What it’s like to be over 56 in Ireland

Nine out of ten adults in Ireland aged over 56 years are confident they have a friend or relative they can rely on, with 88% of older adults taking part in weekly social leisure activities, according to the second National Positive Ageing Indicators Report published by the Department of Health and launched by the Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly TD.

The report also shows that 32% of older adults are taking five or more prescription medicines on a daily basis.

This year’s report also includes supplementary indicators for two groups in Irish society not sufficiently represented in the initial indicator set in 2016: Irish Travellers and people with an intellectual disability.

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The indicators highlighted some positive news about the lives of people ageing with intellectual disabilities. For example, 96% of people with an intellectual disability aged 40 plus were involved in one or more social activity at least once a week and that smoking and alcohol use was low in this population. Seven per cent of people with an intellectual disability smoked and 62% never drank alcohol.

On the downside, however, 85% of people aged 40 plus with an intellectual disability were sedentary or under-active and almost three out of four people (74%) had poor bone health.

Working in later life can have a significant influence on income levels and can be an indicator of better health and wellbeing, however indicators for Irish Travellers aged 40 plus from Census 2016 showed an employment rate of just 13%.

Eighty eight per cent of older Irish Travellers had access to a piped water supply, and 56% had good self-rated health (compared to a national average of 80%).

However, 58% of Irish Travellers aged 40 plus had a chronic disease and almost a third reported difficulty dressing, bathing or moving around the home – an indicator of disability.

On a national level, for adults aged over 56 years:

  • Social participation in Ireland continued to be high, with 82% socially active on a weekly basis.
  • The volunteering rate had increased to 41% and was among the highest in Europe.
  • The rate of participation in formal education and training had increased to 9%

For Healthy Ageing:

  • Satisfaction with life remained ‘high’ at 86%.
  • Sixty two per cent of the over 65s received a flu vaccination, below the national target of 75%.
  • BreastCheck screening rates were on target with 83% of those eligible being screened.
  • The rate of polypharmacy (the percentage of adults taking 5 or more medications) had not changed at 32%.
  • Rates of low physical activity (39%) and obesity (33%) had not changed.
  • New indicators for end of life care showed the levels of unmet need for care in the last year of life – 30% for allied health care services, 15% for community care (15%), and 16% for home help.

For Security:

  • Seventy two per cent felt safe in their local area when out alone at night.
  • Sixty five per cent felt a strong sense of neighbourhood social cohesion.
  • Only 10% had difficulty accessing recreational or green areas.
  • The percentage of households with a person aged 65 plus who had difficulty keeping their homes adequately warm had halved since 2013, and at 5% was among the lowest in Europe.