An ageing society should be seen as a positive, dynamic opportunity for Northern Ireland society. That’s one of several important messages that over 150 people will hear at a major conference at Riddel Hall, Queen’s University Belfast today.
At the Crossroads: Preparing for an Ageing Population, organised by Age NI in partnership with the ARK Ageing Programme, brings together a range of experts from the fields of academia, public policy and public services to challenge commonly held myths and assumptions about the role of older people, and the impact of demographic ageing on our society.
Linda Robinson, Age NI Chief Executive explains, ‘The concept of being ‘at a crossroads’ indicates that we are faced with significant choices that will affect NI society for generations to come. Our conference in partnership with ARK today is an opportunity to have an open and honest discussion about the challenges and opportunities of ageing, and how Northern Ireland can best prepare for demographic change.
‘Age NI believes that robust evidence as well as the clear voice of older people are key to supporting decision-makers to make the right choices. Often, engaging older people, particularly those who are vulnerable, can be seen as too difficult. The work of Age NI Peer Facilitators recently, who engaged with over 300 older people about nursing and residential care, dispels this myth. Older people are not only diverse, but they want their voice to be heard. They want meaningful opportunities to participate and engage in decisions that affect their lives. This has clear implications for those whose role it is to develop public policy.
Dr Paula Devine, Coordinator of the ARK Ageing Programme added, ‘In 2012, there were around 270,000 people aged 65 years or over. It is estimated that this number will grow to 445,000 in 2032, of which over 75,000 will be aged 85 years or over. By 2027 onwards, it is likely that there will be more people aged 65 and over in the population than there are children aged under 16. So it is vital that we think about these important population changes now.
‘Our conference today will challenge existing beliefs that our older population is a burden and will encourage greater understanding of the potential that exists in later life. We are talking about issues that affect each and every one of us – dementia, housing, age friendly cities and employment. Making the right decisions now will positively influence processes and service delivery for older people in the future.’
Engage in the discussion today live on Twitter using the hashtag #ageingmatters