As our political parties negotiate on Programme for Government, we have to hope that included within their list of key priorities and "red lines" will be commitments to deliver better outcomes for older people.
Although the facts and figures around our ageing population are well known and rehearsed often, there is a pressing need for our new Executive to do more than acknowledge that there are challenges ahead in how we deliver services in the future. Ensuring that ageing is at the heart of government decisions on funding priorities, targets and policies will not only help current and future Executives prepare for the inevitable changes in our population but also increase our confidence in their ability to do so.
With the creation of nine new departments and the changes in civil servant contacts and relationships we have an opportunity to look afresh at how we do things and how we can work together to focus all our efforts on improving the lives of older people and their families in Northern Ireland.
If the new Executive is serious about implementing the UN Principles for Older People on independence, participation, care, self-fulfillment and dignity it must include within the Programme for Government commitments which will address the concerns of older people around the quality and availability of personal, financial and emotional support; tackle outdated, ageist attitudes that persist and introduce legislation to outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of age. A visible, significant shift in resources to early intervention, low level, practical and preventative support will mean that older people do not have to wait for a crisis to get the support they need and result in much needed savings for our broken health and social care system.
We know that lots of older people lead fulfilling lives - supporting their families, neighbours and communities, providing care, acting as volunteers as well as being in paid work. The test of an effective Programme for Government will be the extent to which it can deliver a better future for all older people, including those who tell us they struggle on their income, are isolated and lonely and who are concerned about the impact of spending cuts and more years of austerity.
Age NI Head of Policy and Influencing
Tel: 028 9024 5729