More than eight in ten Active Retirement Associations in communities across Ireland are back up-and-running following a two-year suspension in their activities due to the pandemic, according to new figures announced yesterday (30 November 2022) by Active Retirement Ireland.

A country-wide network of local Active Retirement Associations (ARAs) aim to reduce isolation and loneliness of older people, guided by the national charity Active Retirement Ireland, which is the country’s largest membership organisation for older people.

According to the newly released figures, in 2019 Active Retirement Ireland had 550 ARAs comprising some 25,000 members. Post-pandemic, current figures show that 81% of ARAs have resumed activities and 18,500 members (74%) have returned to their ARAs.

Active Retirement Ireland CEO Maureen Kavanagh announced the current figures at the Active Retirement Ireland National Bowls Competition taking place this week in the Gleneagle INEC Arena in Killarney, with some 450 members in attendance.

Fifty-seven teams of four people are competing for the 2022 Active Retirement Ireland Cup in indoor mat bowls at the organisation’s 10th annual flagship event, which has been held every year since 2010, with the exception of 2020 and 2021 when it was suspended due to the pandemic.

Speaking from the event in Killarney, Ms Kavanagh, said: “This year’s National Bowls Competition is of extra special significance as it indicates that older people are taking charge of their lives again post-pandemic. It showcases the resilience of older people as they come back to volunteering, and to resuming an active and social lifestyle after two years of lockdown.

“However, our figures show that there are still fewer ARAs and members engaging in activities than before the pandemic.

“I’d like to take this opportunity at the resumption of our largest membership event to issue a rallying call to more older people to try and re-engage and build up their social connections again, whether through your local ARA or elsewhere, but to understand that social connection is one of the most important pathways to better health.

“The 230 finalists competing for the Cup this week, our members in attendance and our volunteers who are helping with the event, epitomise the absolute determination of older people not to be left behind or left out of life. We are grateful for the generous support of our event host the Gleneagle for making this event possible for so many of our members and for their recognition of the contribution that older people make.”

The three-day National Bowls Competition for Active Retirement Associations wraps up at the Gleneagle INEC Arena, Killarney, Co Kerry today (1 December) with the finals, awards presentation and gala ball.

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