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Ireland is Missing Out on a Generation of Active Citizens

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Dublin, Ireland 14th April 2016. Ireland is in danger of ignoring the contribution that older people can make to their communities, according to a report launched on Wednesday 13th April at City Hall, Dublin.

The findings are part of Touchstone Project, a community engagement initiative of the Active Ageing Partnership, (Active Retirement Ireland, Age & Opportunity and Third Age), and the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology in NUI Galway.

Maurice O’Connell is the Partnership co-ordinator: “The Project revealed that older people have lots to offer, and are ready and willing to contribute to their communities. But there are many barriers to this civic engagement which can isolate and marginalise. There is a need to empower older citizens to overcome these barriers, enabling them to contribute to making Irish society far fairer and more inclusive,” he said.

The Touchstone Programme offers this empowerment. Its origins are the Partnership formed in 2014 between Active Retirement Ireland, Age & Opportunity and Third Age, three organisations working to promote the ageing sector in Ireland. “We shared a commitment to develop and implement a programme of action for greater civic engagement by older people within their own communities. This took the shape of an adult-learning programme involving fifty older people from different parts of Galway city and county supported by the Lifecourse Department of NUIG.

“The six-week programme provided opportunities for participants to explore ageism, learn methods of research and campaigning and understand media. It also offered participants the chance to initiate their own small-scale projects. Above all, the older person was positioned at the centre of this experiential learning process,” said Maurice O’Connell.

The programme’s results indicate that 100% of participants were more motivated to become engaged with their communities. This is the verdict of one participant Hugh Murphy: “Thanks to the Touchstone programme, I was able to stand back and not only examine the status of over 55s in Ireland but also my own attitudes and how I would plan my future. I made the decision to grasp every opportunity that would come my way and to refuse to let any obstacle in my path deter from at least trying,” he said.

On the downside, however, programme evaluation indicates that Irish society is not capitalising on its ageing population. The Touchstone report is launched by Professor Thomas Scharf, former head of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology. A number of participants explain what the course meant to them, and journalist Valerie Cox gave the closing address.


About Active Retirement Ireland:

Active Retirement Ireland is a national network of over 560 local Active Retirement Associations with over 24,500 members. ARI believes that older people have the right to be full and participative members of our society and combats ageism through the reality and everyday work of the self-organised local associations and the regional councils. ARI has a large voluntary base with local, regional and national voluntary committees. The purpose of Active Retirement Ireland is to enable retired people to enjoy a full and active life and to advocate for them. For more information: T: 01 8733836, E:, W:

About Age & Opportunity:

Age & Opportunity is the leading body providing nationwide programmes in creativity, physical activity and personal development so that all older people can have a rich and varied life in Ireland. The Age & Opportunity vision is of a world where, as we age, we have the right and the opportunity to realise our potential. We have the right to shape decisions that affect our lives and the life of our community. Age & Opportunity will lead the debate on the issues concerning contemporary aging and older people. Age & Opportunity is primarily funded by the Arts Council of Ireland, the HSE, the Irish Sports Council and the Atlantic Philanthropies. For more information, T: 0851775488, E:, W:

About Third Age:

About Third Age Third Age is a national voluntary organisation celebrating the third age in life when people may no longer be in paid employment, but can remain healthy, fulfilled and continue to contribute to society. Through a variety of local and national programmes, Third Age demonstrates the value of older people remaining engaged and contributing in their own community for as long as possible. For more information T. 0877450721 E:, W:

Media Enquiries

For press information, images and interview requests (English & Irish), please contact Tom Redmond at 0851775488 or email

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