The recent AGM of the Louth People’s Forum heard about the the vital role the forum has played in making Louth the premier age friendly county in Ireland.
From restructuring the county’s bus service to combatting loneliness and improving age friendly business services, the Forum have established the needs of the county’s older people and delivered real and lasting change.
Ann Ward has been elected chair of the Forum for the second time, after receiving glowing praise at their recent AGM for the stellar progress made over the past two years.
“Louth has led the way in Ireland because it puts the older person at the centre of decision-making and service delivery – and the Louth Older People’s Forum has been one of the main driving forces behind that,” said Mary Deery, Louth Age Friendly County Co-Ordinator.
The Forum consists of older people’s groups, advocacy groups, nursing homes, day care centres, community stakeholders and individuals and meets on a monthly basis.
Vice Chairperson Kath Briggs and Secretary Michael McCoy will join Ann on the new committee, which will serve a two-year term.
On a local level, one of the great triumphs of the Forum over the past two years has been the dawning of a new era for bus commuters looking to use Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.
The Forum recently also carried out a comprehensive Age Friendly survey of the needs of older people in County Louth.
“The survey was the first of its kind, and we are looking forward to publishing results which will show a full picture of the views and needs of older people in the area,” said Ann.
The Forum also made a submission to Louth County Council planning office on the development of the Louth Retail Strategy.
The county has also hosted two annual Age Friendly Business and Consumer Fairs at Darver Castle in October – each attracting crowds of over 3,000.
Ardee was also recently awarded the status of Ireland’s first Age Friendly Town and is now being used as an exemplar for 16 other towns in the country.
“The Louth Older People’s Forum has earned respect and trust because its constitution and services were designed by the members,” said Ann.
“The Forum has led to person-centred services such as the Cultacha older people’s advocacy service, the Nestling Project, the Parlour, Men’s Sheds in Dundalk, Drogheda and Cooley and Good Morning Call Services in Dundalk and Drogheda.
“We have also established a GAA social initiative, a volunteer day centre, care and repair programmes, befriending services and much more.
But Louth’s impact is not just on a local stage – it is also a full member of the WHO Global Age-Friendly Cities Network.
The county won the prestigious Taoiseach’s Public Service Excellence Award in 2012 for the “Sharing the Journey” Age Friendly County project.
“We were recently awarded the top status as a reference site for the ground-breaking European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing,” said Ann.
“Because of this, Forum members are now playing their part in a regional alliance, older people’s forum and transport group and the county is in line for vital funding under the Horizon 2020 initiative.”