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New approach needed in how we think about growing older

Fine Gael Policy Lab seeks to identify challenges and opportunities associated with Positive Ageing

6th November 2023 - Fine Gael Press Office

Ireland needs to radically rethink how we frame ageing in our society if we are to realise its true potential, a Fine Gael group has said.

In an innovative, and inclusive model of creating policy, Fine Gael established a Policy Lab to allow a much wider range of people to shape its policies. The group is examining Positive Ageing as its third project.

Thankfully we are living longer healthier lives which is one of the greatest success stories of modern society. The CSO’s population estimate issued in April shows that there are now 806,300 people aged 65 and over in Ireland – an increase of 153,900 people or 23.6% since 2017.

However, a worryingly high proportion of respondents to a survey on positive ageing perceive their possibilities hemmed in by stereotyping, by disconnection, by rigid systems across a range of settings, and by a lack of voice and choice.

Preliminary findings from the Survey reveal some striking findings;

  • Losing independence is the greatest fear which people have. Almost 40% cite this as their greatest fear. By contrast only half as many cite loneliness and only a quarter fear for their personal security.
  • When asked what would contribute most to positive ageing, 72% cite financial security in the top two most important factors, more than twice as many as those who cite the quality of public services.
  • People perceive a lot of barriers in enjoying positive ageing, citing the following as “very much an issue”: – complexity of rules (49%), age stereotyping (41%), ease of access (42%), and a lack of voice and choice (39%).
  • Among those who have experience of services, there are twice as many who report positive as negative experiences with “timely access to care”, but the balance is reversed when it comes to nursing homes and Home Help Services.
  • For most respondents, their priority is to remain independent in their own home (77%)

Deputy Richard Bruton, Vice Chairperson of the Fine Gael Policy Lab, said: There is a very distinct sense that our society is failing to harness the enormous opportunity of longer lives to enrich our community. We may be stuck in a system that doesn’t yet recognise the value of the untapped potential and expects people to fit into a constrained environment.

“On balance people report that preparation for retirement is poor. Workplaces lock them out with rigid systems. Strong institutions have been developed to unlock the potential of young people growing up, and during their working lives. However sufficient thought has not been given to the wellbeing and contribution of older age groups.

“The work of the Policy Lab represents an important step in gaining a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities being experienced, and to reset some of the policy frameworks to help plan for Positive Ageing,” Deputy Bruton said.

The next step for the Policy Lab is to explore the issues through a series of Policy Kitchens, involving respondents.

The aim will be to identify innovations that can better respond to people’s ambitions for positive ageing and to their needs. It will seek answers to issues including: How can we reduce the apprehension about retirement? How can we dispel the fear of losing independence? and How can we respond to the dramatic changes within families that are impacting the scope for positive ageing?

A report will then be prepared and further considered by the party, before being sent to the Minister for Older People and Mental Health, Mary Butler.

Members of the public can participate in this survey of experiences through the following link: Survey on Positive Ageing

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