Since her appointment as CEO of Third Age a year ago, Áine Brady has presided over a number of positive developments in the organisation, most notably the establishment of a Third Age Innovation Hub and the expansion of Senior Help Line, Ireland’s only peer telephone listening service for older people.
Established 26 years ago, Third Age is a national voluntary organisation committed to promoting the value of older people’s contribution in Ireland. The organisation has over 1,000 older volunteers working in projects throughout the country, benefiting people of all ages, helping to lessen isolation, build stronger communities and give a voice to vulnerable citizens.
As former Minister of State for Older People, Áine Brady has a clear understanding of the needs of the sector. “A changing demographic leading to an increase of older people in the population creates both challenges and opportunities – and Third Age is helping to meet both,” she says. “We have a cohort of active older people who are involved in their community as parents, grandparents, friends, neighbours, volunteers and community activists. This is a demographic bounty.”
The Third Age Innovation Hub builds on this bounty. Liam Carey is the Innovation Hub manager. “The Hub will meet new needs in the sector by offering a formalised approach to the development of new programmes as a service to other NGOs, to universities, research bodies and community organisations,” he explains.
“Steps will include a needs analysis, a scoping plan, the implementation, testing and evaluation of pilots, and future decisions. The aim, in this current cost-aware and value-for-money climate, is to provide a quality service that offers maximum impact, and is cost-effective and sustainable.
“The ultimate aim of the Hub is that we will develop a suite of programmes that will help to make Ireland one of the best countries in the world to grow old with dignity. Through our Hub we hope that Third Age will become a leading facilitator of opportunity for older people, and our new programmes will bring a richness and comfort to the lives of many.
Liam adds: “I am building contacts among relevant networks and would be very happy to hear from an individual or organisations wanting to hear more about our Hub, and how we might work together.”
The ageing demographic is not always good news, says Áine Brady: “While we are adding years to the life, we are not always adding life to the years. There are many older people out there leading secret lives of loneliness and despair. Our Senior Help Line service is helping to dissipate this loneliness, offering warmth and support to these people every day.”
Senior Help Line received 30,000 calls in 2013 from older people who are helped by having someone to talk to. People phone because they are lonely, need to discuss a problem, are in crisis, or want information or referral to another service.
Every caller is listened to and supported, and some people phone regularly for company and social contact. Senior Help Line is part of a primary care service, helping to keep older people living at home for longer. This is the wish of older people and their families, and also a part of government strategy.