Remarks by President McAleese at the Annual Parliament Meeting of the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament, 26th March 2010
Dia dhíbh go léir inniu. Tá an-áthas orm bheith anseo libh ar an ócáid speisialta seo. Míle bhuíochas dibh as an gcuireadh agus an fáilte a thug sibh dom.
This Parliament is one of a number of Senior Citizens Parliaments across the EU, providing access to political decision-making at the highest level and enhancing the coordinated and collective voice of older people, in particular those at risk of social exclusion. It only exists because you care about the quality of life of our senior citizens and care enough to get involved, get organized and insist on being heard. Thanks to your individual sense of responsibility and collective efforts, this Parliament has become a recognized and necessary centre of gravity right at the forefront of representing the distinctive needs and perspectives of older people at local, national and international levels. I thank you for giving older people such a structured and effective opportunity to engage actively on the many issues that affect your day-to-day lives.
They say that with age comes wisdom. A lot of other things come along too, things that can change a person’s context and priorities considerably. Among the images I have from my teenage days is the memory of the rehabilitation of a small local park into which benches were specially put for the first time for seniors. It was a kindly well-intentioned thought but it carried a subliminal message that those of advancing years were expected to be sedentary and to be spectators. A more recent image points up the changed expectations and ambitions of Ireland’s seniors – that is the opening of the first Tone Zone, a public outdoor gym for seniors in Dunshaughlin, thanks to Meath County Council’s Tom Dowling and the redoubtable Mary Nally. That good idea has caught on all over Ireland so strongly that the equipment once manufactured in China is now manufactured here. The “grey pound/euro” and “grey ambition” are showcasing their collective power and their intention to use their lives to the full in new and imaginative ways that enhance its quality and its opportunities.