Limericks elderly citizens – Picture (left to right) Attending the event were the team from IBM, Marc Silhavy, Aruna Padmanabhan, Matt Broomhall, Deirdre Kennedy, Dr. Nader Nassar and Nancy Breiman. Picture: Alan Place/Fusionshooters.
Limerick should utilise technology to improve the lives of its older citizens and share information amongst its major service providers to respond to their needs more effectively, a team of top consultants said today (Friday).
The team of five experts from technology giant IBM delivered a set of innovative recommendations in Limerick after spending three weeks in the Mid-West addressing challenges around the city’s ageing population as part of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Programme.
While 42% of the city’s population is under the age of 30, Limerick has at the same time Ireland’s fastest ageing population. Limerick City and County Council sees this as an opportunity to increase its vibrancy by enabling its senior citizens to contribute to Limerick’s community life and facilitating access to key services. The overall aim is that older people can stay living in their homes and communities and live full, active and healthy lives, get to where they want to go, when they want to go, and are valued contributors to the lives of their communities, as committed to in the Limerick Age Friendly strategy.
Limerick hosted the visit after it was named winner of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge programme 2015 alongside 16 other municipalities around the world including Athens, Melbourne, Denver and Amsterdam.
The IBM team interviewed close to 50 people from various walks of life across Limerick working closely with Limerick City and County Council and local stakeholders to analyse and define ways in which the city could improve the quality of life and independence of older adults through increased connectivity and improved access to key services.
Some of its key recommendations include:
“There is a lot of research being done and data collected by a huge number of agencies in Limerick but from our experience, it’s not being shared,” said Dr Nader Nassar, IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Team. “Limerick has common critical problems through transportation, housing, social isolation and also civic engagement with senior citizens. These recommendations are about breaking down barriers to information and using it appropriately while putting proper structures in place to share that information and drive insights to the benefit of all senior citizens. Just like any set of recommendations, some can be achieved quickly and others are longer term, more strategic, but you need to start early so you can start planning for the long term solutions.”
Through its interviews with Limerick senior citizens, the IBM team found that public transport, including walking, is a significant element of an older person’s ability to access critical health services and to engage in social activity.
“Limerick’s passion for its focus on ageing population was reflected throughout the interviews the team conducted and demonstrated an exceptional commitment to transparency, self improvement, collaboration and innovation during our research. It is clear that stakeholders and agencies across the city and county are committed to improving the opportunities and lifestyle for its senior citizens. We were privileged to provide feedback”, said Deirdre Kennedy, Corporate Affairs Manager, IBM Ireland.
The recommendations also point to the need for Limerick City and County Council to lead the delivery of the plans to continue the growth of Age Friendly Limerick and to bring together the key agencies to achieve the recommendations with measurable results.
“These recommendations will enable Limerick City and County Council to develop its strategy to enable us to predict and respond to the needs of older people through the better management of shared information,” said Pat Dowling, Deputy Chief Executive, Limerick City and County Council.
“Limerick is already looking at innovative ways of using technology to respond to the health and well-being needs of the population through our Digital Strategy Team and Age Friendly Alliance. The IBM team has presented some very innovative proposals to us, particularly in the areas of public transport and public health. We already have a lot of proposals in the pipeline but, this is how we can use technology to improve the lives of older people, particularly in disadvantaged communities and rural areas around the county.”
The commitment we are now giving as part of this Smarter Cities Challenge is to take those proposals, engage primarily with our Age Friendly Alliance network and the community groups but most importantly with our Older People’s Council when we consult with other people and deliver these projects over the next 12 months and beyond.”