• I am delighted to be here today to launch the first Age Friendly Strategy for Limerick. I congratulate the Limerick Age Friendly Alliance and all who have been involved in this ambitious strategy to make Limerick a great place in which to grow old, where everyone is valued and respected.
• We all recognise the important change facing Limerick and Ireland as a whole – our communities are rapidly ageing.
• The Central Statistics Office predicts that, over the next 30 years, the number of people in Ireland over the age of 65 will double and the number over 80 will quadruple.
• Here in Limerick, the Census figures show that the population grew by 3.4% between 2006 and 2011, while the number of people aged between 55 and 85 years increased by 13.4%.
• This changing demographic has major implications for public policy, service provision, long-term planning, and society as a whole.
• These changes and projections pose significant challenges – for our health, care and pension systems as well as our capacity to create environments in which all of us can flourish as we age, and lead healthy, active and engaged lives.
• It is important to note that these changes also present us with significant opportunities. How we grasp these depends on our ability to plan for the longer-term. We need to develop strong devolved local government capable of engaging all stakeholders in bringing about changes in planning, health, housing, transport, safety and public space management.
National Positive Ageing Strategy
• The Irish Government believes that the challenges of our ageing population can be met and opportunities exploited by planning now to ensure that Irish society is an ‘age-friendly’ one in the years ahead.
• In 2013 the Government published the Healthy Ireland framework, which sets out a vision to improve the health and wellbeing of the entire population of Ireland. Its main focus is on prevention and keeping people healthier for longer.
• At the same time, we published the National Positive Ageing Strategy to signpost what we can do to make Ireland a good country in which to grow older.
• In the past, policy relating to older people tended to deal almost exclusively with health and social care issues. The Positive Ageing Strategy highlights that ageing is not just a health issue – it requires a whole of Government response to address a range of social, economic and environmental factors that affect the health and wellbeing of our ageing citizens.
Healthy and Positive Ageing Initiative
• As part of the implementation process of the National Positive Ageing Strategy, a Healthy and Positive Ageing Initiative has been established as a joint programme between the Department of Health, The Atlantic Philanthropies, the HSE and Age Friendly Ireland.
• This Initiative will develop indicators to monitor changes in older people’s health and wellbeing at a national and local level and will link them to the Goals and Objectives of the Positive Ageing Strategy.
• It will provide examples of good practice in healthy and positive ageing at Local Authority level and will also include a communications campaign to encourage physical activity. This will play a key role in linking the changes in older people’s wellbeing to future policy development.
• Implementing the Limerick Age Friendly Strategy is one of the many ways through which we as a society will realise the aims and aspirations of these initiatives.
Age Friendly Ireland
• Positive ageing and healthy ageing are in everyone’s interest and the benefits of establishing an Age Friendly Strategy for Limerick will be wide ranging and significant.
• The Strategy is the culmination of a detailed consultation process which brought together the public, private and community and voluntary sectors to identify how Limerick can be improved and helped become an excellent place to live, work, enjoy life and grow older. The benefits of this will be felt by everyone.
• Age Friendly work is taking place in many parts of Ireland and Age Friendly Ireland is leading the programme at a national level. They describe an age friendly county as “a place where more and more older people can stay living in their own homes and communities, lead healthy and active lives, get to where they want to go, when they want to go, and are valued contributors to the lives of their communities”.
• Age Friendly Cities and Counties programmes are great for our cities and counties. The signing of the Dublin Declaration on Age Friendly Cities & Communities by all 31 local authorities at the end of last year represents a significant and unique national commitment to creating an inclusive, equitable society for citizens of all ages. By signing the Declaration, our Councils have committed our Cities and Counties to developing themselves as places where older people can live full, active and healthy lives. Today’s launch of the Limerick Age Friendly Strategy demonstrates how this vision will be realised for the people of Limerick.
• It is important to recognise the vital importance of issues identified and decisions made at a local level. How safe communities are, the quality of the housing stock, the extent to which mobility is provided for and facilitated, the quality of the physical environment, the provision of transport services, the opportunities to be involved in your local community, the lifelong learning opportunities available, health services – all of these are influenced by decisions made by various agencies at local level.
• It should also be recognised that in planning to make our communities age-friendly, we are also meeting the needs of many other groups, such as people with disabilities, parents of young families and children themselves.
• The Age Friendly Cities and Counties Programme is a model where the plans are developed and agreed locally and the agencies involved agree to be accountable to each other at local level. As such, it is much more likely to achieve its aim of improving the lives of older people and in doing so improving the lives of people of all ages.
• The establishment of the Older Persons Councils in each of the participating Age Friendly Programmes is a particularly positive development and one that is in line with government thinking as outlined in the Programme for Government, the National Positive Ageing Strategy and Putting People First as well as other local government reform legislation and discussion papers. It is vital that older people are given a place at the table where their concerns and aspirations can be aired and acted on.
• I am impressed with some of the examples that have resulted from the Age Friendly Cities and Counties programme to date throughout the country. – Health service providers, including hospitals, have liaised with transport providers to ensure buses stop outside health centres and hospitals. Care providers have turned to older people’s voluntary organisations to provide important outreach and other supports. Local Authorities are liaising with the health services to make home adaptation grants available in time so older people do not have to stay in hospital when they are medically fit for discharge. Older people’s organisations have played an important role in implementing many of the changes needed.
• In the context of the new Housing Strategy, Limerick City and County Council has committed to incorporating relevant age friendly and universal design guidelines to support ageing in place and the development of sustainable environments – particularly so in relation to the location of future builds and their proximity to health care facilities, transport and key community services.
• I am delighted to witness today’s launch by Chief Superintendent David Sheahan of Limerick’s Implementation Plan for An Garda Síochána’s National Older People’s Strategy. The Plan has been devised based on the needs of local older people and will help them to feel safe and secure in their own homes and communities.
• The HSE is exploring the potential role for an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) based at University Hospital Limerick to work with discharge planners in acute hospitals across Limerick and with primary and community services to ensure that older people have the best access to clinicalcare pathways, in accordance with the National Clinical Programme for Older People.
• The Limerick Age Friendly Alliance will seek to ensure that this strategy achieves measurable outcomes for older people that demonstrate improvements in their quality of life over the five year period to 2020.
• Our older population, with their life-time talents, skills and experience must be allowed to play a meaningful role in shaping their own communities and leading the changes needed. Together we can work to ensure that we meet the challenges and capitalise on the opportunities that lie ahead in a positive way that will improve the lives of our older citizens in the future.
• Congratulations to all involved in the Limerick Age Friendly Programme. I believe it will have a major impact on everyone’s quality of life. I wish you all the best in the work that you will undertake to make its vision a reality over the life time of this strategy. I also wish Age Friendly Ireland Programme continued success in its pursuit of the vision that ‘’every county in Ireland will be a great place in which to grow old.’’