Today, on UN International Day of Older Persons 2021, the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD, celebrates older people in communities across the country.
Minister Butler stated that “as a society, we seek to ensure the availability of supports for older people who need them, to help individuals to live longer in their communities and to provide more intensive care when independent living is no longer an option.”
"Significant enhancements in older persons services have already been achieved this year. In communities across the country, the number of home support hours has increased, with the number of people waiting reduced. Latest HSE provisional data suggests that as of end of August approximately 13.2 million home support hours had been provided to 53,905 people. This is reflective of the significant investment in home support in 2021 and is about 2 million more hours compared to the same period last year. Importantly, this provisional data shows approximately 478 people were waiting for funding approval for home support, representing an 88% reduction compared to the same period in 2020.”
While there are sometimes delays between the approval of funding and the delivery of home support hours in certain regions, significant work is underway to address these challenges. This includes the establishment of a Strategic Workforce Advisory Group to look in detail at issues of recruitment, retention, skills development, pay and conditions, and sustainable employment of home carers into the future.
Minister Butler continued that “in recognition of the significant impact of COVID-19 on older people and the need to continue to provide all protective measures to this group of individuals, residents aged 65 years and older living in long term residential care facilities and people aged 80 years and older living in the community are being prioritised for a booster dose of the vaccine. I am very pleased that the booster programme is expected to commence next week in nursing homes and will complete within three weeks”.
Finally, Minister Butler concluded by stating that “is very timely that the UN International Day of Older Persons this year has adopted the theme of Digital Equity for All Ages. This is at a time when connectivity and connectedness have been strongly leveraged in our response to the pandemic. Access to technology and digital literacy for older people has been pioneered and championed by groups across the country. However, we must also recognise the scope for improvement, especially in access to online supports in all communities, urban and rural, for older people of all ages”.
“I am very aware of the great responsibility and honour of being Minister for Older People, as well as Mental Health. I am constantly amazed by the positive work done both by and for older people to enhance the quality of life for this group of individuals. The sector has my continued commitment and dedication to working with all stakeholders to improve outcomes for our older population so that Ireland becomes one of the best places in the world in which to grow old”.