Over 65s can play a pivotal role in our society

The over 65s already play a big role in Cork communities, a survey has shown - but more can be done to integrate them into our society
Over 65s can play a pivotal role in our society

Liz Downes, of Mitchelstown (left) with

A NEW report based on a Republic of Ireland survey of 1,657 people has found over-65s in Cork play a pivotal role in society and the lives of younger people by volunteering, mentoring, providing care, and financial contributions.

Across the six countries included in this pan-European survey Irelan,d appeared to be the most age-friendly country.

The Unifying Generations: Building the Pathway to Intergenerational Solidarity report from Edwards Lifesciences was launched recently at an event in Dublin, attended by Mary Butler TD, Minister of State in the Department of Health, with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People. It recommends changing perceptions about the third generation and recognising their value in building intergenerational cohesion.

At the launch, Minister Butler acknowledged the contribution of older people in Irish society: “By 2051, the number of people over 65 in Ireland is expected to double. This demographic shift is often seen as a burden when in reality older people are an extremely valuable asset to our society.

“The Unifying Generations report is a great recognition of the role over-65s play in our country. Not only do they make a significant contribution volunteering, caring for others and mentoring, but they also play a pivotal role in supporting links between generations. The lived experience of older people enriches all our lives.”

In contrast to existing perceptions, the survey highlighted the significant social contributions of the over-65s: 27% of them in Cork provide support to family members such as shopping and driving and 26% provide care to a family member. In addition, all respondents from Cork provide some level of financial support to younger family members, especially giving towards holidays and leisure (63%), household goods (33%) and education (20%).

Most importantly, the report revealed that of the European countries surveyed, Ireland’s over-65s are the most engaged in their local communities, especially when it comes to volunteering.

Nearly a third (31%) volunteer in their local communities versus 19% according to the European average with 49% of great-grandparents and 29% of grandparents volunteering in their local communities. This is particularly true for over-65s in Cork with 19% volunteering in their local community.

Liz Downes, 73, of Mitchelstown, is very involved in her local community and is the Area Commissioner for the Girl Guides Senior Branch covering Cork. Liz particularly commends Mitchelstown as being an age-friendly town where she actively supports voluntary organisations in her role as Community Champion, working with Age Friendly Ireland, is Secretary of Cope Foundation and also finds time to work with Muintir Na Tire.

Liz particularly feels young people can learn a lot spending time with the older generation saying: “We can learn from them and they can learn from us. They share their thoughts around life and their use of technology and we share our experiences of our younger life without technology. When I bring the girl guides camping they aren’t allowed their phones, except for half an hour a day to check in with home, so they have freedom, can be present and enjoy themselves without distractions.”

In turn, younger people in Ireland highly value the role of the older generation, 84% of adults aged 18-40 in Cork said the support they receive from over-65s in their daily life was very important or somewhat important. Furthermore, Ireland ranked second after Spain at 87%, above the European average of 83%.

“It is important to transform perceptions about the older generation,” said Ashwin Kher, Business Manager, Edwards Lifesciences in Ireland. “Having been raised by my grandmother, I can speak first-hand about the importance and benefits of younger people being guided and supported by the older generation. Not only did they provide care and support they also imparted wisdom and guidance throughout my childhood and into my adult life.”

Many benefits of intergenerational interactions were also highlighted in the report. According to people(aged 18-40 in Cork, listening and giving advice (59%), companionship or friendship (54%), and sharing historical or cultural knowledge (48%) were the most valuable skills that older people could offer.

It is promising also to see intergenerational relationships are particularly cherished in Ireland compared to other European countries and there is a strong desire for greater links between generations. Across all countries surveyed, Ireland has the highest number of younger and older respondents believing that closer relations among different generations are a good thing (85%), while 56%) in Cork had a friend from a different generation and 40% were open to having one, 5% more than the national average.

Younger people in Cork also feel strongly about the need for mentoring, with 34% saying that or educational schemes provided by national or local government would help them to do more with the older generation. The wish to learn is not one way. 

The older generation recognises the need to improve their digital skills with 53% saying they would most like to learn technology and digital media from younger people.

“New efforts now need to be made to empower and encourage intergenerational interaction outside the family domain across society; in the workplace, and in our communities. Research indicates that older and younger people seek knowledge exchanges, share a plethora of interests, and enjoy each other’s company - the will is there, we (individuals, organisations, society) simply need to work harder together to find the way”. said Dr Catherine Elliott O’Dare, Assistant Professor in Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin.

The report makes three recommendations to ensure Ireland continues to move towards a more unified society: campaigns to transform perceptions of the value of senior people and their interactions with younger generations, greater opportunities for mentoring and knowledge sharing from older to younger generations; and schemes that help senior people interact more digitally.

To learn more and download the full report please visit: https://www.edwards.com/gb/aboutus/unifying-generations/

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