Speech by Minister Máire Hoctor at the opening of the “Good Old Heads” Photographic Exhibition in the ILAC Library

Good Morning everyone. I am honoured to be here with you today, at the opening of the “Good Old Heads” Photographic Exhibition. I would like to thank Friends of the Elderly for inviting me here today, and in particular Dermot Kirwan who kindly asked me to officiate at this event.

It is wonderful and indeed quite thought provoking, to see the work of such talented photographers on display. The high quality evident in the presentation and interpretation of the photographs around us vividly highlights many of the aspects we can associate with ageing – ranging from good humour and dignity to sadness or poignancy.

It is most encouraging also that many positive qualities associated with passing years are obvious from even a cursory glance at the display – whether it be individuals attaining a more distinguished look with the passage of time to projecting a zest for life obvious from even a still photograph.

Friends of the Elderly are well placed to host today’s gathering. This voluntary, non-denominational organization makes a real difference to alleviating loneliness and alienation among older people in the area.

The range of activities organized – whether they be social outings, holidays or home visits – means that there should be something to suit most individuals or groups of friends.

I understand that volunteers visit people in their own homes once a week, to inform older people of events that may be of interest. Such outings are designed to be as imaginative and stimulating as possible and include for example, visits to the theatre, concerts, park walks and day excursions.

In addition, the popular Wednesday Club meets each week in Bolton Street. This is a superb social outlet for many older people, involving music, dancing and refreshments.

Various celebration parties are held on particular days of the year, such as New Year’s Eve. It was good to learn that activities take place all year round with the longer summer days availed of for day trips around Ireland, short breaks to different destinations and an even annual holiday in France.

An important and essential advocacy service is also provided by the Friends to help older people in the locality with practical matters such as housing, advice on entitlements and other issues.

In my role as Minister with responsibility for Older People, I have responsibility for the recently established Office for Older People. I firmly believe that the establishment of this Office reinforces most clearly the commitment of this Government to enhancing the lives of older people.

In recent years, there is a greater awareness of the enormous contribution made by our older citizens in many areas including: politics, literature, music, amateur drama, voluntary work, community development and family life.

Nowadays, older people are living longer, healthier lives so it is of the utmost importance that these lives 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 surrounding older people today centres on issues such as care needs, illness and the so-called “burden of an ageing population”. While genuine needs must always be addressed in the best possible manner, there are so many positive aspects to growing older that do not receive the attention they deserve.

I am therefore determined that one of the priorities of my new Office will be to develop a Strategy for Positive Ageing. In this context, today’s Exhibition “Good Old Heads” is most inspiring in pointing the way towards the wider appreciation and perspective that needs to be developed as regards older people.

To conclude, I would like to congratulate Friends of the Elderly on this marvelous exhibition and to wish them well in their future endeavours.