During weather extremes and at times such as Christmas, we are reminded to check in on our elderly neighbours to see that they are okay and have all they need in terms of food, fuel and medical supplies. However, this is something good neighbours should be doing throughout the whole year, because the very act of making contact with older people – especially those living on their own – is just as valuable.
We will be reminded again next week of the contribution older people make to society during Positive Ageing Week, which runs from Monday, September 30th, to Sunday, October 6th, inclusive, with the theme for this, its 17th year, being ‘Ageing in Place.’ This annual event is organised by Age Action, a charity which advocates on behalf of older people, and wants to ensure that they remain, active, engaged and – most importantly – valued in their communities.
Older people are living longer now and more are in good health after retirement, giving them the opportunity for longer to help out in various capacities, be it as grandparents helping mind and transport their children’s children or involvement in community organisations or clubs. Some retirees quip that they were never busier after retiring than they were while working!
Many, through their volunteerism, are filling gaps left by State services in some rural areas while they have the health to do so and their contributions should never be taken for granted. So, Positive Ageing Week is all about celebrating the older people in our lives and highlighting the contribution they make to our families and our communities.
The central theme of next week, ‘Ageing in Place,’ is hugely important: that older people should have a choice about where they age. ‘We all need to think about where and how we wish to live as we age and start planning for this,’ according to Age Action. Older people need to have access to housing and home care supports, services and resources they require to remain at home safely, in comfort and with dignity, to enable them to remain part of their community.
Unfortunately, a lot of older people don’t always enjoy the best of health and need to be cared for. As the number of over 65s continues to increase, services need to keep pace, but unfortunately they are not up to speed at the moment as there are not enough home care packages available for those who need them in order to keep them in their communities.
This is more economical and, arguably, better for the person receiving the care to be able to stay in their own home rather than having to go into a nursing home. Even then, there are also delays for people trying to avail of the Fair Deal scheme and get into nursing homes; well over 700 elderly patients were occupying beds in acute hospitals last month waiting for appropriate supports to be put in place so that they could be discharged.
Tuesday, October 1st, is UN International Day of Older People and the best way our government can respect and value Irish people in this category is to step up to the plate properly in terms of providing the services necessary to enjoy their twilight years in comfort and dignity.