The National Positive Ageing Strategy (NPAS) published in 2013 provides a framework for cooperation to address age-related policy and service delivery across Government and society in the years ahead. The strategy is intended to promote older people’s health and wellbeing so that older people can continue to contribute to social, economic, cultural, and family life in their own communities for as long as possible. The strategy highlights that ageing is not just a health issue, but rather requires a whole of Government approach to address a range of social, economic, and environmental factors that affect the health and wellbeing of our ageing citizens.
Many of the objectives included in this Strategy are quite broad and can be viewed as a set of principles to which Government has committed, and which will inform policies that affect older people on an indefinite basis into the future, rather than concrete objectives that can be delivered in the short term.
New arrangements to implement and monitor implementation of NPAS were approved by the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy and Public Service Reform in 2016. The revised approach recommits to the core principles of the strategy, establishes a mechanism to give stakeholder groups effective and ongoing access to bodies and agencies relevant to older people through an annual forum for stakeholders, and monitors the effect of the implementation process through the publication on a regular basis of a Positive Ageing National Indicators Report.
The inaugural stakeholder forum took place in 2017. Stakeholders were asked to identify key priorities to propose to Government to consider for its focus in the coming year. Through this forum, clear channels of communication between the stakeholder representative group and relevant Government Departments to discuss these priorities have been facilitated by the Department of Health. Based on the success of and interest in the forum, plans are currently advancing to hold another stakeholder forum in 2018.
The strategy comprises four national goals, developed to address key aspects of older people’s lives. The four goals, and examples of progress to date thereunder, follow.
National Goal 1:
- Remove barriers to participation and provide more opportunities for the continued involvement of people as they age in all aspects of cultural, economic, and social life in their communities according to their needs, preferences, and capacities.
A key objective under this goal is to promote the concept of active citizenship and to encourage people of all ages to become more involved in their communities. Age Friendly, an organisation whose remit it is to help to create an inclusive, equitable society in which older people can live full, active, valued, and healthy lives under the guidance of the National Positive Ageing Strategy, have been very successful to date in this area. Age Friendly is a World Health Organisation inspired movement which embraces the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population. In Ireland each of the 31 local authorities have signed up to the Age Friendly Programme. Older People’s Councils have been set up and are running throughout Ireland as part of this programme, as well, ensuring a voice for older people in local government and community concerns. Implementation on this front does not rest with Age Friendly alone; there are many NGOs engaged in making Ireland a better country in which to grow old and they do so with the objectives of the National Positive Ageing Strategy informing their work.
National Goal 2:
- Support people as they age to maintain, improve, or manage their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
The National Positive Ageing Strategy is strongly embedded within the vision and actions set out for Healthy Ireland, the Government-led initiative which aims to create an Irish society where people of all ages can enjoy good physical and mental health, and where wellbeing is supported at every level of society. The Healthy Ireland Framework was launched in 2013 and seeks to provide people and communities with accurate information on how to improve their health and wellbeing and to make the healthy choices easier choices. Healthy Ireland takes a whole-of-Government and whole-of-society approach to improving health and wellbeing and the quality of people’s lives and a number of new structures have been put in place to ensure that all sectors of society are given opportunities to participate.
Commitments within Government that further the strategy in relation to health and wellbeing include the development of a statutory scheme for homecare, which will aim to improve access to the homecare services that people need in an affordable and sustainable way, thus enabling people to continue to live in their own homes for as long as possible.
National Goal 3:
- Enable people to age with confidence, security, and dignity in their own homes and communities for as long as possible.
Across communities many initiatives, strategies, and schemes are in place that firmly support this goal. One such is An Garda Síochána Older People Strategy, which aims to ensure the policing needs of older people in Ireland are met to the highest standards. This supports the objective of empowering people to live free from fear in their homes and communities, as they age. With regards to facilitating older people to live in homes which are suitable to their physical and social needs, the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government and the Department of Health are consulting, through a Joint Committee on Housing and Health, on a framework for supported housing, to facilitate people to age well and healthily in place.
National Goal 4:
- Support and use research about people as they age to better inform policy responses to population ageing in Ireland.
As part of the strategy implementation process, a Healthy and Positive Ageing Initiative (HaPAI) has been established in collaboration with the HSE’s Health and Wellbeing Programme and the Atlantic Philanthropies to measure the impact of the strategy and establish an on-going system for measuring and reporting on Positive Ageing. The Initiative monitors changes in older people’s health and wellbeing linked to the goals and objectives of the National Positive Ageing Strategy. This is done primarily through the development of Positive Ageing indicators which are published every two years. The initiative is intended to provide evidence of the factors contributing to positive ageing, including at local level and ultimately inform policy responses to population ageing in Ireland. The first Positive Ageing National Indicators Report was published in November 2016 and highlights many of the positive and negative aspects of growing old in Ireland. The second Positive Ageing National Indicators report is due to be published later this year.
With regards to the cost of implementing the strategy, the HSE provide funding to many organisations that work with older people and further the objectives of the strategy. This funding is ongoing by its nature, as the strategy and the goals therein are intended as direction for future engagement for the continued promotion of older people’s health and wellbeing.