County Wexford’s Age Friendly Strategy will allow those who choose to live out their days in Wexford to do so to the fullest. That was the message from cathaoirleach of Wexford County Council, Councillor Barbara-Anne Murphy at the official launch of the strategy at County Hall last week. The strategy will be put into action over the next four years and seeks to make Wexford the best place in the country to grow old.
ompiled after a lengthy and extensive survey of older people across the county, Cllr Murphy commended all those who had helped to bring the strategy into fruition.
“I’m really proud to say the older people across the county were vocal, they may have been forced to cocoon during the pandemic but they certainly emerged from their chrysalis to voice their opinions to the key service providers and they made clear exactly what is needed to make Wexford a better place to live, work and grow older and enjoy life to the full,” she said.
As people live longer and the average age of the population continues to rise, it is estimated that one-fifth of those living in Wexford in 2030 will be aged 65 or over and Cllr Murphy said it was crucial that we prepared accordingly.
“Wexford County Council (WCC) needs to takes into account the needs of a changing demographic by becoming age-friendly, demonstrate the importance of adapting services to meet the needs of our communities. Whether that’s putting seating in an area so people can bring home their shopping, maybe up Castle Hill in Enniscorthy, or installing bus shelters and public toilets where they’re needed, and making town centres, parks, beaches, walking trails accessible,” she said.
“WCC staff have received age-friendly and dementia training and this applies to customer service staff and technical staff, the intention is to roll out this training to all staff so we can be better placed to help older people into the future. When councillors adopted the Age Friendly Strategy for 2022 we felt it was important we stress it’s a living plan and needs to be agile and adaptable, we have to make sure older people who choose to work, enjoy and live out their days in Wexford can do so to the fullest.”
Highlighting the importance WCC places on the needs of its older people, Chief Executive Tom Enright then explained how the council set up a community call helpline during the pandemic which, through the work of volunteers and GAA clubs, was able to arrange the delivery of food and medicines, dogs to be walked and grass to be cut where people weren’t able to do those things themselves.
“Our staff provided befriending services for people who were cocooned and didn’t have any visitors, they rang them every couple of days to check on them and make sure they were doing well,” said Mr Enright. “11,071 social calls were made nationally by local authorities during lockdown and 7,350 of those calls were made by WCC, which represents two-thirds of all calls.
“We’ve been listening to older people to find out what it’s like to be an older person living in this county, the good things as well as the challenges and the issues they face. In the past year we have consulted with almost 900 older people and the groups representing them, their message was very clear, they all love living in Wexford and they want to remain living in their own homes for as long as possible, and they appreciate the services available to them, but they also highlighted areas where improvements need to be made, and that’s the focus of this strategy.”
As chair of the Wexford Older People’s Council and vice-chair of the national council, Kevin Molloy has been heavily involved in the creation of the strategy, attending workshops online and, more recently, in person. But ultimately, like so many of his peers, he is only now fully returning to normal life after two years of lockdown. And he was keen to point out that this strategy for people of all ages, not just the older generation.
“Age friendly means young and old, not just old, the aim of the strategy is to make Wexford a wonderful place to grow older, to achieve this our plans must be informed by today’s older people so that future generations will experience their communities as age friendly,” he said. “Today we educate our young people for 20 years and then send them into the workplace for 40 years before they enter a new world of retirement, for another 20 plus years. entering this new world unearths several challenges, and this strategy addresses those.”
As Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD had been invited to Wexford to officially launch the strategy and she said the welfare of older people was at the forefront of central government as well as local.
‘The current Programme for Government outlines a vision of an Age Friendly Ireland and documents policy approaches to supporting older people,” she said. “Strategies such as Sláintecare, The National Positive Ageing Strategy, and Healthy Ireland, are hugely significant in how we prepare for, and support, an ageing population. At a national level, both myself and the Department of Health are very aware of WCC’s efforts with helping to develop and deliver local Age Friendly Strategies. This feeds into our national policy frameworks to ensure that the voice of older people is included and referenced in decisions we make. Wexford County Council Age Friendly Strategy is a vital resource.’
Wexford County Council’s Age Friendly Programme Manager, Ann Marie Laffan, who acted as MC for the launch and has responsibility for managing the Wexford Age Friendly Programme thanked all those who contributed to the strategy, in particular the Age Friendly Alliance and Wexford Older Peoples Council members many of whom were in attendance at the launch. She added that she is looking forward to working with all involved to implement the new strategy and the actions contained therein.