ARK Research Centre: Older People in Northern Ireland

Project team: Professor Eileen Evason
Dr Katrina Lloyd (ARK)
Paula Devine (ARK)
Patricia McKee (ARK)

Start date: 1 July 2004 End Date: 30 June 2005

Funding body: Atlantic Philanthropies

The impetus for this project derives from a number of concerns raised by members of voluntary organisations and others representing older people.

Firstly, there has been concern about lack of information on older people in Northern Ireland. The problem here is not that the data does not exist but that it is scattered across a number of sets of data. Our primary intention, building on other work, is therefore to bring the material together, subject it to further analysis and present it in an accessible manner to assist those seeking to promote change to the benefit of older people.

Secondly, there has been concern that in the debate on social need, a hierarchy has developed with the result being that the poverty experienced by some groups appears to be viewed as of greater significance than that of others. Whilst the recent consultation document "Ageing in an Inclusive Society" made some amends, the earlier consultation document on targeting social need "New TSN - the way forward" is notable for its lack of attention to pensioner poverty. We know, however, that for many older people poverty is a real problem. For example, the 1999/2000 Life and Times survey indicated that 59% of sole female pensioners in Northern Ireland had incomes below what was required to secure a basic, minimum standard of living . We also know that the problem of pensioner poverty is likely to increase as the basic state pension continues to decline as a percentage of average earnings and many pensioners remain reluctant to claim means-tested support. At the same time, employers are seeking to reduce their involvement in pension provision for employees. In consequence, it is essential that the needs of older people are, alongside other groups, given their place, in debates on poverty and social need. We hope our fact sheets will contribute to this.

A third concern relates to the unhelpful assumptions and unthinking assertions that permeate discussions in the media - often promoted in the past by policy makers - on the fact that we are an ageing society. In essence, this is presented as intrinsically problematic. Older people are seen as a burden - as dependants - whose growing numbers are likely to place intolerable strain on our health and social care services, render our pensions policies unsustainable and give rise to costs which younger taxpayers will find insupportable. Whilst in the UK, and many other countries, demographic trends may be testing, these generally negative perspectives need to be examined more closely.

Methods and outputs
The project pulled together data from a range of published sources, as well as undertaking secondary analysis of Northern Irish datasets. From this, a series of reports was produced. Each report focuses on a different theme (including poverty, health and lifestyle) and provides policy context as well as quantitative results.

Report 1: Setting the Scene (5 November 2004)
Report 2: Financial circumstances (14 December 2004)

Report 3: Health and social wellbeing (14 March 2005)
Report 4: The Angry Generation (31 May 2005)
Report 5: Older People in the Republic of Ireland (20 June 2005)
Final Report (July 2005)


Disclaimer: © ARK 2002 Last Updated on Monday, 29-Aug-2005 15:15