The National Positive Ageing Strategy (NPAS), published on 24 April 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 well being so that older people can continue to contribute to social, economic, cultural and family life in their own communities for as long as possible, thereby representing a vision for an age-friendly society. 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 well-being of our ageing citizens.
As part of the NPAS implementation process, a Healthy and Positive Ageing Initiative (HaPAI) was established in collaboration with the HSE’s Health and Well-being Programme and the Atlantic Philanthropies.
HaPAI provides an ongoing system for measuring and reporting on positive ageing and implement the research objectives of the National Positive Ageing Strategy (NPAS). It was jointly funded by the Department of Health, the HSE’s Health and Well-being Programme, and the Atlantic Philanthropies until December 2017, with a commitment to Department of Health funding for a further two years.
The initiative aims to monitor changes in older people’s health and well-being linked to the goals and objectives of the NPAS. This is done primarily through the development of national positive ageing indicators to be published every two years.
The first Positive Ageing National Indicators Report in 2016 identified that 7.1% of people aged 50+ often feel lonely and that women have a higher loneliness score than men at all ages. However, more than nine out of 10 (93%) people aged 50+ have at least one supportive relative or friend, five in seven (85%) of people aged 50+ engage in at least one social leisure activity on a weekly basis, more than one in four (26%) people aged 50+ volunteered in the past 12 months and eight out of 10 (82%) people aged 50+ report high life satisfaction. The second National Positive Ageing Indicators report will be published later this year.
A Local Indicators report, entitled Positive Ageing in Age Friendly Cities and Counties, was published in June 2018. This identified that older people in rural settings were more likely to have difficulties accessing public transport than those in more urban settings. However, an urban or rural environment made no difference to older peoples level of socialising, with over 90% of people aged 55+ socialising at least once a month.
The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) is a large-scale, nationally representative, longitudinal study on ageing in Ireland, the overarching aim of which is to make Ireland the best place in the world to grow old. TILDA is funded by the Department of Health, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and Irish Life.
Using data from TILDA, a recent study on “Poor health and loneliness in later life: the role of depressive symptoms, social resources, and rural environments ” was conducted by Vanessa Burholt (Swansea University) and Thomas Scharf (Newcastle University). The findings were that older people in poor health have lower social resources, and that rurality can exacerbate this.