Older people in Ireland contribute more than other cohorts to our local communities, but are left in the dark when it comes to decisions about their welfare. That’s according to Active Retirement Ireland, who today (25.04.2018) launched a research report on older people’s participation in Older People’s Councils (OPCs) and Public Participation Networks (PPNs). The launch took place at the organisation’s AGM in Ennistymon, Co. Clare.
Speaking at the launch, Maureen Kavanagh, CEO of Active Retirement Ireland, said: “The report published today clearly shows that while older people are viewed as participants in society, they are not taken seriously as partners who can contribute to decision making processes at local authority level.”
“We spoke with older people the length and breadth of the country, and we heard the same story everywhere. Local authorities are happy to have older people’s groups at the heart of every community, adding vibrancy and life to rural and urban areas; but when it comes to planning and development, and the decisions that directly affect older people, they are not consulted,” Ms. Kavanagh said.
Economic contribution of older people
The research, carried out between autumn 2017 and spring 2018, involved surveying Active Retirement members in all parts of Ireland about their involvement with these local statutory bodies. The research shows that older people’s involvement in local structures are saving local authorities thousands of euro – in the report, the small number of respondents contributed a total of 255.2 hours per month engaging with local authorities, making the value of the report respondent’s contribution to local structures just under €30,000 per annum, with little return in the shape of engaged participation in the decision-making process. The report showed that the perceptions of respondents is that their involvement is overwhelmingly at the level of attending meetings and receiving information, but having little influence.
Commenting further, Ms Kavanagh said: “The Council of Europe’s Code of Practice for Civil Participation ranges from information and participation right the way up as far as partnership. This report starkly shows that, in Ireland, older people are seen simply as participants and not as partners.”
“The local Active Retirement Associations throughout Ireland will continue to raise awareness among our members of how the local authority structure function and how each of our members can get involved, and raise capacity among our members to ensure their voices are heard when decisions are being made.
“However, the report clearly shows that decision-makers in these communities are happy to keep older people involved in the delivery of services, but away from the planning and development decisions that affect them most. We’re calling on local authorities to ensure that improved policy-making processes are implemented to facilitate input at all stages of the policy-making cycle.” Concluded Ms. Kavanagh.