The Age Friendly Town programme connects policy makers and SMEs in successfully providing tailored goods and services to older persons.
The Cork County Age Friendly Town (AFT) programme is led by Cork County Council (CCC) and is part of their age friendly strategy 2016-2021. This is part of Ireland’s national Age Friendly cities and counties programme which is included in the global WHO network for age-friendly cities and communities. Four rural towns; Bandon, Mitchelstown, Kinsale and Cobh were chosen as a pilot with plans to expand the number of towns in March 2020. A voluntary AFT committee in each town manages the funding in consultation with CCC. This programme links policy (CCC) with local enterprises in these rural towns over two-year period and funding is ringfenced. This programme supports enterprises through training delivered by Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). Age Friendly Ireland has developed a toolkit for Age Friendly Business Recognition for SMEs who participate in the training. As part of the training, local enterprises are informed about the size and potential of the Silver Economy, accessibility of premises, advised on large font size on menus, to make available reading glasses and chairs with armrests for older persons. Following completion of the training, enterprises sign up to an Age Friendly Charter. The stakeholders of the Good Practice (GP) are policy makers (CCC & LEOs) and the AFT committee. The main beneficiaries of the GP are older persons and local enterprises. The programme has also supported walkability studies in the towns highlighting issues around accessibility.
CCC Age Friendly Programme Manager, an administrative support officer and oversight by Director. Each town is allocated €5000 to support age friendly initiatives. There are also indirect costs, such as, resources required to install the street benches, age friendly parking spaces etc.
Evidence of success
To ensure the success of the programme, each age friendly town committee (4) meets with CCC to discuss progress every quarter. Since the AFT was launched, the following have been implemented in each Age Friendly Town.
Street benches with armrests
AFT parking spaces
Picnic tables that are wheelchair accessible
Enterprises completed training & signed up to Age Friendly Charter, where enterprises will make their enterprises more age friendly.
Each AFT committee is voluntary so the AFT programme manager is in regular contact to ensure the success of the programme. Getting enterprises to attend the training and understand the potential benefits of the Silver Economy. It’s important the right expert delivers the training.
Potential for learning or transfer
The Age Friendly Town (AFT) concept can be easily transferable to other rural communities across the European Union with the right policies and supports in place. With the support of set-up funding from local authorities or other public funded support agencies, initiatives like this can benefit enterprises and older persons living in rural communities. The challenges highlighted and lessons learned will help other international providers in the implementation of this programme. The success and commitment to the AFT programme is further endorsed at a national level with the appointment of an Age Friendly Business Consultant who will support local authorities around Ireland. The AFT programme is an example of a good practice that links key stakeholders such as; policy makers and SMEs in providing tailored goods and services to older persons.
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