Speeches

Speech for Minister Áine Brady TD at the opening of Age Action’s Irish Silver Surfer Awards during Positive Ageing Week

Good afternoon everyone. I am very pleased to be with you here this afternoon, in the impressive surroundings of Croke Park, to launch the first ever Irish Silver Surfer Awards. The awards are part of Age Action’s National Conference , to celebrate Older People and Information Technology, during Positive Ageing Week. My thanks to Age Action their kind invitation to open this event.

At the outset, I would like to congratulate Age Action on the remarkable success of Positive Ageing Week, now in its seventh year. This success is very much due to the dedication of the staff of Age Action and also of its many hundreds of volunteers, both old and young throughout the country.

Government Commitment

The Government is committed to encouraging older people to participate in the Knowledge Society in Ireland by facilitating greater engagement with Information and Communications Technology and in that context, has developed a number of initiatives aimed at helping older people to become familiar with computer usage.

Research has shown that some older people, or indeed those considerably younger, can experience a ‘fear factor’ around digital equipment and mobile phones. This means that they may miss out on the potential benefits of these technologies. All citizens of Ireland should be in a position to benefit from new technologies, regardless of their age. The electronic swipe card, which people use to collect their pensions, is an example of how older people have already adapted to ICT. As consumers, technology can aid older people’s daily lives by enabling them to benefit from a range of services and products using ICT, such as shopping and paying bills. Social networks can also be strengthened, and communication links with friends and family can be improved.

Funding

My colleague, Minister Conor Lenihan, has provided €2.5 million in funding for the BenefIT eInclusion Grant scheme. The scheme provides financial support to voluntary, not-for-profit organisations, to develop initiatives to encourage and support people to acquire ICT skills. To date, 86 projects across the country have received funding under the scheme.

“Getting Started Programme”

Age Action receives funding under the BenefIT scheme, and in 2008 received a grant of €350,000 for its Getting Started programme. The aim of the programme is to facilitate older people to acquire basic computer skills, and to use the internet and mobile phones. An evaluation of the programme reported that the main benefits for older people included the ability to keep in contact with friends and family, and increasing their confidence. I applaud all the graduates of the programme, and I hope you continue to benefit from the skills you have learned.

Other Projects

Throughout the country there are numerous exciting projects and classes are on offer to the older person. I am aware that the Department of Education and Science provides funding for part-time learning opportunities for adults through the “Back to Education Initiative”, while the CDVEC provides computer classes under its open learning programme.

I am aware Intel’s “Log On, Learn” programme is another example of a successful project, which is proving very popular. It is designed to ‘buddy up’ a participating transition-year student with an older person from their local community, to share skills with each other. This is an excellent way of building inter-generational solidarity. Added benefits are, of course, the increased social interaction, and the potential for fun to be had by all.

Government Policy

The Government has taken significant steps in relation to older people’s issues generally, and has backed this up in practical terms through considerable funding and other resource supports. These include the introduction of new regulations for residential care for older people; the Nursing Home Support Scheme (A Fair Deal), the development of community based care services such as Home Care Packages, Home Help, Meals-on-Wheels and Day/Respite Care. These new or expanded measures a tangible difference to the daily lives of older people.

As Minister for Older People and Health Promotion, I have responsibility for the Office for Older People. Taking forward a commitment in the current Programme for Government “to better recognise the position of older people in Irish society”, my Office is currently preparing a National Positive Ageing Strategy.

Positive ageing is an approach that aims to maintain and improve the physical, emotional and mental well-being of older people. The intention behind the new Positive Ageing Strategy is to ensure that policies are developed, and implemented, across all sectors, which will contribute to the best possible quality of life for older Irish. Given that the well-being of older people is affected by many different factors, the new Strategy will extend well beyond the health and community sectors. These factors include income, social care, housing, transport, education and employment, as well as ICT.

In June last, I issued a call for submissions on the Strategy and am delighted by the response, with in excess of 150 submissions received. I am particularly grateful to the older people who have taken the time to write to me expressing their views.

Finally

Before I conclude, I would like to applaud all those responsible for the very impressive exhibition stands here today. They are an indication of the advances that Ireland has made in the digital world, and I encourage everyone to have a good look around the exhibition.

The Irish Silver Surfer Awards are a recognition of the achievements, and the experiences, of older people who have embraced and mastered the opportunities of this digital revolution.

In that regard, I am delighted to launch these first ever Irish Silver Surfer Awards. I wish to congratulate, not only the winners, but all who have been nominated for awards. Well done, to one and all.

Finally, I think that the idea of the Silver Surfer Awards is an inspired one and I am confident that this particular initiative will go from strength to strength in the years ahead.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh