A members’ consultation conducted by Active Retirement Ireland, the country’s largest membership organisation for older people, has found that nearly all (94%) of those surveyed would like to see the establishment of an independent Commissioner for Ageing and Older People in Ireland.
Further, 96% of respondents agreed there is a need for a comprehensive positive ageing framework in Ireland that looks beyond the care and medical needs of older people to protect all aspects of ageing.
Active Retirement Ireland, which carried out the survey in March and April this year, said the findings show that older people are not satisfied their needs are being properly considered and planned for by government.
CEO of Active Retirement Ireland, Maureen Kavanagh, said: “What our members are telling us is that they feel sidelined and overlooked by policymakers and it is not hard to see why.
“We have a National Positive Ageing Strategy published by the government 10 years ago in 2013 that has not been implemented and indications that this will instead be replaced by a Commission on Care, which, despite being committed to in the Programme for Government, has also not seen any movement.
“We have a Minster of State for Older People who sits under the Department of Health and also has responsibility for the mental health portfolio. Health is as important in later life as at any stage of life — but what about housing, transport, environment, enterprise, infrastructure, communications and every other aspect of society?
“While we are in the midst of a care crisis in Ireland and there is no doubt a Commission on Care is needed, ageing is not synonymous with care and positive ageing is about much more than a person’s physical health later in life.”
Ms Kavanagh continued: “Older people need to have a seat at the table across government. Active Retirement Ireland, as part of the Alliance of Age Sector NGOs, has long advocated for the establishment of an independent Commissioner for Ageing and Older People, similar to that which is in place in Northern Ireland and in Wales, to bring awareness to the issues affecting older people and ensure their interests and rights are given appropriate consideration during all public policy development.
“Alongside this, the Government must develop and put into action a whole-of-government strategy on population ageing that allows all Irish people to age with dignity and respect, and to live independently for as long as possible.”
Ms Kavanagh added: “Population ageing is a worldwide concern and Ireland is not yet at a crisis level by any means. We have time to approach population ageing from a positive ageing perspective rather than a crisis management one. Let’s start now and put in place robust and connected strategies and implementation frameworks to become a country that is good to grow old in.”
What some respondents said
One consultation respondent, from Co Clare, said: “Older people in Ireland are marginalised and discriminated against. This does not happen in other countries and should not be happening here. We still have a lot to give and a lifetime of experience to share.”
A respondent from Dublin city said: “More talk is needed about ageing and for people to realise that getting older does not mean an end of life to be spent knitting and sitting in a home looking at four walls.”
Another respondent, who did not provide their county, said: “The contribution of older people to families, workplaces, communities and society in general is undervalued. Attitudes need to change. While one lauds the work done by the current Minister [for Older People], she places far too much emphasis on care, medical needs and nursing homes. Older people are active, engaged and intelligent.”