Age & Opportunity was founded 30 years ago as a response to the need for the promotion of more positive attitudes to older people and ageing. Karen Smyth, CEO, writes.
When we started in 1988, the landscape of ageing was very different and the image of getting older in Ireland was almost always a negative one. Thirty years later we are proud to celebrate a significantly altered landscape, where ageing brings many possibilities and opportunities. Our Bealtaine festival is one of Ireland’s largest cooperative festivals and celebrates the arts and creativity as we age; our Go for Life programme helps get older people more active; and our Engage programme explores how we can plan for our own ageing and what positive changes we can make in our lives to ensure that we live well for longer.
Despite these improvements the changing demographics of the population continues to present challenges. The number of older people in Ireland and their proportion in the overall population will grow over the coming decades. Almost one-in-three people in Ireland today are over the age of 50 and life expectancy at older ages is likely to continue to increase.
While living longer is clearly one of the great success stories of modern society, the challenge is to ensure that people can grow older comfortably and well. Positive ageing requires significant policy and programme responses.
The National Positive Ageing Strategy acknowledges that ageing is broader than simply a health issue and highlights the need to tackle negative stereotyping and age discrimination.
We continue to get very negative messages about ageing through the media and society. These messages can be internalised and lead people to restrict their own roles and expectations. Changing demographics represent a challenge for employers and the workforce, tackling age bias and creating an age-friendly workplace culture is vital to ensuring that people can work for as long as they want to.
Our AgeWise workshop raises awareness of the attitudes to ageing and older people in organisations whose work affects the lives of older people and encourages action on how ageism may be reduced. Changing Gears is a course designed to build resilience, and support people with transitions in later life, for example transitioning from working to retirement. The course helps participants to plan their goals for the next 10 years – it is an opportunity for participants to reflect on life as it is now and to plan for the future.
Positive ageing begins at birth and as everyone is ageing, everyone has a role to play in ensuring that, as Ireland’s population ages, we create the conditions in which older people can participate fully. Our vision is of an Ireland where all older people are more active; more visible; more creative; more connected; more often.
Over the last 30 years, we have learned a lot about the changing needs and desires of older people in Ireland and we continue to work to find better ways in which to engage with the diverse sections of society that make up our older population
We value the strong countrywide partnerships that ensure our work makes a real impact, and we look forward to developing new partnerships.
If you would like to discuss how we could support you in your work in developing a project or programme that will impact on the lives of older people in Ireland, please contact us on 01 805 7709.
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