In 1978 an exhibition called “Focus on Retirement” was held in Dun Laoghaire and this engendered a great deal of interest and led to the formation of the first Active Retirement Association (ARA) in the country. News of the success of that first association in Dun Laoghaire quickly spread to other districts resulting in the establishment of new associations. By 1985 there were 23 Active Retirement Associations, one in Waterford, one in Wicklow, the remainder being in the Dublin area.
In 1983 a professional study of Dun Laoghaire ARA had concluded that there was great potential for Active Retirement Associations. “The active retirement associations should consider the formation of a Federation of Active Retirement Associations. The formation of a Federation would create a closer bond between the associations and provide opportunities for the sharing of experiences and ideas, which would be especially helpful for the newer associations. In addition, such a Federation would provide the active retired with a public voice, which should be used to influence policies affecting their lifestyle.” The late Maurice Kennedy, a founder member in Dun Laoghaire, a tireless promoter of Active Retirement in its early years and a man of vision, agreed with these words and saw the greater benefits that would derive from the closer working together of all these new associations. With that in mind, in 1985 he called a meeting of representatives of existing groups to consider the formation of a Federation of Active Retirement Associations. This meeting approved the establishment of the new Federation and Maurice became its first National President, a position he held until 1989.
Around this time Muiris Prenderville, with other founder members, was instrumental in putting together the first constitution for FARA. A specimen constitution for use by individual associations was also produced.
The organisation continued to attract new groups and members, and by 1992, membership was over 6,000 in 68 local groups. In 1993, Muiris Prenderville and Blanchardstown ARA initiated an intergenerational programme called “Age Link” with transition year pupils from local community schools. This programme was then taken on board nationally by FARA and “Age Link” was accepted as a project for the European Year of Older Persons.
Since then, the change in the organisation has been monumental. Now known as Active Retirement Ireland, we now represent over 24,500 members in more than 570 local associations nationwide. In 2012, Ballyna Area Active Retirement Association became the 500th Active Retirement group; and in 2013 we were delighted to welcome Slieve Gallion ARA as the first Active Retirement Association from Northern Ireland.
The Active Retirement movement continues to grow, but our core ethos remains the same. We exist to enable older people to lead a healthy and active life well into retirement.