Speech by Minister Máire Hoctor at the launch of CARDI in Stormont Castle

Good morning, everyone. It is an honour to be here with you today for the launch of CARDI. I would particularly like to thank the Ministers from the Office of the First and Deputy First Minster and CARDI for inviting me to take part in this launch today.

Ageing is an issue that is of growing importance. In Ireland there are close to half a million people aged 65 or over and the number is rising. However, all too often the figures and statistics surrounding older people are used in relation to issues such as care, illness and talk around the “burden” of an ageing population.

In recent years there has been a growing realisation of the enormous contribution made by our older citizens in many and varied areas including, politics, literature, music, amateur drama, voluntary work, community development and family life and so often caring for children or other older people.

We recognize that older people are living longer, healthier lives and those lives should have purpose and meaning.

There is much to be learned from the work on ageing that is being brought forward on the island of Ireland and I would like to share with you some of the plans our recently established Office for Older People has for the future.

This Office will support me in relation to my responsibilities within the Departments of Health and Children, Social and Family Affairs and Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

One of the key functions of my new Office will be to develop a Strategy for Positive Ageing. I believe that The Office of the First and Deputy First Minister has a Strategy for Older people and I am keen to hear of the learning from this work.

The new office will initially be resourced by the Department of Health and Children from areas already dealing with Older People. It will also ultimately include the National Council on Ageing and Older People which will bring invaluable research and communication skills to the new Office.

Mr Noel Usher will be the Director of the new Office and in that role he will participate in the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion. The Director will also chair a new cross-departmental group on older people. This interdepartmental approach will be key to delivering the vision of Government for an integrated approach to supporting and enabling older people in Ireland today and for the future.

One of the first priorities for the new Office will be to establish an interdepartmental network to draw up and implement a Strategy for Positive Ageing. It will also continue to develop health policy and oversee and monitor the delivery of health and personal social services for older people and to monitor and oversee the running of the long stay charges scheme.

I am, of course, very conscious of the incredible contribution the voluntary sector, and older people themselves, make to policy development in this area. I, together with my new office, will be consulting with these groups in drawing up the new Strategy and I know that the experience and enthusiasm they bring will be an invaluable resource and help to me and the Office.

We are also committed to establishing a National Advisory Council on Older People. One of the Council’s main functions will be to advise me, as Minister, on all aspects of the lives of older people. It will also advise on the better co-ordination and delivery of services for older people.

The establishment of the office, the inter-departmental group and the advisory council will bring a greater coherence to policy making for older people. It will allow for a much greater degree of cross-cutting and further develop the partnership approach that has featured so strongly in the planning and development of services for older people in recent years.

The future is bright. Things are changing and this is a very exciting time for older people In Ireland with the establishment of CARDI who will help to be part of the process in planning for the future.

It is heartening to note that CARDI’s vision for an ageing research agenda in Ireland includes ensuring that the voices of older people are heard. I am also highly supportive of the emphasis placed by CARDI on the promotion of the dignity, value and the contribution of older people to society. The principles of shared learning and strong communications are also enshrined in CARDI’s strategic operational activities.

I am absolutely certain that the impressive framework for ageing research set out by CARDI will make a significant contribution to improving the quality of life for older people.

I welcome the launch of CARDI and the strategy to help advance the ageing research agenda by prompting collaboration across disciplines, sectors and the island of Ireland. I encourage you to embrace the opportunities provided by CARDI’s establishment and wish it well in moving forward.

Finally I look forward to hosting a similar event for CARDI in Farmleigh House, Dublin on April 3rd.

Thank you