Speeches

Address by Mr Micheál Martin TD, at the Opening of Senior Social Centre, Bishopstown

Opening

I am delighted to accept the invitation of Ms Dorothy Murray to officially open this new Senior Social Centre. I am pleased to see at first hand this facility which will meet the social, recreational and educational needs of older people in the parishes of Ballineaspig, St Joseph´s Wilton and Curraheen. It is always inspiring to meet people involved in providing for the needs of older people and I would like to take this opportunity to commend this innovative project.

Positive Ageing

As the population of older people here in Ireland rises, there is an acceptance that they have been instrumental in building and strengthening the Irish economy to the healthy level we enjoy today. The present Government acknowledges their contribution to this economy and is fully committed to improving all aspects of the lives of older people by focusing, not only on health matters, but also all the other issues which affect their well-being.

The growth in the number of older people is often referred to in purely negative terms. Old age can be mistakenly associated with dependency. In Ireland, there are more than 400,000 people aged 65 or over, the vast majority of whom are healthy and independent. What is often overlooked is that older people are a resource to society. Some remain active in business, while others contribute in a voluntary capacity by caring for members of their families, by volunteering for work in charitable and caring organisations.

“Ageing with Confidence for the People of Cork and Kerry”

The Southern Health Board´s strategy “Ageing with Confidence for the People of Cork and Kerry” outlines what is needed to enhance services to meet the needs, requirements and wishes of older people and their carers. The Board´s objective is to promote the dignity and independence of older people across the continuum of care. To achieve this, they proposed several new initiatives, changes to existing services and new capital developments.

Bishopstown Senior Social Centre

This Social Centre fits in with and is a good example of the social satellite centre concept, which is a key element of the community support structure for older people as outlined in the Southern Health Board´s “Ageing with Confidence Strategy” document. It is a great example of organisations coming together, to work to maximise health and social gain for older people.

We can learn from the life experiences of older people and in doing so learn what is required to support older people in the community and enable them live their lives independently and to the fullest extent. All older people, including those who are in need of care, must be enabled to participate to the maximum extent possible in the decisions that affect them.

One of the basic needs of older people is contact with others. A Social Centre performs an important function in this regard as it enables older people to meet with their peers, while providing them with a focus for social interaction. I understand that the Centre aims to help people to stay at home longer, providing mental, social and physical stimulation through access to a range of opportunities, enabling friendship to develop, offering support to carers and involving users of the centre in the development of the centre itself.

Voluntary Groups

The very many services provided by voluntary groups and organisations throughout Cork greatly enhance the quality of life and social well-being of older people. The voluntary sector needs to be involved in the development of new and existing services where appropriate. The Centre´s management group, consisting primarily of older people, has been extremely active in both developing the project to date and planning for its future and plays an invaluable role in the provision of many services for older people. It is always inspiring to meet with people involved in providing for and improving the needs of older people and I wish to express my appreciation to all those involved in this development in Bishopstown. These developments support the expressed wish of older people to remain at home as long as possible. When an older person is no longer able to live at home they need high quality accommodation and care. The challenge facing us is to ensure that the growing population of older people can live independent and fulfilled lives and are given the fullest opportunity to contribute to the lives of their families and communities.

Additional Funding

Since coming into office, this Government has substantially increased the level of funding, both capital and revenue, in respect of services for older people. For example the amount of additional revenue funding has increased from £10 million in 1997, to £36 million in 2000, to £57 million in 2001.

2001 Allocation to the Southern Health Board

The Department of Health and Children has allocated additional funding of over £13 million, including over £7 million for Services for Older People, £5.299 million for Home Help Pay and almost £1 million to improve administration support for Community Hospitals, to the Southern Health Board in 2001 for the further development of Services for Older People throughout Cork and Kerry. This funding has facilitated the further development of nursing care teams, the home help service, the development of community paramedical services, and improved staffing in community hospitals and voluntary continuing care facilities.

Capital Developments in the Southern Health Board

In 2000, approximately £5m was provided under the National Development Plan for the development of existing and new projects for services for older people in the Southern Health Board region. 12 new day care centres throughout the region have either been completed or are being completed at present as a result of this investment.

A further £35.487m is being provided to the Southern Health Board under the National Development Plan 2001-2006 to provide new and upgraded facilities for older people. These developments include new day care centres, community nursing units, refurbishments and extensions to a number of the Board’s existing community hospitals.

Conclusion

In conclusion I would like to say that this Centre is a very worthwhile initiative which will greatly benefit older people. I have great pleasure, therefore, in declaring the Centre officially open.