We have failed to prepare for our greying future and a million elderly will pay dearly
On this day next week the great and good of Irish officialdom will assemble in Dublin Castle. This latest incarnation of worthies proclaiming its self-importance with a suitably impressive title is called the National Economic Dialogue.
It's a two-day initial bash, which will hear opening lectures from Ministers Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin about the budgetary framework for 2016, to be followed by sessions chaired by Professor Alan Barrett (ESRI) relating to economic and fiscal parameters. It's a proper bore-fest, at which dutiful media will try and make interesting. Instead of woolly, open-ended navel gazing, it should have a singular theme: How to cope with Ireland's million shades of grey over the coming decades.
The greatest, medium-term challenge to our social system is how to adequately provide for the needs of 1,000,000 extra people over 65 between 2016 and 2046. Last April, a report was published entitled 'Population and Labour Force Projections'; not as popular as the erotic romance novel from E L James - it has been largely ignored. Currently there are 600,000 people over 65. An extra 20,000 is added to this cohort yearly. Life expectancy will rise significantly towards 2060: Irish men can expect to live until 85; for women the age is 89. The '2015 Ageing Report' predicts our elderly population will rise from 3pc to 11pc.