness. Retirement can mean financial insecurity as a result of the loss of an income. It can also leave one face-to-face with the inadequacy of one’s savings; and, where we depend on job-related retirement benefits, retirement can mean immeasurable stress when, as often happens, there are delays in receiving those benefits. Even if one is not retired, one can find oneself spending quite a lot of money on health and health-related issues, as one grows older. It is in this sphere – of mitigating the financial vulnerability of elder persons – that TTARP has perhaps most famously distinguished itself. TTARP has done so by entering into relationships with 400 discount partners and securing preferential rates for its members across a wide category of services, including optical, medical, dental, grocery items, insurance, utilities and much more. We—and notice I say ‘we’—are spoilt for choice when it comes to the products and discounts TTARP has made available to help defray our daily expenses and enable us to put up a better fight against rising prices. Thank you TTARP!

Another challenge which many of us face as we get older, is that of isolation and loneliness. With time, children leave the home and get married; friends move into different neighbourhoods or pass away; and colleagues retire early and abandon us at our workplaces. Mobility and other physical limitations brought on by the ageing process, prevent some of us from participating in the activities we love – further reinforcing our sense of isolation. TTARP has stepped into this space as well, and provides a variety of opportunities for social engagement – with events such as international and local trips; and functions and limes as a TTARP family within various colourfully-named zones. I was amused to learn some of the zone names—the ‘Eastern Angels’ of Arima; ‘Royals’ of Princes Town/Rio Claro; ‘Purple Diamonds’ of San Fernando; and how can one forget the ‘Corals’ from Tobago!

Outings and events such as these provide an opportunity for social engagement and promote a sense of belonging for us as we age. Events such as these also help make the case that I advanced at the beginning of this address, that there could not be a better theme than “Together We Are Stronger” where TTARP is concerned. As an organisation, TTARP truly understands and operates by this theme. Through TTARP’s efforts, many of us can now find community and friendship as we age, comfortable in the knowledge that we are not alone. Through TTARP’s efforts, our nation honours our elder population.

I could go on and on, for days and days, about what TTARP has to offer – but then I suppose that would defeat the whole purpose of our Expo!

Permit me, therefore, to walk down a slightly different road, and to focus TTARP’s attention on the critical role that I believe the organisation can, and should play, in what I described, when I began, as our country’s march towards community development and national advancement.

I am speaking here about the role of mentorship. I referred earlier to the role that our elder citizens play in ensuring that valuable life skills and wisdom are passed on. I respectfully suggest that there is in our country, today more than ever, a growing need for elder citizens to mentor their younger charges.

Looking around at our country today, we see too many examples of our youth gone astray – we see too many of them succumbing to the lure of all forms of antisocial and criminal conduct. I believe that positive and appropriate mentorship for our nation’s youth and younger adults, is a critical tool in showing our young people better ways to be; and in showing them better lives to live. And I wonder whether TTARP, by reason of the unique attributes of its members, might not well be in the perfect position to provide the very type of mentorship that I believe our young people need at this time. TTARP has, for example, among its members, some of the most distinguished and capable elder citizens this country has ever produced. As I understand it, TTARP’s membership comprises a wide cross-section of persons from every sector of the society, and from every field of social and cultural endeavour. And it is there, I believe, that TTARP has an advantage that few other organisations have – the advantage of a ready, an available, and an organised pool of mature members who have worked, lived and experienced almost every walk of life; many of whom are no longer weighed down by the responsibilities of daily employment and whose time and talents can therefore be turned towards mentoring youths and young adults.

The beneficial effects of positive and appropriate mentorship upon the youth population and by extension, upon the wider society, hardly need to be stated. They include: increased secondary-school graduation rates; lower-secondary school dropout rates; healthier relationships and lifestyle choices; better attitudes about schooling and education in general; higher tertiary-enrolment rates; higher educational aspirations; enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence; improved behaviour, both at home and at school; stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers; improved interpersonal skills; and a decreased likelihood of starting drug and alcohol use.

This is why I believe that, with appropriate mentorship, our country will put itself in a better position to develop healthier, happier communities and to advance as a people and as a nation. And, as I have said, I believe that TTARP’s membership are perfectly poised to provide the required mentorship. Perhaps, for example, such mentorship might include inviting more young people to TTARP’s outings and events, where they can mingle with their elders in a relaxed environment. It is said that the ‘4 Cs’ of a successful mentoring programme are Conversation, Connection, Community, and Culture. TTARP’s outings and events supply them all, and in ample measure. Whether by means of these outings and events, or by other, more formal means, I am confident that TTARP is possessed of both the imagination and the human-resource capacity, to mentor our nation’s youths and young adults, extremely successfully.

And so, I want to encourage TTARP’s leadership, not only to keep up the Herculean work that it has been undertaking for the last 30 years, but, in the months and years ahead, to add to its already impressive body of work, a focussed concentration on mentoring our nation’s youths and young adults. When he was alive, my father, who was perhaps the greatest mentor in my own life, was often fond of saying that ‘The only reward for good work, is more work’. And so – there it is: for all of TTARP’s good work for the last 30 years, I have taken the liberty this morning of suggesting that it might consider undertaking some more work, this time in the area of concentrated mentorship. If my suggestion diminishes the likelihood that I will be invited to deliver the feature address at next year’s anniversary celebrations, at least it will have made my father proud.

I know that I am certainly proud this morning. I am proud to be the patron of this organisation. I am proud of how TTARP has continued to advocate for the elder population of Trinidad and Tobago, and of how it has kept pace with the times, allowing persons to apply online to become members and providing other valuable information via its social media pages. And I am proud of all that I know TTARP will continue to do and to accomplish in our country as we, all of us, pull together in the knowledge that “Together We Are Stronger”.

And so, let me in closing, once again wish TTARP a happy 30th anniversary. I am happy to join TTARP as we host our 30th anniversary Expo. I look forward to viewing the many products and services on offer— and who knows, perhaps I will yield to my husband’s teasing and avail myself of some of them!

Happy anniversary and I wish you many, many more productive years to come.