After decades of political dithering, many older people and the agencies supporting them will be relieved that the Government has at last published a National Positive Ageing Strategy. Not since 1988 has there been a specific government document dealing with the comprehensive needs of older people. Most of the championing of older people had come from voluntary groups such as Age Action, Age and Opportunity, Active Retirement Ireland and the Third Age Foundation. Meanwhile various junior ministers for older people floundered in their attempts to produce an overall stratagy across government departments and showed scant understanding of the international and theoretical dimensions of ageing.
The Minister of State, Kathleen Lynch, deserves credit for finally producing a strategy which has been subject to considerable consultation and covers a wide area of older people’s priorities. A few key points stand out. Ireland currently has one of the youngest populations in the EU: therefore there is time to plan for an age-friendly society in which all who grow old will be actively involved, healthy and secure.
This is encapsulated in four designated national goals. Barriers to participation in cultural, economic and social life must be removed. Older people must be supported as they age to maintain, improve and manage their physical and mental health. People must be enabled to live in their own homes and communities as long as possible. Research, too, must remain an essential component if government policies are to be vibrant and responsive.
Some older people may be sceptical about this document; however, its incisive look at their needs should be reassuring. Their demand for choice in how they live and where they die, the desire for gradual retirement, financial matters, elder abuse, ageism and crime fears, are all pinpointed. This will go some way to make Ireland a good place in which to grow old, as will current moves to revitalise the voluntary ageing sector.