I thank the Chairman and members for the opportunity to come before them and introduce them to Older & Bolder and its work in respect of the national positive ageing strategy. In addition to the members of our delegation to whom the Chairman referred, we are also joined, in the public gallery, by Mr. Eamon Timmins from Age Action Ireland.
There are eight member organisations in the Older & Bolder alliance, namely, Active Retirement Ireland, Age Action Ireland, Age & Opportunity, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, the Carers Association, the Irish Hospice Foundation, the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament and the Senior Help Line. Our vision is of an Ireland that affirms ageing and the rights of all older people, enabling everyone to live and die with confidence and dignity. We are of the view that our vision statement reflects part of the ethos of all our member organisations.
We chose to focus on the National Positive Ageing Strategy as our shared and common purpose because Ireland has demographics that are extremely enviable. We have a young population and time is on our side in the context of being able to plan for the ageing of that population. It is our view that we have an opportunity to think strategically and plan for the ageing of the population and to deal with this issue in an organised and systematic way, as other countries have been effective in doing. The national positive ageing strategy is a way of proceeding in this regard.
It is regrettable that ageism exists in our society. This is manifested in a kind of distaste for older people and the process of ageing. We can discuss this matter later if members so desire. We hope that a positive ageing strategy, in the context of articulating a different kind of understanding of older people by society in general, of the process of ageing and of the diversity of the older population, will help counteract the ageism to which I refer. We also hope that Departments will adopt a strategy to work together in a shared way in respect of planning for population ageing.
The concept of healthy ageing is promoted by the World Health Organisation and every other international body concerned with population ageing. Healthy ageing is not the concern alone of the Department of Health and Children, it is a cross-sectoral concern which involves dealing with ageing across physical and social determinants. In other words, all the relevant actors must be involved in assisting us in creating a society in which people age positively and in which the onset of disability and dependency can, if possible, be delayed.
Looking to the future, our concern need not be with regard to the numbers of older people. The issue is the health status of the older population. If we promote active and healthy ageing in order to delay the onset of disability, we can reduce the costs of long-term care into the future.
We also want to establish a national framework in order that society will be aware of that to which we wish to aspire in respect of older people, in both good times and bad. We know that times are bad at present. In that context, Older & Bolder will not be asking the committee for funding or to protect particular services at this juncture. However, we must remember that in good times, things were not always great for older people. In the past there was ageism in the health service and older people were dubbed "bed blockers" at a time when there were systemic issues with regard to the acute hospital system and how it functioned. The issues to which I refer are those which we are trying to address through the strategy.
From our submission, members will be aware that the Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government has launched a public consultation in respect of the national positive ageing strategy and we are delighted that it has done so. We request that this consultation should meet certain criteria. The consultation process should be proactively publicised in order that it will not be just a question of advertisements appearing in newspapers. Everyone should be aware that this consultation is happening and that older people and others are being invited to participate and respond. The process should be also inclusive of vulnerable groups. In other words, we should seek out those who might find it difficult to attend public meetings — such as people in nursing homes, etc. — to discover their views. In addition, the findings relating to the process should be made available to older people and to society as a whole.
I will now hand over to Mr. Dillon.