We need to treasure our elderly
As head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland, we appreciate the value and importance of preserving our treasured landmarks and landscapes. But amid our favourite parks and places is another treasure - our people.
Tomorrow marks the International Day of Older Persons. Locally, the number and proportion of older people in the population is steadily and consistently increasing.
Within the next 15 years it is projected there will be more people aged 65 and over than there are children.
Older people make a huge positive contribution to our society, one that will reach £25bn, in financial terms, to our economy in the next half-a-century.
Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £35m has been invested in projects that work with and provide programmes specifically for older people.
We are proud to support groups such as the Caw/Nelson Drive Action Group in Derry/Londonderry, which provides luncheon clubs and social occasions to help combat isolation and loneliness.
While those of a certain age who thought their playing days were behind them can enjoy the beautiful game through Danderball (walking football), a brilliant initiative which promotes physical health and well-being for men in a number of council areas in Northern Ireland.
National Museums Northern Ireland's Live and Learn project also provides opportunities for creative and cultural engagement for those living in isolated, or rural, areas.
These are all in addition to the thousands more attractions and activities funded by National Lottery distributors, the Arts Council Northern Ireland, the Big Lottery Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Sport NI, that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
For the last year the National Lottery has run the Old Is Gold campaign to highlight the life-changing impact of this funding. Gold, by its definition, is both precious and beautiful, which is how we should view and treat those in the golden age of their lives.
And, if we do, as a society we will all be much richer for it.
Paul Mullan is head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland and chair of NI National Lottery Distributors' Forum