16th April 2002
Article sent by Sinn Fein to Age Action Ireland
By 2026, 35% of the population of this state will be over the age of 50. This remarkable demographic shift shows just how much Ireland is changing as a society. Successive Governments trumpeted Ireland for many years as a young vibrant nation without thinking either that this was ignoring other parts of society or that the time would come when we would describe ourselves as not so young but still vibrant, still changing, still challenging!
In the same way that Ireland had to think hard about how to accommodate and value its young people, there is now an onus to do the same for all sections of society particularly older people and pensioners
Sinn Fein is of the firm opinion that older members of society have failed to receive adequate benefit from the policies of successive administrations. Indeed pensioners have become a prop for the Finance minister in each budget as he lauds himself on how much he has upped their basic payments.
Interestingly Last December's household budget survey by the CSO showed that pensioners were forming an increasing percentage of the very worst off in society. Nearly 38% of pensioners are in the least well off income groups compared with 30% five years ago.
The primary aim of Age Action Ireland `To improve the quality of life for all older people by enabling them to live full, independent and satisfying lives' is a worthy one that all political parties should pledge themselves to.
Issues such as transport, access to health services and improved communication with older people will be central to a cohesive and progressive strategy that must be the basis of tackling the needs of older people.
Adequate services will be the key to the success of such a strategy. That many old people live in constant fear in their own homes is an indictment on us all. Government anti-crime policy must be directed to resolve this matter as a matter of urgency. Support, financial and otherwise, needs to be provided to those voluntary and community organisations that attempt to make older people feel comfortable in their own surroundings.
We all have a responsibility to challenge the often-negative stereotypes of older people. The increased age profile of our society will be a positive aspect of Ireland in the future if the experience that exists is valued. Older people cannot be treated as a hindrance at a local, regional or national level.
Old aged pension rates provide a clear picture of the commitment from government to those who helped build and develop our country. The personal rate of Contributory Age Pension must increase on an annual basis above the rate of inflation. In the immediate term non-contributory old age pensions should be means-assessed on an individual basis and not on the income generated by their spouse or partner. The example of other countries that have all but abolished the state pension must not be followed in Ireland.
Those who provide care in the home need support. If carers are not assisted then our entire community suffers. Carers provide the bulk of care to family and friends; they are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They receive no salary or holiday leave and formal recognition is minimal. Sinn Fein supports initiatives that aids carers financially and practically in their invaluable work.
We are all aware of the difficulties facing older people. They are our parents, grandparents, family, friends and neighbours. We are also aware of the immensely positive contribution that older people, as individuals and collectively can make to our communities and our country. We each have a responsibility to ensure that everyone is enabled to make that contribution.
As the fastest growing political party on this island. Sinn Fein is committed to that goal.
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