SILVER SMEs organised its third international conference on February 5 and 6, 2020, in Cork, Ireland. Focused on business opportunities linked to dependent ageing population, this third event followed our first two conferences on Active Ageing and on the vulnerable ageing population, respectively organised in Slovenia in May 2019 and in Poland in October 2019.

A sector much in need in an ageing Ireland 

The conference, hosted by the Cork Institute of Technology, was the opportunity to think about the role of the Silver Economy in the Irish context. To that extent, James Hegarty, Demography statistician at the Central Statistic Office of Ireland, provided interesting statistics, highlighting the importance of the sector and the challenges ahead. The Irish population will increase by 1.7 million by 2050, he explained. This demographic change will lead to an important increase of the share of older adults in the total Irish population: with 22% of the population expected to be over 65 in 2036, this change will require more resources to meet the needs of the older population.  

In Ireland, the Southern rural counties in particular will need more resources, as the ageing trend is rapidly increasing and the needs for care at home or in hospitals will follow as a result. But the changes needed will not only rely on public services, small businesses will also be impacted by this new demand and must adapt their services. Before the conference, partners of the SLVER SMEs project visited businesses in the town of Bandon, an Age-Friendly city in County Cork. There, a local grocer for instance proposes home delivery of fresh products to older adults up to 10km away from Bandon city centre. “Based on the statistics, the demand for those delivery services could increase from 10 persons to 40 or even 50 in the coming years. We need to find the ways to support these age-friendly businesses in the future”, stated James Hegarty.


Regional examples of initiatives to address the issue of dependency  

The conference was also an opportunity to showcase some examples of Irish Silver Economy SMEs. Lucie Cunningham, founder of The Home Share, a social economy SME of the Silver Economy sector, for instance introduced her initiative, launched in 2017. The Home Share connects younger generation in need for accommodation and older ones in need of company. In exchange for a room, young adults devote a least 10 hours of their time per week to spend time with the senior they live with (excluding personal care) The Home Share is responsible for finding the right person to live with and “is a mix between Airbnb and”, joked Lucie Cunningham. The initiative aims at fighting the accommodation crisis in Ireland meanwhile solving the loneliness issue amongst the older generation, which is according to Lucie Cunningham, today’s most important silent epidemic. The Home Share is aware of the increasing demands in rural areas and wishes to expand in these territories. 

Another initiative showcased during our conference was StrydeTech, a mobility device developed by students from the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). Based on the observation that currently commercialised canes and walkers are not efficient and safe enough for older persons to be independent from external help, 4 students from the CIT developed a new device that can offer complete autonomy to stand up and walk. While it is still a prototype, creators already won a couple of awards for their invention and are currently looking into improvements and hope to commercialise their device in the coming years.  

Partners from the SILVER SMEs project also presented some of their regional examples to inspire other regions in addressing the issue dependency, such as: 

  • Hasta la cocina: a Spanish SME of the Province of Burgos created in 2018 and home-delivering healthy and fresh meals for older adults living in isolated villages where there are no local shops. 
  • Senior Senior: a French SME which developed an application to encourage the exchange of free services between older persons in Normandy in close collaboration with local municipalities.
  • Courtmacsherry Community Shop: a cooperative created by rural inhabitants to revitalise their village and provide seniors with the basic products. The community shop was created in 2016, after the closure of the last shop in the village. SILVER SMEs partners also had the chance to visit this welcoming place during the study visits. 

Please find more of the good practices collected by SILVER SMEs partners in our database

This third international conference was an opportunity for joint reflection and inspiration to address the issue of dependency among older adults living in rural areas. For more information, please see the presentations from the event. You can also find out more about our Cork conference and other activities by subscribing to our next newsletter!