New laws to aid older people vital
It has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve as Northern Ireland's first Commissioner for Older People, a role created following extensive lobbying by older people and established with unanimous political support in the Assembly.
Throughout my time as Commissioner I have listened to, been challenged by and worked alongside older people and their representative organisations.
They have been generous with their time and expertise and the issues which matter most to them have been at the heart of my work. Their insight has been invaluable as I have made difficult choices about priority areas for action.
I have worked to promote the positive contributions that older people make to our society. Older people in Northern Ireland will make a net contribution to the economy of around £25bn over the next 50 years as a result of volunteering, caring, paying taxes and providing childcare. We are a better and richer society because more of us are living longer.
As an independent champion for older people, I have advised Government on issues including the need for improved support for older carers, the need to value our older workforce and to bring forward urgently needed pieces of legislation to reform adult social care and to better protect older people from abuse. I have also advised on the need to tackle crimes against older people.
It is vital that older people are included in decisions about their lives, treated fairly, with respect and provided with the services and support they need when they need it at the right level and quality.
Yet I remain frustrated by the lack of decisive action required by Government to introduce the legislation, services and policy that would create the confidence and certainty that today's and tomorrow's older people need and deserve.
Government must act to commit the resources and make the changes required, and I believe they would have the overwhelming support of the public. The changes required are achievable. I call on Government to show leadership, implement the advice that I have provided and make Northern Ireland a great place to age.
- Claire Keatinge is NI Commissioner for Older People