Strategy’s important! Making NI a great place to age.
The NI Government is currently developing a new Ageing Strategy for Northern Ireland. This is hugely important for older people and wider society as it should be the blueprint for ensuring that the rights of older people are protected and that NI becomes a great place to age.
It is 8 years since the last Ageing Strategy - Ageing in an Inclusive Society - was launched to much fanfare from the Direct Rule administration that was governing Northern Ireland back then. That strategy failed to deliver for older people in NI. In 2009, Age NI produced a detailed analysis (PDF 1MB) of what impact that strategy had on the lives of older people and found that there had been a deterioration in older people’s indicators across a range of key areas, including poverty, fuel poverty and social care. Out of 41 indicators, only 10 saw an improvement over the 4 years of the strategy. Clearly, more of the same is not an option.
8 years on, the opportunities and challenges presented by an ageing society remain, not only across Northern Ireland but throughout the world. The United Nations has described our ageing society as unprecedented, pervasive, profound and enduring. Governments globally are developing new strategies and policies to capitalise on the opportunities and address the challenges that this demographic bounty represents.
Yes, the issues can be complex, but getting ageing right is something that will deliver for us all. Some older people will require support and care, and our public services needs to ensure that quality, person centred services are available for those people who need them, particularly in light of the projections for people living with dementia. Achieving an ageing population that is healthier, more engaged in their communities, contributing as volunteers, sharing knowledge and skills with those around them is a prize that we can all sign up to. However, we won’t get there by accident. What is required are ambitious and bold strategies and policies on the part of government which protect and uphold older people’s rights and mainstream ageing as an issue across all areas of public policy and services.
For the past 4 years, older people and the age sector have applied their collective knowledge and expertise to advise government on what a revised strategy should contain. The starting point for our advice has been to learn the lessons from Northern Ireland’s first ageing strategy, so the strategy must have:
- a clear vision which reflects the rights, needs and aspirations of older people
- a framework based on the United Nations Principles for Older Persons (1991): Independence; Care; Participation; Self fulfilment; Dignity
- creative, robust and detailed action plans
- objectives based on identified need
- engagement with older people and the age sector
- effective and resourced implementation
- a strong evaluation process
The new Ageing Strategy is expected to be issued for public consultation in the autumn of 2013 by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM). It is essential that older people, age-based organisations and wider civic society in Northern Ireland engage fully with the process to ensure that delivers for all older people and is responsive to the diversity which exists among people in later life.
So if lifelong learning, volunteering, crime and fear of crime, social care, health and well-being, transport, poverty, debt, discrimination, digital inclusion, housing, participation etc. are important to you, your family and friends, or your community then please get involved in shaping the Ageing Strategy which delivers for older people. Working together we can help ensure that Northern Ireland has a strong and clear view of what it is the Executive must do to ensure that we reap the demographic bounty we are experiencing and that Government departments identify and resource the additional policies and programmes required to make Northern Ireland a great place to age.
Download our Positive Ageing Report 2009 (PDF 1MB)