Active Retirement Ireland is calling on the government to do more to enable all older people to engage in an independent, active and social way of living, as it reveals that 90% of local Active Retirement Associations have now resumed activities following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at its annual, flagship National Bowls Competition for Active Retirement Associations which is taking place this week (28–30 November 2023) in the Gleneagle INEC Arena in Killarney, Active Retirement Ireland CEO Maureen Kavanagh said all older people should be supported to maintain strong social connections and to age well.

There are 494 Active Retirement Associations (ARAs) in local communities across Ireland — groups of older people who come together to organise social events and activities to reduce isolation and loneliness — supported by the national body Active Retirement Ireland, the largest membership organisation for older people in the country.

In 2019, Active Retirement Ireland had 25,000 members operating out of 550 local ARAs. According to latest figures, 90% of this number of ARAs are back up-and-running again, with membership numbers now strengthened to 84% of pre-pandemic levels. This is an increase on 2022 figures, which at the end of last year showed that 81% of ARAs had resumed activities and 74% of members had returned to their ARAs.

Speaking on the opening of the National Bowls Competition for Active Retirement Associations today, Ms Kavanagh, said: “Older people in Ireland don’t want to be left out of life; they want to take charge of their lives, enjoy an active and social lifestyle, and be independent. Social events like the National Bowls Competition, where older people can get together, be active and enjoy a little healthy competition and camaraderie, are vital for positive ageing. The 240 bowlers competing for the Cup this week, and our volunteers who are helping with the event, confirm the drive and desire of older people to do things for themselves, maintain social connections and be a part of life, and we are grateful for the support of the Gleneagle as the event host for recognising the contribution that older people make.

“Unfortunately, for a lot of older people in Ireland, social connectedness is getting more and more difficult as the cost of living gets higher and the state pension is just not keeping pace. Next year’s €12 a week increase to the state pension announced by government is barely enough to stop the meagre buying power of the pension from falling even lower.”

Ms Kavanagh continued: “A recent survey of our members living on the state pension found that more than half (52%) felt the increase would not give them freedom to enjoy a better quality of life, and more than one-in-three (35%) felt it would not alleviate pressure on them to meet basic living costs. Almost 70% said that the additional €12 would be used to pay for household bills, such as heating and electricity or groceries. Just 5% said it would be used toward social activities or holidays.

“An adequate state pension benchmarked at average earnings, so that older people are not left behind and can afford to take part in life, is just one part of a positive ageing approach that empowers older people to be proactive in prioritising and maintaining their health, wellbeing and social connections.”

Ms Kavanagh added: “Older people don’t want things done for them; they want to be active in their own lives. It’s time the government instituted and implemented a comprehensive, whole-of-government positive ageing framework in Ireland so that they can.”

The National Bowls Competition for Active Retirement Associations is currently taking place at the Gleneagle INEC Arena, Killarney, Co Kerry. Sixty teams of four people are competing for the 2023 Active Retirement Ireland Cup in indoor mat bowls at the organisation’s flagship event, which will continue until finals’ day on Thursday 30 November.

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