Today marks the 29th United Nations International Day of Older Persons which carries the theme of “the journey to age equality”. In a joint platform, Department for Communities' Permanent Secretary, Tracy Meharg and Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (COPNI), Eddie Lynch outline their shared objective of ensuing that Northern Ireland is a great place to grow old and that as a society we don’t demonstrate or accept ageist behaviour.
COPNI was established under the Commissioner for Older People Act in 2011 and acts as an independent champion of older people. The Department for Communities is the sponsoring body of COPNI, however the Commissioner is operationally independent and advocates autonomously on behalf of older people, providing advice to government on a range of issues affecting them. A shared aim of both COPNI and the Department is working to break down the barriers that older people here can face on a daily basis.
People in Northern Ireland are living longer than ever. In 2018, approximately one in six people here were over 65. By 2041, that figure is set to rise to nearly one in four.
Older people make a huge contribution to society; providing childcare, volunteering or continuing to work. However, people in later life often have to deal with ill health, lower income, social isolation or loneliness.
Promoting the wellbeing of older people and ensuring they can enjoy later life to the fullest, must remain a priority. Older people should feel confident in accessing public services, especially those who need additional support. They should be treated with dignity and respect and should have access to, and know where to find, advocacy and legal support if they need it. We have a responsibility to ensure that those in later life have a voice in relation to the big issues Northern Ireland is currently facing.
In 2016, ScamwiseNI was launched as a result of a partnership between COPNI and the PSNI to raise awareness of scams, helping to protect older people from losing money. This initiative, and others such as the Department’s Make the Call service, contribute to the outcomes in the NI Executive’s Active Ageing Strategy 2016-2021 which aims to promote positive actions towards older people across the public sector.
Working to promote positive ageing and changing attitudes towards older people is vital if we are to end age discrimination in our society and ensure that Northern Ireland is a great place to grow older.
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