Speakers at the event included, from left, Sam Hogan, Age Friendly Healthy Homes Co-ordinator, Rachel Duffy, Westmeath Age-Friendly ambassador, Eileen Hughes, regional manager of Age-Friendly Ireland, Cllr Liam McDaniel, cathaoirleach, Westmeath County Council, and Annette Barr-Jordan, Westmeath Age Friendly programme manager.

Ireland is ‘a good place to grow old’

AGM of Westmeath Age Friendly Programme and Older Persons Council

Ireland is one of the best places in the world to grow old – and that’s not just opinion, that’s the verdict of the World Health Organization (WHO) which, in 2019, formally recognised Ireland as the first Age Friendly country.

The work is continuing, Eileen Hughes, regional manager of Age-Friendly Ireland, told the large group of community and parish representatives who attended the AGM of the Westmeath Age Friendly Programme and Older Persons Council on Tuesday last at Bloomfield House Hotel, Mullingar.

Ms Hughes explained that Age-Friendly Ireland is a service providing support and guidance to 31 local authorities in their bid to develop new age-friendly programmes.

“Its aim is to make Ireland a great country in which to grow old, because like many other countries Ireland has an ageing population,” Ms Hughes told those gathered, explaining that over the last 14 years, every local authority has committed to developing age-friendly strategies.

The strategies, she said, align with the eight themes of the WHO’s Age Friendly programme: housing, transportation, outdoor spaces and buildings, community support and health services, communication and information, civic participation and employment, respect and social inclusion, and social participation.

At local level, the success of the programme depends on teamwork, Ms Hughes said, explaining that the local team leader/ programme manager is Annette Barr-Jordan, who liaises with the Age-Friendly Alliance and the local Older People’s Council, members of the inter-departmental team and the housing technical advisor.

Ms Hughes said the Westmeath Older People’s Council (OPC) was a core component of the county’s Age Friendly Programme. Diverse and representative of all older people in the county, it is a vehicle to bring the views of older people into policy and service provision.

“The OPC is a unique opportunity for older people to be involved in decision-making, to support the development of local plans, to monitor the strategy and to assist with the delivery of actions such as walkability audits, mystery shopping events, and local consultations,” she said, adding that it feeds upwards to a national council, which submits the views of older people to policy-making organisations at the national level.