Minister Brady launches Ballymun Whitehall Area Partnership’s week of events to celebrate Positive Ageing Week

Good morning everyone. As Minister for Older People and Health Promotion I am delighted to be with you here today at the Ballymun Civic Centre to launch Positive Ageing Week in Ballymun-Whitehall. From the onset I would to thank Catriona Maguire of Ballymun-Whitehall Area Partnership and all from the Older Persons Network and the Positive Ageing Sub Group for inviting me.

As many of you will be aware , Positive Ageing Week is a festival which highlights the positive aspects of ageing, and celebrates the contribution older people have made, and continue to make, to their families and communities. With growing numbers of people all over Ireland becoming involved in Positive Ageing Week in recent years, it has developed into a real festival of celebration of our older citizens and I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Age Action Ireland for its tireless work in promoting Positive Ageing Week and for its work generally to create a greater awareness of the realities of the ageing process and a deeper understanding of the lives of our older family members, friends, neighbours and colleagues.

I think it is good to remind ourselves that the central aim of Positive Ageing week is to contradict the many negative perceptions that surround ageing and by transforming attitudes towards ageing and older people. In that way, Positive Ageing Week helps to make us realise how important and significant older people are in our lives, whether as grandparents, parents, carers, or volunteers in clubs, societies, organisations and other bodies of all kinds throughout the country.

I am delighted at the success that Positive Ageing week has had over the last many years and it is indeed growing from strength to strength. Last year over 700 recorded activities and events took place in 26 counties – North and South – throughout the Week, and this it is hoped that this year the total will reach 850 events.

Also, fifteen towns throughout the country have been designated ‘Positive Ageing Towns’ and I am delighted to see that Ballymun has been chosen as one of these. I note that a series of most interesting events have been planned for Positive Ageing Week in Ballymun -Whitehall, starting on 24th September and running until the 2nd October. They range from an Adult Play Day – ( a most inspired idea and one that I would like to try myself !), physical activities like indoor bowls, park walks, exercise classes and dancing to complementary therapies, body and mind talks, a heritage visit and a walking tour in Santry Woods. Without a doubt there is something in the week’s programme of events for everyone and I want to congratulate Ballymun-Whitehall Area Partnership, the Health Service Executive and Dublin City Council who have come together in order to develop a creative and comprehensive programme of events in collaboration with a wide range of community/ voluntary groups in the district.

I am aware that the organisation and running of Positive Ageing Week requires creativity, enthusiasm and initiative and that this could not be achieved without the willing co-operation of so many people in the community, including those in active retirement groups, members of local voluntary organisations, staff and residents in nursing homes, library personnel and individuals who have worked to ensure that Positive Ageing Week in Ballymun-Whitehall will be a resounding success. I am also aware that the Partnership took part in an Intergenerational Project that was piloted last May, whereby older members of our community visited 4th, 5th, and 6th class students in their classroom to tell them what life was like when they were in school. I am told that this was a great success and that there are plans to invite schools to take part again in this most interesting intergenerational project during the coming academic year.

I have to say that I find the new emphasis on being active and involved as we grow older very encouraging and uplifting. Many of us will recall that not so very long ago, the years of later life tended to be associated with rather negative images of passivity, decline, increased infirmity and dependency. Retirement was seen as an end, rather than what it really should be – a new beginning, a transition to new experiences, new interests, new challenges. For several decades now, there has been a worldwide Positive Ageing movement that reminds us that the later years can be a time for new possibilities for fun and fulfilment, for friendship and for engaging in practical ways of engaging with the challenges that face our country at this time.

As Minister for Older People and Health Promotion, I am keenly aware of the importance of ‘positive ageing’, not only for each and every one of us as individuals, but also for our communities and for Irish society as whole. The Government acknowledges the need ‘to better recognise the position of older people in Irish society’ and has begun the task of developing a National Positive Ageing Strategy. This will be a well-thought out plan for all future policies, programmes and services for older people in Ireland, developed for the purpose of making Ireland a good country in which to grow older in the years ahead.

I have been actively involved in the development of the new Positive Ageing Strategy for over a year now. In mid-2009, I made a call for written submissions and was delighted to receive almost 200 contributions from a very broad range of agencies, organisations and individuals. I recently completed a countrywide series of consultation meetings to hear at first hand the views of older people, service providers and representative organisations and the discussions held at these meetings will be used to inform the Strategy document that I intend to have ready by the Spring of next year. Indeed, I would like to thank the Ballymun-Whitehall Partnership for its written submission to the National Positive Ageing Strategy and to thank those people from the district who attended our Dublin consultation meeting on the new Strategy, held in Clontarf Castle on 17th May.

I get a sense from you all that this centre means a great deal to you and that there is a great sense of community here in the Ballymun-Whitehall area. I know too, that since its establishment in 1991, the Ballymun-Whitehall Partnership has done a great deal of work with older people in the locality by promoting greater enjoyment in their lives through musical events, dancing, and other activities that lead to social interaction, not only between those who might be termed older, but also between young people and older people.

Again, my congratulations to Age Action who are the co-ordinators of this wonderful week of activities and to ESB, (Electricity Supply Board) who are the sponsors, without whom this celebration of ageing and older people in Ireland would not be possible. This is the 8th year that the UN International Day of Older Persons has been marked in Ireland – this year on 1st October – and I understand that the day will be celebrated in style by the Ballymun-Whitehall Partnership with a dinner dance and I know that this will be a most enjoyable event for all concerned.

I hope that you all have a most enjoyable Positive Ageing Week in Ballymun-Whitehall – but before I conclude I would also ask you to save a thought for those older people in the community who, for one reason or another, do not participate in the Week’s activities but who just might do so given a little encouragement – either from family members, from friends or from neighbours.

So without further ado, it gives me great pleasure formally to launch Positive Ageing Week 2010 in Ballymun-Whitehall – and I hope that it brings great enjoyment, entertainment and fun for as many people as possible in the coming week…