George Hook quotes Oscar Wilde at An EngAGEment with Bluebird Care in Portlaoise.
Watch our highlights video here
Photos by Jeff Harvey
The atmosphere was upbeat and the audience wanted to have their say. 60 people joined us in the Heritage Hotel in Portlaoise to join the national debate on Ireland's ageing population. The event was a follow on from last year's five roadshow seminars across the country. George Hook equated the confidence that older people should possess in striving for new ambitions and fulfilling old ones. "It's like this: we're all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
George Hook, a most able, chairman led from the front and probed and pricked the panel members on issues of concern from quality homecare, minding your mind and exercising your brain, the millenial generation and their values, austerity and cuts to older people's entitlements, medical cards and active ageing.
Dermot Power, Consultant Geriatrician at the Mater Hospital was the first interviewee on the subject of Minding your Memory and Mental Health. He was vociferous in his opinion that while we are living longer people are less sick with the average life expectancy now over 80 in Ireland.
"This is something to be celebrated," declared Mr. Power. "Most people are not sick. Only 4% of over 65's are in nursing homes and guess what? Dying is inevitable and some people go quickly, others not so. Sometimes there is a process of dying that people have to go through. But we need to make sure that nursing home care and homecare are of a very high standard."
The first panel debate involved Fr. Jackie Robinson, PP Borris on Ossory and Peter Kavanagh, Information and Networking Officer with Active Retirement Ireland.
The debate focused largely on The Importance of Active Ageing for Health, Well Being and Social Inclusion.
Fr. Jackie spoke passionately about the level of social services being offered to parishioners in Borris on Ossory, from meals on wheels, to chiropodiatory, home visits, bingo, laundry service and annual outings.
He also quoted a psychotherapist speaking at a recent conference on the role of faith in positive mental health. "16 people commit suicide in Ireland every week. If you have faith it can be a tremendous advantage in keeping yourself well."
Peter Kavanagh reminded us of the role of Active Retirement Ireland in promoting active ageing and delivering local projects that local people want and need. "You don't become somebody different the day you turn 65. Our members are active, engaged, committed, enthusiastic and are contributing to their communities."
The final panel was made up of Susie Hall, a member of Committee of the Alliance of Retired Public Servants; Philip O'Reilly, National Co-ordinator of Respond Housing and Robin Webster, CEO, Age Action.
Susie Hall maintained that older people, people with long-term illnesses and people with disabilities "are most affected by austerity."
Philip O'Reilly said Respond opened 200 new housing units in Tallaght last week and the media "didn't want to talk about it." He said that there are over 600 housing charities in Ireland all working on the issue of homelessness but sometimes their work is done under the radar.
Robin Webster of Age Action said that 30% of the population in Germany is over the age of 65 compared to 18% of Ireland's population "and they're doing fine." Robin said, "older people are not the problem, they contribute and play a valuable part in society which needs to be recognised."