I am delighted to be here today at this important milestone in the journey of Dublin becoming an Age Friendly City and indeed Ireland becoming an Age Friendly Country with the launch of our capital city’s Age Friendly Strategy.

I commend the Dublin City Age Friendly initiative in its ambitious aim for Dublin City to be a great place to grow old, where everyone is valued and respected.

While we all come from different sectors and backgrounds within the life of this great city, and indeed country, we all recognise two important changes that are facing Dublin and Ireland: our communities are rapidly ageing and urbanising.

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. This changing demographic has major implications for public policy, service provisions, 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 urban 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.

In 2013 the Government published the National Positive Ageing Strategy, the “blue print for age related policy and service delivery across government and society”. It also launched Healthy Ireland, a national framework that aims to increase the health and wellbeing of people at all stages of life, including old age “where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health and wellbeing to their full potential, where wellbeing is valued and supported at every level of society and is everyone’s responsibility”

Positive ageing and healthy ageing are in everyone’s interest and the Dublin City Age Friendly Strategy is one of the many ways that we as a society will realise the aims and aspirations of these two vital national documents. I am heartened to see the high level of partnership involvement from the public, private and community and voluntary sectors in this initiative. A partnership that I know is being reflected in other counties and cities around Ireland. From my own personal perspective I am pleased to see my own county of Cork undertaking this same journey.

The national Age Friendly Cities and Counties Programme has a number of core values which are reflected in the Dublin City Age Friendly Strategy. These core values include working with older people rather than for older people, including older people in the decision making process, including and considering all older people no matter what their background, and adopting a partnership approach in the design and delivery of coordinated services and supports.

In a short number of years, 26 of our 31 local authorities have developed or committed to developing an Age Friendly Strategy. Counties such as Louth and Kilkenny have made great progress in implementing age-friendly strategies. It is an approach which facilitates the key agencies across public, private and the voluntary and community sectors, jointly planning and integrating their services and supports, consulting extensively with older people and involving them in the decision making and change processes. It 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.

Age Friendly Cities and Counties programmes are great for our cities and counties. First of all 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.

I am impressed with some of the examples that have resulted from the Age Friendly Cities and Counties programme to date throughout the country. Here in Dublin we have seen examples of great practice where organisations have come together to address gaps in provision. Programmes such as:-

• Dublin Northwest Shop and Health Route, where DCC in partnership with Vantastic have developed a bus transportation service for older people to get to shops and health appointments;
• Ballyfermot Cold Weather Strategy, where 33 local agencies come together in order to coordinate a planned response to cold weather using all available local resources to ensure that vulnerable people and groups in the Ballyfermot/Chapelizod areas have access to shops or have access to at least one hot meal per day during inclement weather.

These examples demonstrate how innovative and responsive we can be when we come together to respond to challenges and opportunities and this is at the heart of the Age Friendly Programmes nationally and here in Dublin.

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.

The current economic climate, while tough, offers a unique opportunity to transform how we plan, develop and integrate our services in a more responsive and cost-effective way, innovating how we engage our citizens in the delivery of the changes they want themselves. 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.

I endorse the work of the World Health Organisation’s Global Network of Age Friendly Cities. Ireland’s Age Friendly Programme is part of this international movement to help cities and counties to prepare for two global demographic trends: ageing populations and growing urbanisation. Ireland has played and continues to play a critical role in the development and promotion of the world wide Age Friendly Agenda. 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.

I wish the Dublin City Age Friendly Strategy all the best in the work that it will undertake to make its vision a reality over the life time of this strategy. I also wish Age Friendly Ireland and the Age Friendly City and Counties Programme continued success. The Government is fully committed to supporting and encouraging all stakeholders in this journey.

Thank you.