Inaugural meeting of new Commission on Care for Older People

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The Commission on Care for Older People, which was appointed by the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, and the Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler,  will focus on how best Ireland’s health and social care services can meet the needs of our older population.

It will also look at how all Government Departments can best support positive ageing across the life course.

Commission members bring a wealth of expertise to the work, including across the areas of geriatrics, gerontology, health economics, health policy and management, primary care, health ethics, health technologies, ageing and disability, and lived experience.

The work of the Commission will be supported by a Reference Group of members of the community and voluntary sector, and those with lived experience.

The work of the Commission will be advanced through three modules of work. The first two modules will be of six months’ duration while the final module will be of 12 months’ duration. The modules will run consecutively. Funding of €1.2 million was secured in Budget 2024 to support the work of the Commission.

Module 1 will explore current services and learning for the future, particularly focusing on: health and social care services, models of supported living for older people, and policy initiatives in train within the social care system.

Module 2 will explore options for the future, particularly focusing on: the strategic development of health and social care, the strategic development of capital infrastructure, new technologies, and funding and resource allocation.

A report will be prepared after Module 2 for the consideration of the Minister for Health and Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People detailing the challenges and opportunities identified, and presenting a costed framework for the overarching strategic development of health and social care services and supports for older people that advances national strategic objectives.

Subsequently, a cross-departmental group will be established under the auspices of the Commission to consider whether the supports for positive ageing across the life course are fit-for-purpose and to develop a costed implementation plan for options to optimise these supports. 

Addressing the Commission at its inaugural meeting, Minister Butler, said:

“I was pleased to convene the first meeting of the Commission on Care for Older People. Supporting the positive ageing of older people in Ireland has been a long-held priority for me. 

The breadth of the expertise and experience of the members of the Commission will ensure that the Commission’s deliberations and recommendations are informed by emerging good practice and lessons learned nationally and internationally.

Ireland was the first country to be formally recognised by the World Health Organization as ‘age friendly’ in 2019. We have one of the highest life expectancies in the EU, notwithstanding an ageing population. I welcome that the Commission will look at the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population as part of the ongoing strategic development of health and social care services.

By appointing representatives of the community and voluntary sectors, and importantly of older people themselves, I am hopeful the Commission’s work will be better informed by the lived experience of older people across the country. This will ensure that we can deliver access to timely, high-quality, person-centred, integrated care in the most appropriate settings. 

Professor Alan Barrett (Chief Executive Officer of the Economic and Social Research Institute) is the Chairperson of the Commission.

The other members are:

  • Dr. Emer Ahern, Consultant, Trauma and Orthogeriatrician, Cork University Hospital, and National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead, Older Persons, Health Service Executive. Dr. Ahern is currently the President of the Irish Gerontological Society.
  • Dr. Jonathan Cylus, Senior Research Fellow, London School of Economics and Head of the London Hubs of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies.
  • Dr. Lucinda Dockeray, Director, Care of the Older Person Course, Irish College of General Practitioners.
  • Ita Healy, Chairperson, National Network of Older People’s Councils and the Chairperson of Meath’s Older People’s Council.
  • Professor Mary McCarron, Professor of Ageing and Intellectual Disability, and Director of the Trinity Centre for Ageing and Intellectual Disability, Trinity College Dublin; Executive Director of the National Intellectual Disability Memory Service.
  • Catherine McGuigan, Chief Officer, Age Friendly Ireland.
  • Seán Moynihan, Chief Executive Officer, ALONE.
  • Professor Christopher Nugent, Head of the School of Computing, Ulster University.
  • Professor Eamonn O’Shea, Personal Professor in the School of Business and Economics, Founding Director of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, and Director of the Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia, University of Galway.
  • Cathy Reynolds, Lived Experience and Board Member, Alzheimer Society of Ireland.
  • Professor David Smith, Associate Professor of Health Care Ethics, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI)