Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea. Picture: Brendan Moran

By Michael Moynihan

Staff writer

Monday, May 18, 2020 – 06:15 AM

Eamon O’Shea is “really heartened” by the solidarity being shown by people during the ongoing pandemic.

The Tipperary senior hurling coach is also Personal Professor in the School of Business & Economics at NUIG, focusing on gerontology, ageing and social policy.

O’Shea points out that while older people are currently at greater risk from the coronavirus, their experience and knowledge could be utilised more by organisations such as GAA clubs.

“In general it’s important during the pandemic that people do the best they can, and that applies as much outside the GAA as within it.

“That seems like a cliche but it’s true – staying fixated on the now and finding something in every day is very important. That’s true of people with small kids, the older generation, everybody.

“In terms of older people, I think it’s very important not just in pandemics but in general terms that they stay involved – as much as they want to be, obviously. Staying involved and engaged is really important and we should use the experience and knowledge people have.

“To be honest I’m always surprised that more older people aren’t involved in GAA clubs – not necessarily just in administration. There’s a lot to be had from that kind of engagement and connection. Involvement and visibility are really important.”

Ongoing references to ‘the elderly’ and ‘cocooners’ may not be charged with deliberate ageism, but O’Shea would to see terms such as ‘citizens’ used more in public discourse.

“There clearly is an age-related risk associated with the pandemic, but it’s really important at the same time that our communications reflect the citizenship of people.

“Again, I think that’s important whether you’re in a pandemic or not, making sure we think about the society we live in not in terms of age but in terms of citizens or people. And not whether those people are younger or older, necessarily.

“Now the element of risk has to be recognised as well, but giving information to people and allowing them to make sense of that information is important.

“We have to be careful not to single out one group or another – older people for the most part are absolutely able to make decisions, and that should be reflected in public policy.”

Loose commentary in government circles in Britain about older people dying contrasts with the “strong intergenerational solidarity” O’Shea sees in Ireland: “I’d be heartened, really heartened, by the degree of solidarity I see around the place in local communities.

In terms of resource allocation we have to be vigilant, always, but we should also be careful to make those decisions solely on the basis of need. Age shouldn’t come into it.

“At the same time I think we have seen and are continuing to see a strong intergenerational solidarity. Yes, it may be fraying at the edges every now and again, but I think there is a commitment within society that that shouldn’t happen.

“We hear that people are aware of the higher risk, relatively, for the older age group and that those people want to make sure they’re doing the right things and not adding to that risk.

“I’d feel very heartened when I hear that, and we need to make sure that’s reflected widely.

“One of the strongest bonds should be intergenerational, and we all have parents or grandparents, or children, where we can put that into effect.

“But it should also be reflected in public policy, from the way we organise our pension system, our long-term care system, and our healthcare system.

“That intergenerational solidarity is part of a really caring, vibrant, equitable civic society. I’m not saying you don’t have to be vigilant to ensure that happens – nor am I saying we’re at a stage where I’m really, really concerned.

“We have to work hard to make sure our decisions are based on equity and citizenship and on maintaining a strong intergenerational bond, something which has been a feature in a sense of the way we’ve organised our welfare system.

“Can we do better? For sure we can do better, and that’s the goal. There are plenty of things we can think differently about.”

 

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