New models of care needed


New models of caring for people across all stages of the life cycle, but particularly for older people, need to be developed in Ireland, a conference has heard.

Voluntary organisation Third Age held its annual event celebrating the contribution and diversity of older people in Ireland with a seminar entitled Spaces and Places for Every Generation.

The organisation’s head of national development Jean Manahan said today's event in Dublin built on last year’s conversation reflecting on the challenges and opportunities facing us due to an increasing older population.

“The need for innovative and new ways of doing things becomes more important due to changing demographics,” Ms Manahan said.

She said some ingrained attitudes needed to be challenged.

"Why, for example, do we presume that the young, middle-aged and older generations need something different from each other in order to achieve self-fulfilment?

"Why do we presume that older people do not have the same need for intimacy, beauty, affirmation or love?"

Mr Manahan also said that if we house older people in old workhouses and prefabs, we are saying that is all they are worth.

"The places and spaces we need when we are older are as important as when we were younger, and as in every stage in life."

Mervyn Taylor of the Irish Hospice Foundation said older people had for far too long been seen as ‘people in need’ and that it was time for a “complete change in thinking”.

Mr Taylor said there had to be a new way of envisaging public services for people right across the life cycle, but particularly for older people.

There needed to be a distinction between public services and services ‘with and for the public’, he said.

“You have to have some system within the public service of actually developing innovation.”

There was private sector innovation, but there also needed to be innovation in public services, Mr Taylor added.

He said philanthropic funds would “only do so much” to encourage the needed change, and the money was running out from those.

Noting that 1 per cent of the cost of every capital project had to be spent on art, Mr Taylor said a small percentage of every government department’s money must be used for “some form of innovation”.

He said we needed to start looking less at service models, and more at ‘logic’ models.

Money could be put into the hands of citizens to run housing-focused, independent trusts, which be run in ways that there was transparency and that put the people who were being provided for more in charge.

“That’s the new agenda. It’s no longer about how we have better new buildings. It’s about what is the control? Who owns the budget? That is what the control agenda has got to be.”

Writer and broadcaster Mary Kennedy said she believed we did not have regard for people as they got older in this country in the same ways that other countries did.

“It is so important to realise the joys of every stage of life, the innocence of the very young, the enthusiasm and beauty of the adolescent and young adult, the commitment of middle-age and the wisdom and elegance of the older person,” she said.

The conference was held at the offices of the European Parliament in Dublin. This year has been designated European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations.