UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, has warned of the dangers of diminishing the autonomy and dignity of people as we age.
COPE Galway today (Monday, 29 June) launched their 2019 Annual Report, where they revealed that in 2019, they responded to the needs of 2,984 people in Galway who were experiencing homelessness, domestic abuse, and older people in need of social and nutritional support. This is a 20% increase on the numbers supported by the local organisation the year before.
Online attendees at the launch heard from service managers who gave an overview of the impact of COPE Galway’s work during 2019 across its services for homelessness, domestic abuse and senior support.
The charity gave particular focus today to their work with older people in our communities, many of whom may experience loneliness and isolation, compounded recently with restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions that have related to over-70s in particular, have placed older people in our community in the spotlight. Some public commentary during this time has revealed ageist attitudes, inappropriately biased language and ageist terms within certain contexts.
Keynote speaker at the launch, Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, gave a stirring address, emphasising how our human rights do not diminish with age. She acknowledged how COPE Galway has brought attention to the specific needs and rights of older people, while at the same time affirming an older person’s autonomy and dignity. “This is evident”, she said, “when one understands that not only are older people an important group supported by COPE Galway, but that the volunteer community – the heartbeat of COPE Galway’s work – are significantly made up of older adults”.
COPE Galway CEO, Jacquie Horan, speaking at the launch said, “Today, we want to highlight the valuable contribution older people offer our communities when, too often, old age can be seen as a burden. We want to change the narrative, to “flip the script” and to focus on the invaluable support and contribution older people offer. While COVID-19 has been important in prioritising safety, there have been some consequential effects we hadn’t anticipated and need to address”.
Ms Horan referred to recent research by NUIG’s Professor Kieran Walsh that cites concerning evidence where older people are portrayed as “mass consumers of valuable and limited resources” that block treatment for younger, healthier and seemingly ‘more productive’ individuals. “This devalues the status of older people as equal citizens and the perceived value that we place on their contributions, and their lives, in our society.”*
Ms Horan expressed gratitude to the many older people who have chosen a volunteering path with which to keep active and connected. With 31% of COPE Galway weekly volunteers over-65 and 18% over-70, COPE Galway relies on older people to volunteer on a weekly basis.
Being active and engaged is an important way for older people to stay connected and well. The World Health Organisation (WHO) sees healthy ageing as helping build societies that are cohesive, peaceful, just, secure and sustainable. Older people present invaluable contributions to society in terms of wisdom and experience, along with practical supports like volunteering and childminding.
Occasionally, the story of our ageing population is presented as one of costs, especially those related to health issues. Yet, according to the WHO, the contributions older people make through taxation, consumer spending and other economically valuable activities are worth billions more than the expenditure on older people through pensions, welfare and health care combined.**
There is a consensus among older people in our community that they wish to be able to live independently and healthily in their own homes for as long as possible. COPE Galway contributed to making this possible for over 700 people in 2019 by providing vital nutritional, social and practical supports through their senior support service.
Jacquie Horan concluded, “As a global society, there are more and more of us experiencing the privilege of ageing. By 2050, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 22% of our global population will be over 60. The determinants of healthy ageing are many and varied and relate to individuals and environments. Achieving equal access to healthy ageing requires concerted global, national and local action – and a decisive end to ageist attitudes.”
Download the 2019 COPE Galway Annual Report and stories at copegalway.ie/annualreport
- Combatting exclusions and ageism for older people during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Four Key Messages. Prof. Kieran Walsh, Professor of Ageing and Public Policy (Economics) / Chair – ROSEnet COST Action CA15122. Director – Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, Institute for Lifecourse and Society, NUI, Galway http://rosenetcost.com/combatting-exclusions-and-ageism-for-older-people-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/
**WHO fact file: misconceptions on ageing and health, no. 3 https://www.who.int/ageing/features/misconceptions/en/)
The 2019 COPE Galway Annual Report is available to download at copegalway.ie/annualreport.
If you require a hard/emailed copy of annual report, or further information please contact Colette Coughlan.
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Contact: Jacquie Horan, CEO, COPE Galway. Tel: 091 778 750
COPE Galway Background Information:
COPE Galway is a local Galway Organisation whose vision is an “Improved Quality of Life in a Home of your Own” for people affected by homelessness, women and children experiencing domestic abuse, and older people.
In 2019 COPE Galway worked with 2,984 vulnerable people in Galway. This included 1,189 adults and 433 children affected by homelessness in Galway, (187 families and 868 single people). They also worked with 638 individual women and their children who were experiencing Domestic Abuse, produced and delivered 61,016 meals to older clients and to their services around Galway and worked with 724 older people at risk of isolation. The organisation also supported 2,938 individuals with food from Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived (FEAD) Programme and distributed over 700 school kits.
Professor Fionnuala Ní Aolaín Short Biography:
Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin is concurrently Regents Professor and Robina Professor of Law, Public Policy and Society at the University of Minnesota Law School and Professor of Law at the Queens University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. She has published extensively on issues of gender, conflict regulation, transitional justice, terrorism and international law. Professor Ní Aoláin is currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, and has been nominated twice by the Irish government to the European Court of Human Rights, the first woman and the first academic lawyer to be thus nominated