Dublin: Retirement Shouldn’t Mean That Older People Are Dumped On The Scrapheap

14 Apr

OLDER people have been urged by Dr Martin McAleese to look at how they view themselves.

“There is a tendency for older people to reduce their activities and expectations to sitting down and becoming an observer of other people’s lives,” Dr McAleese said.

Retirement shouldn’t mean that older people retire to the subs’ bench.”

People wanted to live full lives all their lives and were entitled to do so, he told the 23,000-member Active Retirement Ireland (ARI) annual meeting yesterday.

Retired people should challenge the view that older people had to become observers of other people’s lives, said Dr McAleese, who has recently turned 60.

Addressing 400 people at the meeting in the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney, he said retired and older men, especially, were at risk of becoming isolated and inactive unless they took part in hands-on activities.

He referred to the situation faced by many rural men and welcomed the GAA’s Social Initiative as a means of dealing with that situation.

All people needed human contact and company, he said, but such a need is not always available in today’s world.

“The disappearance of the corner shop and of the person getting off their bike to have a chat on the roadside and many other opportunities for human interaction have disappeared.

“Ways of keeping people in touch with others have to be found,” he remarked.

Dr McAleese, who helped found the GAA initiative to take older people out of isolation, in 2009, said phase two would offer optional programmes on health care and information technology such as mobile phones and computing.

During a visit to China with President Mary McAleese, he had observed benches in public parks for older people.

“These were exercise benches — the view here would be that benches were for seating older people,” he said.

The McAleeses will be leaving Áras an Uachtaráin after 14 years, on November 10 next, and Dr McAleese said he would be making no plans for his retirement until after that date, but he promised that he would be active.

“I have no fear of change. There’s a certain buzz about the uncertainty of change,” he said.

ARI chief executive Maureen Kavanagh said research in Ireland and the western world had found men were less likely than women to remain active in society once they had retired.

“Many men’s social spheres revolve entirely around the workplace and when they retire, these social spheres often aren’t replaced. The loss of a partner or spouse can also contribute to isolation, especially among rural men,” Ms Kavanagh said.

She said the more practical and hands-on the activity, the more attractive it was to men. Bowling, walking and other sporting activities are a huge draw. as are gardening and do-it-yourself activities.

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