Belfast is the first city in Northern Ireland to sign up to become 'Age Friendly', in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.
The city is promising to encourage active ageing and enhance the quality of life for older people by optimising opportunities for health, participation and security.
Lord Mayor Niall Ó Donnghaile signed the World Health Declaration just before the annual Seniors` Convention at Belfast City Hall. The Declaration ties in with the theme of this year`s Convention which is `Housing and Independent Living`.
Among the issues considered by an Age Friendly City are outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, social participation, civic participation and employment, communication and information, community support and health services
Councillor Bernie Kelly, Chairperson of the council`s All-Party Reference Group on Older People said:
“In practical terms, an age friendly city adapts its structures and services to be accessible to and inclusive of older people with varying needs. In an age friendly city policies, services, settings and structures support and enable people to age actively.
“The outdoor environment has a major impact on the quality of life of older people and an age friendly city will have to consider; outdoor spaces and buildings, transportation, housing, all issues which are sure to be raised at the Seniors Convention
“We are delighted to be the first city in Northern Ireland signing the Age-Friendly declaration.
“We began the conventions to give older people in our city a chance to speak out and meet directly with people making decisions about their lives and it seems to be working well as a forum to guide policies.”
Speaking at the convention, Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said:
“Today`s event is a real opportunity for the public to have a say on how we in local and central Government are doing in delivering services that make a difference and I`m delighted to be here to listen. Staying with the theme of Housing, over the past year my department has built 200 new homes to meet the needs of our ageing population and this year we will do the same again.
“I will also be looking to make provision for those wanting to stay in their family home, where they were born or raised their family. In addition, through our Supporting People Programme I already spend nearly £9m every year helping over 10,000 older people live a more independent life than would otherwise be possible. So if I and others in Government can find even more innovative solutions to help people live in their own homes I can assure you I will.”
Up to 200 seniors from across the city participated in the discussions at City Hall and also had a chance to meet a range of groups which provide services for them.