Age & Opportunity research reveals that older persons don’t see themselves as rights holders

Only 35% of older persons in Ireland are aware that they are ‘rights holders’ on the basis of their age. Almost 40% feel they have been treated unfairly due to their age. 88% feel that government does not take enough notice of their needs.

These stark findings are from a new research report ‘Rights and Duty: the voice of older persons as rights holders’ published today by Age & Opportunity. The research gathered insights from 302 older people across Ireland.

“Almost three quarters of the older persons who responded to this survey felt that ageism is present in society in general,” said Mary Harkin, Policy & Research Manager with Age & Opportunity. But the low level of older persons who are aware that they are rights holders compromises their ability to address this ageism.”

Of the respondents to the research survey 72% were unaware of the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty, but a significant proportion understood its principles. The Duty charges all public bodies in Ireland with responsibility to promote equality, prevent discrimination and protect the human rights of their employees, customers, service users and everyone affected by their policies and plans.

“It’s so important that all of us – society, legislators and communities – approach issues related to ageing in the context of human rights. All people should enjoy the right to participate equally in society,” said Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

“IHREC was delighted to fund, through our grant programme, the excellent work that Age & Opportunity has done in showing legislators and the wider public some of the challenges faced by older people, particularly during the Covid-19 crisis, as they try to access their human rights. It’s imperative that further work is done to inform and upskill older people about the extent and exercise of their rights, particularly under the Public Sector Duty.”

The ‘Rights and Duty’ research was led by older people themselves as part of Age & Opportunity’s commitment to PPI (Personal Public Involvement) in research. Angela Gallagher, Co Cork; Bridie O’Reilly, Co Dublin; and John Flynn, Co Leitrim were involved in steering the work.

“Our research shows that many older people experience discrimination and don’t do anything about it. If more older persons saw themselves as rights holders they would be more likely to defend these rights if they felt they were being treated unfairly,” said Angela Gallagher.

“There is a definite feeling that government do not take enough notice of the needs of older people when planning services. There is still a lot of work to be done before Ireland is the best place in the world to grow older,” said Bridie O’Reilly.

A high percentage of respondents felt that policies on financial services, employment, and health and social care are unfair to older people. Insurance, transportation, and housing were identified as discriminating against older people.

“We found that lack of accessible and reliable public transportation, especially in rural areas, is much more of a concern for older people.  It really does limit your mobility and independence and impinges on your right to participate in the life of your community,” said John Flynn.

Life experience and wisdom can benefit policies for all

The findings show that older people in Ireland believe that life experience and wisdom can contribute to creating better policies and services for people of all ages.  “Many respondents stressed the need for more listening and consultation with older people by policy makers,” said Mary Harkin of Age & Opportunity.

The research was carried out by Straightfoward Research and Development and members of Age & Opportunity’s PPI group.

Age & Opportunity received funding from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Grants Scheme as part of the Commission’s statutory power to provide grants to promote human rights and equality under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014.

The report ‘Rights and Duty: the voice of older persons as rights holders’ is available here.

A Summary leaflet of the Report is available here.