Speeches

Speech by Minister Brady at the Presentation of Certificates to Ageing with Confidence Facilitators

I would like to thank Catherine Rose, CEO of Age and Opportunity, and John Hynes, Chairperson, for their kind invitation to be here today.

Introduction

It is important, at the outset, to acknowledge the very valuable role that older people play in all areas of our society. There are at present approximately half a million people aged 65 or over in Ireland, and the number is set to rise in the coming years. While we should celebrate the fact that we are living longer, healthier lives, it is equally important that our lives should continue to have purpose and meaning. Older age should be a time of new freedom and challenges – which enable older people to lead a rich and fulfilled life.

Age & Opportunity

On that note, I am delighted to be here this afternoon to present these well earned certificates to the facilitators from Galway who have successfully completed the ‘Ageing with Confidence’ Course. Galway City Partnership, Galway Rural Development and the Centre for Social Gerontology, National University of Ireland Galway should be commended for commissioning this project.

‘Ageing with Confidence’ was developed by the HSE, in partnership with Age & Opportunity, and has been successfully delivered around the country with various agencies since 2004. The key to this project’s success has been the ability of Age & Opportunity to work effectively with both public and private sector organisations. Together, they deliver practical programmes, which impact positively on both the participants and the wider community.

‘Ageing with Confidence’ adopts an holistic approach to health promotion for older people and provides health education, develops life skills, and promotes positive mental health. The project aims to build the self confidence of participants, and challenge the myths and stereotypes that lead to ageism in our society. It is well documented that there is a strong correlation between keeping active and keeping healthy. I would like to congratulate those who have successfully completed this course and hope that they continue to be involved in their communities.

Office for Older People

As Minister, I have specific responsibility for the Office for Older People. This Office shows most clearly the commitment of the Government to enhancing the lives of our senior citizens. My aim is to ensure that the vision of a unified approach to the challenges and opportunities presented by our ageing population is realised, and that older people receive the maximum support and encouragement to enhance their lives and to continue enriching society.

The overarching aim of Government policy is to help older people to remain at home and in their communities for as long as possible. Where this is not feasible, for whatever reason, we then help ensure access to high quality, modern long term residential care. I am happy to be able to say that, notwithstanding the severe overall economic difficulties facing the country at the moment, we provided an additional €10 million in the recent Budget to expand the Home Care Package Initiative nationally. In addition to the wide range of other community measures provided by the HSE, such as Home-Help, Meals-on-Wheels, and Day Care, these packages are helping one of the most vulnerable sections of our society.

Strategy for Positive Ageing

As you are aware, one of the priorities of my Office is to develop a Strategy for Positive Ageing. My goal is to develop a meaningful and innovative strategy that will result in real improvements in the lives of older people. The new Strategy will cover all the main issues relevant to older people and not just focus on the health, and personal social services, areas. It will concentrate on a broader range of issues, highlighting the participation of older people across society and the ways in which relevant programmes and services are organized. These include, for example, income, housing, transport, education and employment. The Strategy is being developed by a Cross-Departmental Group, chaired by the Director of the Office for Older People. There is an Expert Advisory Group and a Liaison Group – composed of key Non-Governmental Organisations – representing older people advising on the process.

Last June, I called for submissions on the new Strategy. This is the first time that there has been such a wide-ranging consultation between Government and older people about matters that affect them. The closing date for the public consultation process was 24 September last. We received over 180 submissions and considerable work has been undertaken in analysing these. I intend that the Strategy will be progressed as quickly as possible.

Conclusion.

In this changed economic climate, all sections of society need to join together to share resources, skills, and knowledge, as we work to create a better society based on values and community. Age & Opportunity is a wonderful example of how the valuable partnership among the public, private, and voluntary sectors, continues to make a vital difference to supporting older people’s lives.

I would like to congratulate all those who completed the ‘Ageing with Confidence’ course and to thank you once again for your warm welcome here today. I would like to wish you all continued success in the future as we work together to improve the lives of older people.