Limerick City and County Council, along with the countries 30 other local authorities, have been commended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its Age Friendly initiatives. Creating a great place in which to grow old is the aim of the WHO inspired movement to cater for an ageing population, with Ireland leading internationally in rolling out the programme.
The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD and Alana Officer of WHO have met with the local authorities at a special event in Slane Castle to formally recognise the response of all 31 Local Authority led Age Friendly programmes with a presentation of charters.
This year, Ireland became the first country in the world to have full membership across all administrative areas to this significant WHO initiative. The Age Friendly Programme is a key strategy to enable people of all ages to actively participate in the community, helping people to stay healthy and active even at the oldest ages and providing appropriate support to those who can no longer look after themselves.
A distinguished audience attended the event for the launch of Age Friendly Ireland as a Shared Service of Local Government.
The World Health Organisation was in attendance to formally recognise Ireland’s work in delivering on the aims and ambitions of the WHO Global Network of Age Friendly Cities and Communities, and to formally acknowledge the membership of each local authority led Age Friendly Programme in Ireland to this network.
Internationally the world’s population is ageing, and the WHO programme is a response to this demographic trend. Ireland’s population has been getting steadily older since the 1980s. The 65+ age group increased by 19% between 2011 and 2016. This trend will continue, so it is crucial now to plan and prepare for the needs of greater numbers of older people in our communities.
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “The Age Friendly Ireland Programme is a really effective way of bringing together a wide range of organisations, businesses and service providers to ensure the interests and needs of older people are being well served. I commend our local authorities for their hard work in implementing the programme. That work will help to ensure Ireland is ready to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the fact that we are living longer.”
“Ireland may be a small country, but we have shown huge leadership when it comes to positive ageing. We are well positioned internationally to influence the agenda on Age Friendly communities, and it is gratifying to hear from the World Health Organisation how respected we are as a country for this work.”
Representatives of all 31 local authorities in Ireland gathered to receive their charters from the World Health Organisation as part of a special recognition ceremony. Each local authority in Ireland is leading on the implementation of a local Age Friendly Programme, in partnership with multiple stakeholders in the public, business and community/ NGO sectors.
Minister for Employment Affairs & Social Protection, Regina Doherty; Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English; Minster of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly; and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Helen McEntee were also in attendance.
This milestone occasion marked the full engagement of all 31 authorities and a multitude of key stakeholder agencies in taking actions, which will improve the quality of life of older people across Ireland.
Ireland’s Age Friendly Programme has been operational for ten years, with initial work starting in 2009. In 2018, Meath County Council won a bid to host Age Friendly Ireland as a Shared Service of Local Government, which has formalised the programme and embedded it in public service delivery.
Speaking at the launch, Jackie Maguire, Chief Executive of Meath County Council, acknowledged the leadership of local government in driving the initiative since its early days, to the point where it is mainstreamed as a Shared Service. She noted key milestones in the ten year journey, including developing Age Friendly Housing Developments, Age Friendly Libraries, Age Friendly Airport Guidelines, Age Friendly car parking, Age Friendly Business, intergenerational projects, developments at policy level, public realm improvements impacting on older age, and improved customer service and communication for older people.
Anne Rizzo, Limerick City and County Council and Regional Manager of the Age Friendly programme said: “This is a recognition of the commitment to collaboration between Limerick City and County Council’s Age friendly Programme and the older citizens of Limerick. What started as an idea ten years ago, has spread across every county in Ireland and every town, village and rural area of Limerick. We are very proud of the commitment of our Older Peoples Executive and our key stakeholders, who have worked together to make Limerick a great place in which to age positively.”
“The engagement of our older citizens in proposing solutions to issues that affect them, such as the quality of housing stock, how safe communities are, health services in both acute and community settings, the extent to which the built environment impacts on how we live and access services, the opportunities to be involved in your local community, has led to a number of very successful initiatives being undertaken. As we enter the WHO decade of Healthy Ageing (2020 - 2030) we look forward to building on the successes of the past ten years, with the support and direction of the older people of Limerick.”