Becoming aware of the swiftness in the passing years and accepting I’m beginning to get on a bit myself, I’m acknowledging my developing interest in broad range media coverage and references and indeed governmental initiatives, all relating to aging.
I also readily acknowledge my fondness and affinity on the accuracy of these two worthy quotes;
“Old age comes on suddenly, and not gradually as is thought.” Emily Dickinson
“Old age is the most unexpected of all things that happen to a man”. Leon Trotsky
In April of this year, Ireland became the first country in the world to become fully affiliated with the World Health Organisation’s Global Network of Age Friendly Cities & Communities.
Age Friendly Ireland is a governmental initiative that advocates the partnership and co-operation between locally based communities programmes with national-level activity. The aim of the initiative is to help create an inclusive, equitable society in which older people can live full, active, valued and healthy lives. A worthy aspiration for sure!
Over the last 50 years, Ireland has changed significantly. We have a multi-national, cosmopolitan and globalised society with an increasing population. Our population aged 65 years and over is growing by approximately 20,000 each year, the Sláintecare Action Plan 2019 reports that life expectancy increased here by 2.4 years between 2005 and 2018 and is now above the EU average, so more of us can expect to live longer… in fact in 10 years’ time, there will be 1 million 65+ adults and one hundred thousand 80+ adults living in Ireland.
How are we doing so far? According to the 2nd National Positive Ageing Indicators Report 2018 published by the Department of Health in June of this year, that while 8 out of 10 people aged 56+ rate their health as good or very good, nonetheless, the statistics show that:
65% of our over 65+ adults have a chronic disease, 26% of our 56+ adults report that they often have moderate or severe pain and disappointingly, 39% admit to a low level of physical activity.
In addition and not overly surprising since national health policy continues to be focused on treatment rather than prevention & maintenance, the report shows that 32% of older adults are taking five or more prescription medicines on a daily basis.
Some very sobering statistics indeed but there is positive news also. 9 out of 10 adults aged 56+ are confident they have a friend or relative they can rely on, social participation in Ireland continues to be high, with 82% socially active on a weekly basis and the volunteering rate has increased to 41% and is among the highest in Europe.
Satisfaction with life remains ‘high’ at 86% and an interesting statistic from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) launched August 1st this year, is that older people who go to church have better mental health than non -attendees. The TILDA study also highlighted the importance of independent travel for older adults and it found that those who drive or use public transport themselves have better mental health than those dependent on others to get around.
So while acknowledging our national policy makers endeavours to honour our citizens as we grow older by putting in place practical support networks, let’s embrace where we are on our journey. With parental responsibilities and demands of rearing our children well passed, and for some, work duties may be less demanding, we have much to embrace. Let’s not forget that our experiences in life have shaped us, while younger generations may not always appreciate who we are, we certainly should do so, we have earned our self-confidence and self-awareness and indeed most of us feel wiser and more astute than we did in our earlier years.
So let’s stay wise by eating well, exercising, enjoying leisure and hobbies, meeting each day with zest and enthusiasm for life will assist on our continuing healthy journey through life.