Age Awareness Week

Age Awareness Week 2010. City Way Daycare Centre, Belfast and Hannah Casey- workshops and exhibition. 28 September - 02 October 2010.

Opening hours: Tues- Sat 12am - 5pm
This is the second time, PS² opens up to the Age Awareness Week and runs a project with a focus on older people, their creativity and forms of expression, their social situation and their role in society.
Being aware that a place like PS² always runs the risk of showing creative projects by 'young' artists and serving a younger audience, Age Awareness Week provides the perfect opportunity to rebalance this trend and to include an often neglected and underrepresented part of the community.
This project showcase a small selection of recent work made by the members of City Way daycare centre in Belfast. The exhibition will include painting, drawing, sculpture and craft made by older people, exciting work which is rarely visible to the public, who are often unaware of the existence of this vibrant culture.
Artist Hannah Casey, who worked on different activity class before in the centre, will organize a series of workshops specifically in preparation for Age Awareness Week 2010. These classes are seen as an opportunity for company and conversation through the activity of creative work without any constraints as to what the final outcome will be. Some examples of theses workshops will make up part of the exhibition, as well as photographs and sound recordings from these sessions. The exhibition will also include some work by Hannah Casey inspired by her interaction.

Many Thanks to the staff and the members of City Way daycare centre for there help and enthusiasm in the project.
Image: Nora Adams

For more information on Age Awareness Week see: www.ageawarenessweek.com
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Age Awareness Week 2010: Scope of ‘Recognition

The Theme
’Recognition’ is the theme of Age Awareness Week 2010. The meaningful recognition of older people’s skills, experiences, knowledge, achievements and contributions has many benefits to older people and to society as a whole.
Northern Ireland is an ageing society. There are more of us over 60 than ever before, and we are the fastest growing age-group. This signifies the increasing power we will have as consumers of goods, services and facilities and also our increasing influence on the political agenda due to the increasing power of the ‘grey vote’.  For example more than 95% of people in the 65-69 age bracket are registered to vote in Northern Ireland and although there is no data available for turnout and participation of the last election a survey for the 2005 election showed that people over 60 accounted for 77% of overall votes made.
We would all be missing out if we view an ageing society as a problem rather than an opportunity.
Yes, growing old can bring difficulties. But as we grow older, we gain experience, knowledge and wisdom. Growing older is an achievement.

Despite this, it is a fact that as people grow older they are not valued as much as those younger than them. The first Northern Ireland based representative survey to gauge attitudes towards ‘age issues’ was carried out in 2003. From this survey, 48% of respondents considered that older people are treated worse than other age group which is an indication that ageism is a major issue in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, the ageist mindset can become internalised by older people themselves, which leads to poor self image perpetuating this myth of aging, frailty and dependence.
It is in everyone’s interests both young and old that age discrimination is removed from society to enable one to look forward to enjoying their life as they grow older.
Northern Ireland should be a place where older people have the opportunity and are supported to contribute to society be it through employment, volunteering, care, education, arts, decision making or in another capacity. We are not currently making use of the skills and talents of older people and this is to everyone’s detriment.

The government’s ageing strategy for Northern Ireland, Ageing in an Inclusive Society, has a stated objective ‘to promote equality of opportunity for older people and their full participation in civic life and to challenge ageism wherever it is found’. The Lifetime Opportunities Strategy is the government’s anti-poverty and social inclusion strategy for Northern Ireland with the objective to ‘ensure that older people are valued and respected, remain independent, participate as active citizens and enjoy a good quality of life in a safe and shared community’ (OFMDFM 2006a). One clear message from both strategies is that promoting and recognising ‘social inclusion’ and ‘active ageing’ for those aged 50+ years has strong links to ‘health and well being’.
Older people can and do make significant contributions to society. However three in four (74%) older people believe that government do not make good use of the skills and talents of older citizens.
Age brings with it considerable knowledge, experience and skills gained through life experience. The inevitable growth in the older age-cohort presents an opportunity for society to benefit from these qualities.
Action must be taken to not only remove the barriers to participation, but also to enable and empower older people and to recognise and encourage participation from older people in all areas of society.

Key areas of recognition
The following headings explain the importance of the recognition of older people in each of these key areas.

Employment
The vast majority of older people here (88%) believe they should be supported to remain in work as long as possible. Employment can provide older people with a vital source of self-esteem and independence and help to maintain positive mental health. Employment also provides opportunities for social engagement thereby reducing instances of social isolation.
Creating more choice for older people in work is of increasing importance for a number of reasons. The current economic crisis, low returns on savings and pensions coupled with the increased cost of living have left many older people facing an uncertain retirement. Quite simply, many older people cannot afford to stop working. On a separate front, improving employment prospects for older citizens will be necessary for sustainability of the economy. An ageing population will become increasingly dependent on an older workforce for financial stability.

Yet employers continue to stamp an expiry date on many older workers and currently there are no age regulations in place to protect older workers against this. Being made unemployed on the basis of age has become the most disturbing example of age discrimination in our society.

It is important to recognise that older people can still contribute significantly to the workplace and to the economy after the age of 65 and just because they reach a certain date in the diary does not mean that acquired skills, knowledge and experience become unusable or redundant.
66% of older people here reporting a lack of opportunity in employment.
64% of older people believe that age discrimination still exists in the workplace.

