Louth has been selected to take part in Age Friendly Economy, a prestigious EU programme.
Louth's first meeting of stakeholders (SMEs, Dkit, Creative Spark) took place on Thursday 8th of March.
Age Friendly Economy is an EU Erasmus+ project, bringing together partners in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Poland and Denmark. The European Union fund the programme.
The project is being co-ordinated in Louth by the Local Enterprise Office. “Louth is known to have an age-friendly, positive attitude, and that is why we were selected to take part,” says Sarah Mallon, Assistant Business Adviser in Louth Local Enterprise Office.
The project aims to support individuals and businesses in developing entrepreneurial, innovation and digital skills which in turn will lead to the creation of new products and services demanded by older markets.
“Louth had a history of taking part in cross-border, innovative projects,” Sarah explains. “We also have worked on EU economic projects before and are known for being an age-friendly innovator,” she adds.
“We had our first meeting in Louth last week, which was attended by stakeholders,” Sarah says. “There were people from the SME community, representatives from DkIT’s Lifelong Learning Centre, Dundalk Chamber of Commerce, Creative Spark… we also had Mary Deery from Louth County Council and Bernie Bradley from Monaghan County Council,” she continues.
“Next Thursday and Friday the partners from Europe are coming to Dundalk to meet up,” Sarah says. “The project leader is Lisburn Castlerea City Council. We also are working with Aging Lab in Andalusia, Spain, the Northern Chamber of Commerce in Szczecin, Poland, Feltech Software Innovations Ltd in Loughrea Galway, and the European E-Learning Institute in Denmark.”
“The aim of Age Friendly Economy is to support SMEs in innovating their skills in order to develop products for an older market,” Sarah explains. “The older generation are a huge market, with many people of that age having lots of disposable income.”
“By catering towards this market, there are direct economic benefits for the companies as people are buying their goods and services, but there is also a wider societal benefit… we are all aging after all,” Sarah adds.
Each region will be given a toolkit in order to develop their skills. “This will be practical for people running SME’s. We are setting up an online course, with different modules, which will help business owners expand their skills,” she explains. “Entrepreneurs will also learn to tweak their product to suit the older market.”
“We are planning to trial this online training with 15 SMEs in Louth,” reveals the Assistant Business Adviser. “Then we will have a business boot camp, where training will be tailored to the businesses who take part.”
“We also want to set up a collaborative platform to get ideas, to transfer knowledge and to discuss any issues,” adds Sarah. “We want our local businesses to capitalise on this economic opportunity, especially because Louth is known as an age-friendly place,” she adds. “At the end of it all we will hold a big event to showcase the progress that has been made.”