Address by Aine Brady TD, Minister for Older People and Health Promotion at the Third Age Lunch ‘Ageing with Potential’

A dhaoine Uaisle,

I am delighted to be with you here today for the Third Age Foundation’s celebratory lunch and from the outset, I would like to thank Mary Nally, Chairperson of Third Age Foundation for her kind invitation to attend today’s event. As Minister for Older People and Health Promotion I am very pleased to note that the theme of your celebration is ‘ageing with potential’ – there could not be a more suitable focus for the UN International Day of Older Persons and our National Day of Volunteering in Ireland.

As you may know, I am currently developing the National Positive Ageing Strategy, a wide-ranging plan that will set the direction for future policies, programmes and services relating to older people. In that context, I began a consultation process last year when I asked people for their views on the Strategy and was delighted to receive some 190 submissions from a very broad spectrum of statutory agencies, voluntary and community organisations, commercial and professional bodies, cultural and academic institutions, as well as the contributions of many individual older people. At the end of May of this year, my Office completed a series of eight regional consultation meetings with older people involving a total of over 1200 participants who provided us with an immense amount of valuable information on a wide range of issues that will inform the development of the new Positive Ageing Strategy in the months ahead.

I mention the consultations which I have been carrying out in relation to the new Strategy in order to emphasise that one particular issue looms very large for many people as they grow older – that is their wish to live healthy, active, fulfilling lives in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. Time and again in the written submissions and in the face-to-face meetings I have had across the country earlier this year – I have been made aware of the fact that people, as they grow older, want to participate in all kinds of social, cultural, sporting and other activities in their own communities for as long as they can possibly do so.

In that context, I was struck by the fact that many people who participated in our consultations spoke of the importance of volunteering as they grow older and throughout the written submissions to our Strategy, the crucial role of volunteering in later life featured very highly.

It is clear that the range and variety of contributions that older volunteers make is astounding. Thousands of volunteers all across the country help to provide meals-on-wheels and day services in their communities – services that could never be provided without voluntary effort. We know that many help to combat loneliness and social isolation by volunteering their time in providing opportunities for socialising, in helping older people to become involved physical activities and in cultural and civic events of all kinds. We know that volunteers, using the expertise that they have acquired in the course of their working lives, assist older people throughout the country in their efforts to learn computer and other skills. In the course of my discussions with older people, I have become aware of how our current economic situation is acting as a stimulus for volunteering. Growing numbers of people now having both the time, motivation and enthusiasm to share their skills with others. This is something which has great potential for good – both for those who are imparting their knowledge and skills and for those who are benefiting.