Picture above: Mary Cronin, Limerick AC. Picture: Oisin McHugh/FusionShooters.
Mary Cronin, one of Limerick’s leading role models for older people will walk – or, rather, run – the talk this weekend when she competes in a 10km road race in Portugal.
But ahead of her departure to the Algarve to compete in the European Road Masters Championship 10k in Moto Gordo this weekend, Mary Cronin, who has just entered her 70s and chairs the Limerick City and County Council established Older Peoples’ Council, proudly stated that Limerick is on the way to becoming a national exemplar when it comes to becoming Ireland’s leading ‘age friendly’ county.
The Older Peoples’ Council is one of the key pillars of Age Friendly Limerick, a five year strategy launched last year aimed at improving key areas of infrastructure, services, information and an overall social response to older person’s issues in Limerick. The strategy, led by Limerick City and County Council, was developed by Limerick Age Friendly Alliance in consultation and co-operation with older people in the area.
The Croom woman was appointed chair of the Older Peoples’ Council last April and says that the local authority’s initiative is really seeking to empower older people in relation to what they can do rather than allow them regret what they no longer can do.
“I really believe we are onto something here in Limerick. The local authority has started what I believe will be something special and they are definitely on the right track. They are really enabling a thought process around how we make Limerick a place where older people feel just how much of a contribution they have to make to society.
“The reality is that older people have a huge contribution to make but they must be encouraged to make it. They must be made feel part of a community and have a lot to contribute to community.
“For example, older people are ‘life-professors’. They’ve all had their ups and downs and have lived to tell the tale. That’s a wealth of wisdom that they can pass onto young people, to help them prepare for life, for the tough times ahead. So, if we can bring young and older people together more, it can actually be mutually beneficial.
“We talk a lot in Ireland about twining cities and towns but what about twinning people, young and old people. Older people can be what I call ‘learner friends’. Think about the shared benefits.”
Mary said that her experiences have included moments when friends had to be there to help her through dark days. “I had the darkest of days in my own life and good friends brought me through them. They were able to see that something was wrong and helped me through it. There is no age barrier whatsoever to being a friend.
“Whatever it is we do, we have to encourage older people to get involved in things. That’s what we are trying to do in the Older Peoples’ Council and that’s why I’m personally involved in a whole range of things. Because of it, I have a community of friends, people whom I can turn to and people who turn to me.
“Road running is my thing.It’s obviously not for everyone but there are any number of communities that older people can get involved in and, indeed, contributed greatly to. I have to commend Limerick City & County Council as it has very much embarked on a process of creating an environment where older people really are encouraged to get involved.”
Looking ahead to Friday’s race, she said, “This is like the Olympics for me. I never thought I would ever compete in a European championships but here I am. If I can do this at 72, others can do all sorts of things at 72 or 82 or, indeed, 92.
“I’m not there to win as I’m only back in training since January but at this stage in life it’s all about participation. And that really is the message I have for other people my age and older – participate. Get involved. You’ll not regret it and will very quickly understand you have a part to play and will be appreciated for it.”
Said Mary Killeen, Age Friendly Limerick co-ordinator, “Mary is a fantastic example for older persons. They have so much to offer; wisdom, life experience and so much more. But they need to be encouraged to give that. We need to find a place for them to give that. That’s what Age Friendly is all about. We have a strategy that is focused on empowering older people and Mary is proof of what can be achieved with the right encouragement and the right frame of mind.”
For more on Limerick’s Age Friendly strategy visit:
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