Social Justice think tank says Ireland needs to prepare for nearly a million over-65s by 2031
by Bernard Purcell
Ireland is set to see its elderly population vastly increase over the next decade and a half with nearly a million over-65s by 2031 – a jump of 86.4 per cent. But rather than prepare for this by the necessary social investment Ireland has been cutting back on provision for older people, putting strain on family members of all ages, an economic think tank has warned.
The figures were published this week by independent think tank Social Justice Ireland in its National Social Monitor for 2016. Social Justice Ireland said 136,000 of these older citizens will be aged 85 or over – an increase of 132.8 per cent Director of Social Justice Ireland Dr Sean Healy said the demographic time bomb could be defused with proper social planning.
“Now is the time to plan for this demographic change,” he said. “This level of population ageing will be associated with higher levels of disability and long-term ill-health so now is the time for planning and investment,” he said.
His colleague who compiled the report, research and policy analyst Michelle Murphy, said: “Social Justice Ireland is seriously concerned that adequate funding is not being provided to address the ageing of the population that will result in a steady increase in older people and people with disabilities accessing services.
“With an ageing population, the acute hospital system will be unable to operate effectively unless there is a greater shift towards primary and community services as a principal means of meeting patient needs.”
Dr Healy said that rather than prepare for an increase in its older population successive Irish governments had cut provision for it.
“There has been a 17 per cent reduction in the number of home help hours delivered since 2008. This has left families struggling to cover the gaps in care for their elderly relatives,” he said.
“The demographic changes we are highlighting today also have major implications for lifelong learning and employment – other areas which are addressed in the (report),” said Dr Healy.
“A commitment to supporting people at home is only aspirational if funding is not provided for home help services, day care centres and home care packages. These are the very areas which must be the subject of investment to address population ageing,” said Ms. Murphy.