Speech by Minister Máire Hoctor at the launch of The Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI) – 3 April 2008 in Farmleigh House.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. May I say how delighted I am to be here with you today, for the launch in Dublin of CARDI and its Strategic Plan for 2008 to 2011. I wish to extend a warm welcome to all of our distinguished guests and I would particularly like to thank CARDI’s Co Chairs Professor Davis Coakley and Professor Bob Stout for inviting me to perform this launch.

In my role as Minister with responsibility for Older People, I firmly believe that the recent establishment of the Office for Older People emphasises the commitment of this Government to this important sector.

In recent years, there has been a greater awareness of the enormous contribution made by our older citizens in many areas including, for example; politics, the arts, voluntary and community developments and family life in all its guises. Nowadays, older people are living longer, healthier lives so it is of the utmost importance that these should have purpose and meaning. As you may be aware, there are approximately half a million people aged 65 or over in Ireland and this number is rising.

Unfortunately, much of the discussion today surrounding older people centres on the so-called “burden of an ageing population”. While issues such as care needs and illness are genuine and need to be addressed, we need also to concentrate more on the positive aspects of ageing.

I am extremely pleased that a key function of the new Office will be to develop a Strategy for Positive Ageing.

I am really looking forward to the challenge of developing a realistic and innovative strategy which will focus on improving the lives of older people.

The Director of the new Office – Noel Usher – will participate in the Senior Officials’ Group on Social Inclusion as well as chairing a new cross-Departmental Group on Older People.

The Office has responsibility for developing policy and monitoring the delivery of health and personal social services for older people. It will also oversee and monitor the operation of the Long Stay Charges Scheme.

In addition, a National Advisory Council on Older People will be established. One of its main functions will be to advise me, as Minister, on all aspects of the lives of older people. This will include, for example, developing improved co-ordination and delivery of services.

I envisage that the establishment of the new Office, the Inter-Departmental Group and the Advisory Council will bring a greater coherence to policy making and service delivery for older people. They will also facilitate a much greater degree of cross-cutting and will enhance the partnership approach which has featured so prominently in recent years.

Against this background, and with a growing recognition of the value of a coordinated and facilitated approach to ongoing research, CARDI have set out a clear and timely framework for moving forward.

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 also welcome the cross-fertilisation of ideas proposed which takes place, when groups of healthcare professionals, academics and researchers come together, such as now. The parallel CARDI event, in Stormont Castle last month, also provided a marvellous opportunity for this process to be brought to a new level.

In this context, I would like to highlight the work done by the Junior Ministers in Northern Ireland in terms of addressing the issue of Ageing, and in particular, the vision and pathways outlined in the Strategy -“Ageing in an Inclusive Society”.

There is much to be learned from the work on ageing that is being brought forward on the island of Ireland and there seem clear benefits in the development of an Ireland ageing research agenda to help improve the lives of older people.

It is also important to note that CARDI has framed its work in line with international developments – learning from Countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand who are well down the road of developing national strategies on ageing and related research.

CARDI sets out to develop the links between research and policy and this is a welcome area of work. I recognize that improvements in services are best achieved through partnership between Governments, service providers whether public, private or voluntary, and older people themselves. I believe that it is important that we continue to work together to ensure the best possible health and social care for the older people in our country.

I am certain that the work which CARDI is involved in will make a significant contribution to improving the lives of older people.

It gives me great pleasure, therefore, to officially launch CARDI, and their most impressive Strategic Plan 2008-2011.