Education
Recent figures released by the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) have shown a 46% reduction in the number of people over 60 enrolling in further education courses in Northern Ireland since 2005/06. 
In 2005/06 there were 27,004 people over 60 enrolled in further education and in 2008/09 there were only 14,479. Two key factors contributing to this decline are the withdrawal of concessionary fees for older people and funding cuts for non-vocational courses. Many colleges stopped offering concessionary fees on the basis of age as a result of the Department’s interpretation of the Employment Age (2006) Regulations which they believe may leave colleges open to legal challenge. The department’s policy of curtailing funding for non-accredited courses, such as arts and crafts, has also forced many colleges to cease offering these classes.

The social benefits of older people engaging in education cannot be underestimated. Participating in education can positively impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of older people, helping to reduce the barriers of isolation and poor health.
The majority of older students enrol in non-vocational courses such as arts and crafts, almost twice as many as those taking vocational courses. Many older people rely on these types of courses to engage with their local community. The significant decline in the number of older people accessing courses demonstrates that reduced course choices and increased fees are preventing their participation in education.

While some older people do take part in education to increase qualifications for employment reasons it is the right of older people to participate in further and higher education in order to gain skills and knowledge for reasons other than employment.

It must be recognised that older people can still learn and contribute this learning to society. Indeed neurologists have found through various studies that the brain, as it traverses middle age, gets better at recognizing the central idea, the big picture. If kept in good shape, the brain can continue to see significance and even solutions much faster than a young person can.

Volunteering
Volunteering as a form of active citizenship and community involvement can be used to promote a more positive image of older people to society and encourage more positive self image of older people towards themselves. Volunteering can also be a useful vehicle to promote and address many of the issues relevant to government priorities, which are relevant to older people for example, poverty, social inclusion and health.
A 2007 survey found that those in the 50-64 age group (24%) and those in the 65+ age group (17%) were the least likely age groups to take part in formal volunteering. However those people in this group who did volunteer were the most likely to volunteer once per week (54%) and to give more time than any other age group.
Older volunteers present a valuable asset to society and organisations, and measures should be taken to increase their involvement in voluntary action.

The knowledge, maturity, experience, skills, availability, loyalty and talents of older volunteers demonstrate the significant contribution they could make to the volunteering agenda and to meeting organisational aims and objectives.
The individual benefits of volunteering are multiple and varied and cross physical, mental, social and economic boundaries. Some of the individual benefits directly linked to volunteering include lower blood pressure, stronger immune system, the ability to cope with one’s own illness, improvements in self rated health, improved self-esteem, reduced social isolation, increased ability to cope with bereavement, improved life satisfaction, ability to gain new skills, opportunities to make contributions to society and providing structure to ones day after retirement.
The benefits that can be gained from older people being involved in volunteering activities also link in with the wider government and age sector agenda for older citizens, for example volunteering can help reduce social isolation which is a priority within the ‘Lifetime Opportunities’ strategy.

Local Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector have an important role to play in developing volunteer opportunities for older people that meet their expectations and positively impact on their lives and on communities.

It is important that societal attitudes and public policies focus on the rights of older people and ensures that legislation is put in place that prevents discrimination and promotes equal opportunities within volunteering. The projected rise in the number of older people in our society presents a significant opportunity for organisations to tap into this pool of skilled volunteers.

Caring
There are approximately 185,000 unpaid carers in Northern Ireland, almost 39,000 of whom who are aged 60 or over.
Older people often become informal carers for grandchildren, children (38 per cent of the carers of sons and daughters with a disability are over pensionable age and spouses, and it is estimated that informal carers save the NI Government an estimated £1.9 billionevery year.
Older people contribute to the maintenance and strengthening of social infrastructure through informal caring, they form that basis of employment support, family management and childcare which enables younger family members and parents to participate in learning for future employment and to retain existing employment on both full-time and part-time bases.
Older carers make significant contributions to the stability of families, cost savings for health care services and to businesses. These cost savings and contributions to society must be recognised and celebrated.

The Aim
Age Awareness Week 2010 aims to challenge attitudes to older people’s contribution to society, practices of how we engage with older people and stimulate public debates on the importance of recognising older peoples skills, experiences, knowledge, achievements and contributions now and for future generations.

The Challenge
Older people deal with challenges driven by negative imaging and stereotyping, and assumptions about their economic potential, productivity, capacity, skills and ‘cost’ to society. Such negative perceptions fail to acknowledge older people’s enormous cultural, social and professional resources. However, if the public rise to this challenge and begin to realise the opportunities of demographic ageing, older people can become empowered to participate in society.

The Solutions
Government, businesses, family, communities and older people must begin to recognise the positive and important contribution that older people make, rather than simply viewing older people as a drain/burden on society. We must stop viewing older people as a homogenous group and start recognising the differences ‘between’ and ‘within’ age groups, based on social, economic, demographic, cultural, ethnical, health/disability related factors.
There is currently a lack of research which measures the actual monetary value in terms of health care cost savings of older people’s contributions to society through caring, volunteering, education and employment.
By recognising older people’s contribution to these and other areas, society’s mindset will begin to change and older people will become empowered to further contribute to society.
This will begin to change ageist mindsets and create a society where age is not viewed as a misfortune or a cause for pity, but is embraced as part of life and human nature.
Where society realises that when people reach a certain date on the calendar, all skills, experiences, knowledge and achievements acquired though life are still viable and don’t become unusable or redundant but continue to grow and be developed.
A society in which we are accepted for who we are and not what age we are and where we all look forward to enjoying our life as we grow older. (Text:ageni. For more information see: www.ageuk.org.uk/northern-ireland/