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29 March 2023

Image tiles of face in online Zoom meeting

The All Party Group on Ageing and Older People chaired by Vice Chair, Colm Gildernew MLA, met virtually on Wednesday 29 March 2023. The meeting brought together more than 60 attendees including elected representatives, senior departmental officials and a wide range of stakeholders representing community and voluntary organisations, Department for Communities, Public Health Agency, Utility Regulator and Councils. Older people from Age NI Consultative Forum, local age sector networks, the ICTU-Retired Workers Committee and National Pensioners’ Convention also attended the meeting.

Before moving on to the main business of the meeting, APG Vice Chair Colm Gildernew MLA provided an update on correspondence from the Department for Communities and Energy Providers on supports available for older people and others struggling during the cost of living crisis. He added that Members would be writing to Energy Providers encouraging them to consider  supporting the voluntary Energy Charter past its current end-date of March 2023 and into the longer term by writing to the Utility Regulator and the Consumer Council to confirm this. The Vice Chair also reported on correspondence received from the Department of Health in response to the letter sent by the APG on the urgency to progress Reform of Adult Social Care..


i Update on the Active Ageing Strategy 2016-2022 and progress on development of a new strategy

Colm Gildernew MLA welcomed Martin Walker, Head of Active Ageing and Disability Policy, Department for Communities to the meeting. Martin provided an update to Members on the review and evaluation of the Active Ageing Strategy 2016 – 2022 and progress on development of a new strategy. Martin stated that the evaluation of the current Active Ageing Strategy would be completed early in the next financial year (2023/2024). Development activities to inform a possible new Active Ageing Strategy would include evaluation findings, information gleaned from a set of three Strategic Insights Programme workshops (iLabs) held in 2022 with a range of stakeholders.  The Department has also conducted engagement sessions with older people through MEAAP (Mid & East Antrim Agewell Partnership); and plan to work with Age Friendly Network NI to host similar events in other council areas.

Next steps – The Department will prepare options for an incoming Minister to consider, followed by further engagement and consultation.

ii Overview of the Age Friendly Network Northern Ireland

Colm Gildernew MLA welcomed Jenny Marshall, Co-Chair of Age Friendly Network of Northern Ireland and Executive Director of Community Programmes, Mid & East Antrim Agewell Partnership (MEEAP) and Liam Hinphey, Co-Chair of Age Friendly Network of Northern Ireland and Age Friendly Programme Co-ordinator at Causeway, Coast & Glens Borough Council to the meeting. Jenny and Liam presented an overview of work of the Age Friendly Network Northern Ireland, highlighting the priorities of the Network, including resourcing Age Sector Networks, Age Friendly Design Principles, transport, age friendly training. Jenny and Liam urged Members to encourage and promote development of age friendly across central and local government and in partnership with other sectors, including the voluntary and community sector.


Following the presentations there were a number of points made by Members of the All Party Group including:

  • Wide range of issues impacting on older people that need to be addressed through the new Active Ageing Strategy.
  • Key role played by community transport in helping people to remain independent and in their own home, carry out everyday tasks including shopping, attending health appointments, meeting up with others.
  • Role of lead department in driving a cross-cutting strategy and actions across departments, working with and achieving buy-in at the highest levels, reducing silos.
  • Short term decisions on funding which adversely impact on the health and wellbeing of the population, resulting in increased levels of needs and additional costs in the longer term.
  • Delivery points of the strategy and costs
  • Measuring outcomes - what data is currently being tracked and what barriers, if any, exist? What other areas could be measured which are critical to the lives of older people and could be added to new strategy.
  • Does age friendly planning take into account initiatives like seating and toilets in public, the impact of parking/bins etc on pavements on the accessibility of places to older people and the need to build accessible homes and future proof our housing stock.
  • Encouraging equity impact assessment tool, data collection and more scrutiny of new initiatives to ensure they are age friendly
  • Role of lifelong learning and inclusion of FE sector in age friendly initiatives.


i Community transport

Colm Gildernew MLA  voiced his deep concern about uncertainty regarding future funding of community transport.  Community transport provides a vital lifeline for many people living in NI, and any reduction/threat to this service could have a devastating affect on older and other people who rely on this vital service.

Members of the APG agreed to write to the Department for Infrastructure outlining our strong support for role and and the essential services and connections provided by community transport. Members also agreed to issue a statement expressing the APG’s concerns.

Thanks to speakers, members and stakeholders

Before closing the meeting, Vice Chair Colm Gildernew MLA  thanked the speakers, the members, and all those who attended:

“Thanks to  everyone who attended and participated in today’s meeting.  Clearly the challenges and opportunities facing older people and our ageing society are important to APG Members and the wider range of stakeholders who attended today. There is a recognition that an ambitious new Active Ageing Strategy is essential to delivering for older people an age friendly region in which people, as they grow older, are supported to live well; live a life that is dignified and fulfilled; have their rights and independence promoted, their participation valued and their voices listened to.

And while we continue to exist without a functioning Executive or Assembly, the challenges facing older people and our ageing population continue at pace.  Therefore we were delighted to welcome Martin from the Department for Communities to update us on what progress is being made to produce the new Active Ageing Strategy; and to hear from Jenny Marshall and Liam Hinphey about the work and priorities of the Age Friendly Network Northern Ireland and the potential to bring about positive change at regional and local levels.”

Next steps

Vice Chair Colm Gildernew MLA closed the meeting by thanking all stakeholders for their engagement with the All Party Group this year and advised that it is anticipated the next meeting will take place 22 May 2023, in person, at Parliament Buildings.

It was also noted, following on from discussion within the meeting, that the Chair will write to the Permanent Secretary from Department for Infrastructure, to follow up on actions arising from today’s meeting.


Last updated: Apr 04 2023

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