In their Annual Statement released today (23rd March), the Alliance of Age Sector NGOs are making a call for a post-pandemic focus on regaining older people’s role in society. Irish Hospice Foundation are one of the seven-member organisations of the Alliance which represents the collective goal of significant NGOs working in the age sector.
In their Annual Statement, the Alliance highlights that for close to two years, COVID-19 has placed a very considerable burden on people of all ages, communities, and society as a whole. The pandemic has been tough on everyone. However, the necessary public health measures introduced to protect us all from the worst impacts of this virus have affected older people disproportionately – large numbers of older people sadly died while many others have lost their independence. It turns out that for many older people the side-effects of COVID-19 – loss of confidence and capacity, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, depression – were and are as harmful as the virus itself, and perhaps more so.
The Alliance’s Statement also point out that COVID-19 exposed a number of fault lines in our health and social care system. We continue to be heavily reliant on residential nursing homes. We are facing significant challenges in enabling older people to continue living in their own homes. Most worryingly, with an ageing population, Ireland does not have an active or coordinated approach to the implementation or monitoring of its lead national policy for older people – the National Positive Ageing Strategy (2013).
That is why the clear message to policy makers in this Annual Statement is: ‘Take ageism seriously and resource implementation of the National Positive Ageing Strategy’.
In particular, the Alliance wants Government to:
1. Institute a coherent system of supports so that older people can stay in their own homes to end of life, as so many want to do
2. Take ageism seriously and implement a well-resourced and meaningful programme of action to counteract it
3. Appoint a champion with a cross-Departmental brief to prioritise older people’s issues across the board and resource the active implementation of the National Positive Ageing Strategy (2013)
4. Establish an independent Commissioner or Ombudsman for Older People, similar to that in Northern Ireland