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Ageing in Ireland – A Measure of Success and why we can lead the way
Ageing will be a dominant theme in the 21st century according to The United Nations World Economic and Social Survey. How we think about ageing can impact the policies we introduce and the supports we deem necessary. Dr. Diarmuid O'Shea (Irish Gerontological Society) presented on the theme of ageing as an opportunity to add healthy years to life at our Social Policy Conference and emphasised that health and social care expenditures for older people need to be seen as an investment not a cost.
Dr. O'Shea outlined that old age is not a disease, nor indeed is it an abstract concept. It is something we all do from the day we are born. Ageing is very much about strength and survivorship, triumph over all sorts of experiences, trials and illnesses.
Dr. O'Shea noted that we have a wonderful opportunity in Ireland to embrace our improving life expectancy, to promote independent living and add healthy years to life. Modern Ireland has evolved into a forward-thinking society, leading the world in certain areas. Research into “Assistive Technology” is doubling every five years – from “monitoring” to “assisting care” and “smart homes”. This evolving concept of “Gerontechnology” and how it can assist and support us as we age has significant potential. He pointed out that ageing populations will influence social and health systems in multiple ways, including the need to increase health and social care spend. We can lead by example by focusing on our own country first and inspire progress to make Ireland a country we are all proud to grow old in.
Digital literacy has also become a requirement for participation in most day to day activities. The practicalities of day to day living should be easier for all of us to navigate. To achieve this, we must ensure that our online, digital, and icloud dominated tech-world is accessible to all, not just the young. This is where Gerontechnology could really add to the quality of life for older people and support them to age well at home.
The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (through clinical programmes, training and education), in conjunction with the HSE are playing a critical role in providing the vision and clinical leadership for ageing well in many areas, along with many voluntary organizations like ALONE, the Alzheimer’s society and the Irish Gerontological Society. But we can all do more. Health Promotion, Self-Care, Social Care and p olicy reform, informed by work from the family of longitudinal studies going on around the world, including our own Irish Longitudinal Study in Ageing (TILDA) will all play their part.
We need to recognize and acknowledge the important role older people have played and continue to play in our lives and society today. We must all become better advocates for the requirements of all as we age.