International women’s day 8 March 2016
As we celebrate the achievements of women across the globe today, let’s take a moment to reflect on the women, including older women, who have shaped our lives, our culture and our communities, often doing so quietly, without fuss or acknowledgement.
For some, this will include well known women like Inez McCormick, internationally recognised as a human rights activist and trade union leader but remembered for her warmth and belief in the dignity of ordinary people. For others it may be someone like Claire Keating, the first Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland whose focus was on achieving positive change on the issues that matter to older people. For many of us, however, our inspirational role models will be someone much closer to home – our mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, partner or friend.
For generations, women have shared their knowledge, skills and experience with their families, friends, neighbours and communities – through volunteering, caring for others, providing childcare and working. We have all benefited from the contributions that women, including older women, have and continue to make to our economic, social and political life. Recent research carried out by the Commissioner for Older People has also shown that over the next 50 years, Northern Ireland will be almost £25 billion better off because of our ageing population.
Living longer is a cause of celebration, offering opportunities as well as challenges to our decision makers in government. More than 350,000 older people live here today and there are more people over the age of 50 than under the age of 19. In the next twenty years, the number of people over 50 will increase by more than 30%.
With more women living and working longer, it is time to look at the barriers which prevent women moving into and remaining in well paid jobs, and to put in place the expert financial advice and guidance they need to help them prepare and plan for their retirement and avoid living in poverty for a significant part of their lives.
Lots of older people lead fulfilling lives, but many older people struggle on their income, tell us they feel lonely, and face daily fears about their ability to pay for things in the future. We want Northern Ireland to be a great place to grow older, where we can all enjoy good health for longer, be more connected to our local community, live independently and with dignity and security, be valued and respected for the contribution we can and do make and be in control of our own lives. What older women want is to be part of the solution, helping to make the changes that are needed to turn this aspiration into reality. Let’s do it together!