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Author: The News Letter, Michael McHugh (PA)
Published on 23 August 2010 09:00 AM

The government must do more to support positive attitudes to ageing in Northern Ireland, it has been claimed.

Older people should be appreciated for their abilities in helping promote good relations, a lobby group for seniors added.

An event recognising elderly involvement insetting up businesses which direct profits into local communities to address social exclusion and poor health will be held at Stormont today.

Phil Evans, vice chairman of the Age Sector Platform, said: “As an organisation representing 30 older people’s forums and networks in Northern Ireland, we call on the government to recognise that older people should not be considered as vulnerable, passive recipients of services any longer in strategy and policy.

“Rather they should be congratulated, supported and appreciated for the diversity of their abilities and their willingness to actively provide resources to support themselves and their peers.”

The lobby group has been working with Queen’s University which has carried out research on ageing in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Greenland, Sweden and Finland.

Dr Katy Radford, from the university’s school of sociology, social policy and social work, said: “Older people make a significant contribution to life in Northern Ireland.

“We urge the government to commit to developing policies which actively support positive attitudes to ageing and older people’s participation in society, as well as to promote the notion that older people are not merely the recipients of services.”

There are more people living in Northern Ireland aged over 50 than under the age of 19 and in the next 20 years the number of over 50s will increase by more than 30 per cent, bringing with it an increase in service delivery needs.

There are challenges in providing these services, particularly at a time of increasing pressure on public spending.

Today’s event recognises an Allotments to Feed All scheme in Cookstown where volunteers aged between 55 and 85 have taken over a local restaurant from where they run a lunch club and a “meals on wheels” service using vegetables they have grown in the gardens of older people no longer able to manage the sites themselves.

It also highlights Cuan FM - a community radio station staffed by and for older people in the Ards peninsula area.

The station offers programming for older people on health, well-being and safety, education, arts and money matters. It also plays local reminiscences by older people that are broadcast through the night, as well as music from the 1940s and 50s.

Ms Evans added: “This event highlights the valuable contribution that older people make in rural communities, running successful projects and developing businesses that provide social and cultural, as well as economic benefits.”

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575