For many people, living in a pandemic can be challenging.
With public health restrictions and a state of emergency in effect to contain the spread of covid19, everyday activities can seem tedious.
For senior citizens, particularly those living alone, the situation is even more stressful.
Cognisant of this reality, Island Living Co Ltd recently launched a paid transportation and delivery service targeting senior citizens in Tobago.
Island Living, headquartered in Port of Spain, caters to the needs of residential care facilities throughout TT and also advocates on their behalf to the authorised bodies governing such institutions.
The transportation and delivery service, called Access, seeks to help senior citizens with typical activities such as paying bills and attending appointments.
“The pandemic has injected fear into a lot of people and so the project aims to assist seniors in accessing grocery items, medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, even doctor visits,” the company’s managing director Nigel Walcott said in a Newsday interview.
He said although the project caters to seniors 55 years and over, in the first instance, younger adults would be accommodated depending on their needs.
“So, it is not limited but designed with seniors in mind – those who are afraid to get outside because of covid19 but really need to access goods and services.”
Walcott said Island Living Co Ltd is part of a network of institutions caring for senior citizens.
Island Living has two outlets. 24 Silk Cotton Trace Bon Accord, Tobago and 51 La Baja Road, Maracas, St Joseph.
It includes the Tobago Association of The Elderly (TATE) and the Sister Martha Foundation, a senior activity centre located in Silk Cotton Trace, Bon Accord.
A health facility inspector, Walcott has worked extensively in the field of senior citizen care for close to ten years.
The job entails ensuring that residences maintain proper standards for clients.
Walcott said accessing the service is simple.
“The client just has to make a request and if they do not want to venture outside but prefer that items are dropped off at their door, they can have that service.”
They can also prepare a list of all of the things they need and have someone pick up the items and bring it back to their homes.
Walcott said clients are being sourced through the TATE and other senior citizen groups on the island.
“So, basically, we want people to know the service is there. It is available and they can utilise it.”
Walcott said the project was inspired by his passion for the elderly.
“In Trinidad, we have a couple of persons doing delivery systems but it is not naturally geared towards this cohort (the elderly).
“But, I did not see anything like this happening in Tobago literally on a daily basis so I decided to create one for Tobago.”
Walcott said the project is being managed by Ann-Marie Sealey.
“She would be responsible for making all of the arrangements, ensuring that drivers get to the clients on time and back to their destination.”
A trained beauty therapist, Sealey is originally from Trinidad but has lived in Tobago for the past 22 years.
She said she has been involved in elderly care for many years, beginning with her grandparents and later, a brother and a few neighbours.
“When I was in Florida doing my course, I took the initiative to do a short course in caregiving and when I came back here (Tobago), I integrated my services by helping with the elderly on weekends,” she said.
Sealey recalled that at one point in her youth, she thought about opening a wellness centre
She said she has been affiliated with several senior citizen groups, one of which is the Yahweh Foundation.
Sealey is excited about Access.
“I am really excited because I honestly believe that the elderly really do deserve a wonderful quality of life. They have done so much and they should be spoiled rotten.”
Sealey said although they have already assisted a few clients, many people are still sceptical about the initiative.
“I think in this kind of climate you have to take it in stages but it will develop. We just have to be patient.”
Walcott said the transportation and delivery service is part of a wider initiative aimed at advancing the care of senior citizens on the island.
He said the owners of the Sister Martha Foundation, Tobagonians Dr Victoria St Clair and her daughter Wendy Crenshaw, have been doing a lot of humanitarian work with senior citizens over the years.
Before the start of the pandemic, Walcott recalled the women, who live in the US, had organised a programme for seniors to get free medical supplies.
“Once there was a need, they have delivered because they are about improving the quality of life for seniors.”
The foundation, through Island Living, recently donated 25 pulse oximeters to the Rockley Vale Senior Activity Centre as the first step in a broader plan to distribute 200 devices to families with seniors throughout Tobago. The TATE would assist with the distribution.
Oximeters gauge the level of oxygen in the blood so that people can know when they are in distress even before they develop symptoms and get to the doctor.
Walcott said the initiative was conceptualised with covid19 in mind.
“Covid19 has a respiratory component and it is an early warning system to let you know if your respiratory systems are intact.”
Walcott recalled an oximeter saved his life in 2018.
He said he spent three weeks at the Port of Spain General Hospital because his body was lacking oxygen.
“I was not even aware of it because I was moving around normal without checking the range of the oxygen in my system. So, internally, I was breaking down slowly but not being aware of it.”
He said the foundation has several other projects in the pipeline for Tobago’s senior citizens.
These include a senior activity centre offering a wide range of programmes, a monthly hamper distribution for seniors in need. a senior call-in hotline and a seniors online networking system.
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