Today I found myself in a deep discussion about ageing. Not because I am concerned about the odd grey but for a far more important reason.
You see, Limerick is Ireland’s fastest ageing city. Fact. This fascinated me yet I found the concept slightly disconcerting.
‘Here we are talking about pedestrianisation in the city centre’, I thought. ‘Maybe we should be focussing more on chairlifts and loudspeakers on street corners instead’.
My reaction is exactly what those working in areas focussed on our ageing population would expect.
In many ways I was immediately associating the word ‘ageing’ with concepts such as decrepitude, incontinence and death.
The fact is I was ageist in my reaction to the fact that Limerick is getting old, and fast.
The best estimates of Ireland’s population in 2015 indicate a significant change. Between 2010 and 2015, the fraction of Ireland’s population over the age of 65 grew from 11.3% to 13.1%.
This represents an increase of nearly 100,000 people in the over 65 age group in just five years. In contrast, it took 30 years, between 1970 and 2000, for the population of
over 65s to increase by the same figure.
In 1970 the state pension was release at the age of 70, yet an average man lived to 68 and woman to 72.
Therefore, if you were lucky you worked all your life, got a few months’ respite and then popped your clogs.
In more recent times things have changed slightly. In 2012 the state pension was provided at age 66 with men now expected to live to be 78.4 and women going that bit further with a life expectancy of 82.8.
Simply put we have seen a two-and-a-half-year increase in life expectancy over in last decade and this trend is set to continue, obviously resulting in a much longer life span post retirement.
In fact, many of our younger population can actually now expect to hit the 100 mark in their lifetime.
What I am delighted to see is the fact that we here in Limerick are already preparing for the fact that our population is ageing. In 2015, Limerick City and County Council launched its Age Friendly Limerick Strategy 2015-2020.
The World Health Organisation defines an “age-friendly” community as one in which service providers, public officials, community leaders, faith leaders, business people and citizens recognise the great diversity among older persons, promote their inclusion and contribution in all areas of community life, respect their decisions and lifestyle choices, and anticipate and respond flexibly to ageing related needs and preferences.
Limerick’s ambition means it will become a great place to grow older. The city will provide easier accessibility to public buildings, shops and services.
Older people’s views will be taken into account when it comes to key decisions being made about Limerick. The city will also focus on promoting a positive attitude to ageing and address stereotypes about older people as well a creating opportunities for older people to be engaged with their Limerick socially as employees and as volunteers.
In relation to the retirement concept and particularly those who may now choose early retirement it is also very interesting to note that Limerick has recently become home to ISAX or the Irish Smart Ageing Exchange.
This group is a new independent network which delivers a ‘joined up approach’ to fast-tracking the R&D and commercialisation of solutions for the global smart ageing economy – an economy projected by Merrill Lynch to be worth $15tn by 2020.
Limerick is firmly focussed on a plan to deliver a positive future for our city. The 2030 Economic and Spatial Plan aims to create a new Limerick, and one that is a leading city across numerous disciplines.
It is clear that we are already ahead of the game when it comes to treating our ageing population as an important and valuable part the city’s demography.
PS: for those of you who, like me, may have experienced a moment of ageism (albeit innocent) – take a look at this video. It might open your eyes.