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Remarks by President McAleese at the opening of the CARDI Conference 'Ageing Globally, Ageing Locally', Croke Park, 2nd November 2011



Type: Report
Region: Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland

Remarks by President McAleese at the opening of the CARDI Conference 'Ageing Globally, Ageing Locally', Croke Park, 2nd November 2011 Dia dhíbh go léir inniu. Tá an-áthas orm bheith anseo libh ar an ócáid speisialta agus tabhactach seo. Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank you very much for that very generous welcome. I'm absolutely delighted to open Cardi's first international Conference and I'd like to thank Dr. Roger O Sullivan for inviting me here. With retirement only a week or so away and a sixtieth birthday behind me I have a strong vested interest in this Conference though of course – to quote Francis Bacon "To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am." That attitude might help us to remain young at heart but it doesn't help much when it comes to forward planning for ageing and that is what this Conference invites us to probe and to contemplate - how to plan locally and globally for the changing personal and the wider demographic realities provoked by ageing. We have been told in recent times that half of all girls born today in Ireland, all other things being equal, will likely live to celebrate their hundredth birthdays. One of the nicest jobs I have as President is to congratulate each centenarian and send them a cheque for around 2,500 euro to help celebrate reaching that milestone. Some President in the decades ahead may well have a full time job doing just that! Longer life expectancy, better health and greater quality of life for senior citizens amount to really good and positive news but, like all advances, be they medical, technological or societal, they reshape the challenges we face and present us with new dilemmas. Over the next forty years, the number of people aged sixty and over in the world is expected to increase ten-fold to over 2 billion people. The number of older people, it has been claimed, will exceed the number of children in the population of the planet for the first time in history. Ireland will lag behind those trends thanks to the fact that we are still currently enjoying the youngest population profile and the highest birth rate in Europe. But we too will inevitably experience the growing effects of population ageing in the coming decades. Planning well for that future is essential, for the shifting ratio between the working and the dependent members of our society inevitably will impact on national finances, on our ability to fund health and social services and on achieving social coherence across younger and older generations. Subjects like pensions and retirement age will take on a different set of statistics with considerable downstream implications for policy and planning. At an individual level, planning for retirement will become a progressively more essential focus. Saving for our old age has been a worryingly low priority for a significant percentage of Ireland's baby boomers, many now approaching the final years of their working lives with no clear idea of how they will fund their lifestyles when they eventually leave the workplace. Unlike past generations, many more people nowadays can look forward to twenty or more years of active life beyond the workplace and that, together with the current economic crisis, has thrown a searching spotlight on the shortfall of retirement savings in this country. Many local and national organisations which advocate on behalf of our seniors help us to chart these issues, and many more, which impact on our ageing population, issues like physical and mental well-being, being carers or cared for, social inclusion, isolation, health provision, elder abuse, palliative and end-of life care, active retirement, creating age sensitive and adaptable homes, creating conduits for wisdom and experience, transfer from old to young, technological literacy and the list goes on…. Keeping our heads deeply buried in the sand is definitely not a sustainable position and we are grateful to the local and national organisations who advocate on behalf of our seniors and who help us chart the panoply of complex issues and navigate pathways through them. We are fortunate that we have not only a significant amount of notice of this demographic change, but we have our own ongoing scholarly research as well as international research and experience to help us to construct thoughtful, timely and effective responses so that a quality old age can be hoped for, expected and experienced. We also have some international experience to draw from. However, like many other countries we are now going to have to begin seeking solutions to new challenges. An aging population changes society and presents us with a whole series of new questions that require just and thoughtful answers. Amongst the issues our society will be facing is a changing ratio between the working and the dependent members of our society, extra pressure on health and social services and an increased need to work at achieving social coherence across younger and older generations. A few weeks ago at Dublin Zoo I had the pleasure of opening the new gorilla rainforest and watching the behaviour of the gorilla families in their wonderful new environment. The chief of the clan, a fascinating old silverback was cautious, patient and tentative, the youngsters were brash, adventurous, impatient but the wisdom of their elder tempered their behaviour, just as their impetuousness challenged the older citizen to cut them a little slac,k so that the process of adapting to their new environment could proceed with the right mix of enthusiasm and caution. Both are needed to survive. Our environment is changing radically and we need to draw on all our resources to adapt well, to make the future a healthy and happy place for young and old. I would like to conclude by thanking CARDI for organising this Conference. Clearly, societies that are willing to plan can afford to grow old. That will mean making creative, evidence-based, culturally-appropriate policy choices that will enable us to manage the social and economic challenges posed by the ageing of our population. It will also mean ensuring that our older people are central to the development of policies that affect their lives rather than having policies designed for them. Planning now for an ageing population will help to build an 'age-friendly' Ireland; one that enables people as they grow older to maintain and improve their physical, social and mental wellbeing; that offers older people opportunities to participate in society according to their individual needs, preferences and capacities and society an opportunity to benefit from an increasing number of active and healthy senior citizens; citizens who need to be enabled to live safe, secure and fulfilling lives in their own homes and communities. Go raibh míle maith agaibh. 



Rights: Public
Suggested citation:

CARDI. (2011) Remarks by President McAleese at the opening of the CARDI Conference 'Ageing Globally, Ageing Locally', Croke Park, 2nd November 2011 [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 26th June 2019].


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