Government accused of passing buck to Citizens Assembly on issue of ageing population
Members of the Citizens’ Assembly accused the Government of passing the buck to the group by charging them with addressing the issue of an ageing population when a State strategy has existed for five years.
The man spoke out in a questions and answers session at the end of a full day of deliberations today ahead of a vote on pensions, employment and retirement tomorrow.
"Why have we been asked as citizens to come up with proposals for the Oireachtas...on the challenges and opportunities of the older person, when there are already policies written, which have not been implicated and should have been, ie the Positive Ageing Strategy 2013?
"If the policy makers would stop sitting on their hands and go ahead and implement instead of asking for our recommendations, we’d be better off and it would show general interest on their behalf instead of lip service."
This statement received a round of applause from the Assembly and onlookers.
The National Positive Ageing Strategy was launched as a "commitment" in the Programme for Government and was published in April 2013.
The Strategy was at the time described as a "high level document outlining Ireland’s vision for ageing and older people and the national goals and objectives required to promote positive ageing."
It was also highlighted as a "cross-departmental policy that will be the blueprint for age related policy and service delivery across Government in the years ahead."
Other members of the Assembly speaking through a facilitator added: "We are very concerned about the lack of action when the reports are given to the various authorities."
It was not known if this remark was in reference to the claims by Solidarity/People Before Profit TDs that Fine Gael had made attempts to ignore some of the Assembly’s abortion recommendations.
Ita Mangan, chair of Age and Opportunity, a group encouraging older people to remain active, responded said: "There’s no doubt that having a champion at cabinet level means your cause is heard much better...but I’m not sure which minister you’d drop to have a minister for older people.
"What would be good is if the Minister of State at the Department of Health responsible for older people, actually had responsibility and he doesn’t nor did his predecessors."
She stated that power for this brief would have to be devolved and so far it hasn’t been.
The Assembly also heard the important role in the economy older people are currently playing.
It heard that half of Irish grandparents are acting as childcarers and almost half provide financial assistance to their grown up children.
Research from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) shows that 41pc of older people are childcarers for their grandchildren, 48pc provide financial support for their children, 51pc of the over 54s help their own surviving parents financially.
And 60pc take part in social activities weekly - a matter that helps older people maintain a better quality of life.
Christine McGarrigle, Research Director from (TILDA) said: “People give to their parents, children, grandchildren and take part in their communities.”
The group found that 24pc of older people had given gifts worth €5,000 or more to their children in the past 10 years.
A smaller percent - which hadn’t been calculated for this report - gave €60,500 while another group donated €20,000.
And the gift-giving increased with age. The median gift transfer of €20,000 took place between 50 and 64 and this jumped to €30,000 for those over 75.
But only 9pc of older people received gifts from their children and the amounts were much smaller at around €2,350 or €1,000.
“Most of the financial transfers go downwards from parents to children, this is something we recognise internationally,” Ms McGarrigle said.
The research, collated every four years, also found that older people were “net contributors” to their families on a regular basis for smaller amounts of around €250.
Some 48pc gave financial support to their grown up children but didn’t receive any support themselves. Only 3pc became net recipients.
And older people provide financial support to offspring long after they’ve left home; 46pc neither give nor receive financial help from family but 48pc financially aid their children.
“The likelihood of providing financial assistance to a child is highest among the most highly educated and decreases with age,” Ms McGarrigle said.
“We see 60pc of those who’ve had a parent who’s had high education gave to their children in the past two years, compared to those who just had primary education - it was 38pc, so we saw there was a disparity.”
Ms McGarrigle pointed out that older people were playing a vital role in their families, especially when considering the high cost of childcare in the State.
The group found that parents with preschool age children were particularly heavily reliant on grandparents’ support; 41pc of grandparents provided at least one hour per week child care in the past two years and in an earlier report four years earlier, 49pc of grandparents provided this amount of care.
Between 47 and 51 per cent of adults between 54 and 74 provided childcare and only 22pc of the over 75s were helping with children.
And more women provided support - offering childcare for an average of 37 hours compared to the 33 provided by grandfathers.
“The high cost of affordable childcare in Ireland often precludes mothers from returning to the workforce, therefore grandparents who provide informal childcare enable many women to remain in the labour market when they have preschool aged children,” Ms McGarrigle said.
“The social and economic value of this contribution spreads beyond the immediate family as it benefits the wider economy and society.”
23pc of over 54s help their surviving older parents with personal care, errands and shopping. But 29pc had carried out these duties four years earlier.
Care was provided for between 13 and 23 hours a week. 43pc help parents with other activities.
TILDA noted that a “possible concern” was that 26pc of older adults have at least one child living abroad.
“Thinking about that means given the amount of care children give to their parents, we need to consider if emigration resulting from the economy, whether or not it will reduce a pool of family carers in the future,” Ms McGarrigle said.
“That balance between informal care and formal care needs to be considered.”
The group also carried out research showing social activity among older people - which it stated improved wellbeing.
53pc of older people volunteered, 17pc did so at least once a week, 12pc volunteered monthly, and 24pc did so a few times a year but fewer over 75s volunteered.
60pc of over 54s take part in active and social leisure activities at least once a week and 47pc participated at least once a week.
More men - 52pc too part in social activities compared to 44pc of women.
“People over 50 in Ireland have quite a good quality of life peaking around 66 to 68 years of age and declining thereafter” Ms McGarrigle said.
“Another encouraging message to emerge is that quality of life only declines below the level it was at 50 years of age, after the age of 83 years.
“This gives us a nice 34-year period where self-rated quality of life is higher than it was at the age of 50.”