Fianna Fáil has today published an extensive policy document aimed at promoting the rights of older people, tackling social isolation and improving home supports for the older generation.
The “Active Ageing and Quality Caring” document includes a range of initiatives to empower older people and allow them to stay living in their own home until later in life. The policy includes legislation to scrap the compulsory retirement age; establish dedicated employment supports for job seekers over the age of 50; restore fuel, electricity and gas allowances; overhaul the legislation on elder abuse; introduce free Breast Cancer Screening for women over the age of 65; develop public transport systems for older people in rural areas; and establish a Minister of State for Older Citizens with a place at the Cabinet table.
Author of the report Senator Mary White explained, “The majority of people in Ireland who reach the age of 65 can look forward to many more years of a healthy and active life. Public policy must respond to the fact that older people are living longer and want to remain active and in control of their lives.
“Fianna Fáil is seeking an end the compulsory retirement age of 65 in the public and private sector, making it illegal for employers to force retirement on a staff member at that age. We also recognise the fact that there are thousands of people over the age of 50 who have been made redundant in recent years and find their age creates a further barrier to securing employment. We propose that the State’s Employment Services are given a specific mandate to support job-seekers aged 50 and over.
“Social isolation is one of the biggest problems facing the older generation and is the greatest cause of depression and suicide among older people. Fianna Fáil proposes to retain the eligibility for free travel at 66, even if the State pension age increases. We also propose an overhauling of the driving licence renewal process at the age of 70. We are putting forward an initiative to use school buses, which are lying idle for much of the day, and HSE non-emergency transport, which is available between trips to hospital appointments, along with community cars to reach older people in rural areas that don’t have access to public transport,” said Senator White.
The Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin said: “One of the most positive aspects of the massive investment in our health services over the last decade is the improved health of our nation and the greater life expectancy enjoyed by more and more people. Arising from this is a need to develop a policy framework that will support older people in living full and active lives until a much later age. Fianna Fáil is determined to take a lead on this and our focus is on facilitating people to stay living in their own home until as long as possible, while remaining an integral part of the community. This will require investment, but it will be an investment that represents good value for money in the long-run.
“I asked Senator Mary White to be bold, ambitious and radical in drawing together a policy proposal and in this document she has delivered on that brief. I believe that the policy proposal launched today represents the most significant contribution to the policy debate on positive aging by a political party in many years.
“Everyone in Ireland will benefit from supporting the older generation in playing a strong role in our communities. The series of measures outlined in this document provides constructive proposals on how to do this. I am urging the Government to carefully consider these initiatives.”