A cultural shift in how we view ageing
Sir, – There has been much debate on these pages on the terms used to describe older people, and the differing perceptions of what these terms signify and the age spectrum they cover.
However, I think it would be useful to place the topic in the broader context of the country’s ageing population. At present people aged over 65 in Ireland account for 12 per cent of the total population. This is set to rise to 22 per cent of the total population by 2041. Over the same period, the number of people aged 80 and over is projected to increase by 250 per cent.
At some point in the future, the old will outnumber the young and will need to be financially supported by them.
The issues that arise in relation to an ageing population affect us all and present us with opportunities as well as challenges. However, there needs to be a cultural shift in how older age is regarded. How Ireland organises itself in response to this is not just a fiscal matter, but also reflects how a caring society treats its citizens that are potentially at risk of marginalisation. Intergenerational understanding and respect are key to this, as is valuing the contribution to society made by older people, who are healthier and better educated than ever before.
Enabling older citizens to remain actively engaged to their full potential in the greater community for as long as possible is affording them their fundamental human rights. It also makes sound economic sense. This can best be achieved if society as a whole, led by public policy, recognises the full implications of the ageing demographic and, through a consultative process, works towards putting the relevant frameworks in place. – Yours, etc,