Category Archives: Ageism

Mandatory Retirement

I was delighted to be interviewed by the Irish Independent journalist Kim Bielenberg last week for his feature on Jobs for the over 65s. My input was on the far-reaching effects of mandatory retirement at age 65 and how it affected me.

The full article can be read here.

 

 

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Filed under Age Action Ireland, Ageing in Ireland, Ageism, Ireland, Older Generation, Older workers, Retirement Age

Retirement: Smelling roses, enjoying brandy and learning to spit!

This is the third and final post on this trilogy on Retirement. My last two posts (here and here ) were  concerned with the very serious matters of mandatory retirement and the financial and social deprivation that were for me, the immediate fallout. March 2016 will see the 3rd anniversary of my compulsory retirement. The road was indeed a rocky one, and full of potholes, but now that I have travelled along it for a while, I have slipped into a ‘Third Age’ mentality and somehow seamlessly adapted to a life without the early morning alarm clock!

Some years ago my friend moved to live in London and I was amused by this little ditty that hung in her bathroom. Nicely framed, it was strategically placed so that any visiting females could not miss it.

WARNING!

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

——–Jenny Joseph.

During the early weeks of retirement I read this poem again several times. Cares and woes can certainly knock the stuffing out of anyone. Should I let them do just that and should I then go about running a stick along the railings, driving everyone mad? Clack, clack, clackclackclackclack clack, clack clackclackclack? A possible option, for sure!

BUT, this was NOT for me! I needed to re-evaluate, to re energize, to REINVENT myself if need be. And so I took every single opportunity to be away from home or in the company of others. During my first summer of ‘retirement’ I plied the length and breath of Ireland attending conferences and talks, popping into Museums and Galleries, going to beautiful places near home that deserved investigation, discovering things I did not know, rediscovering things I did know. If there were free events, so much the better. The budget was stretched as tight as a bodhran skin, but one or two fewer visits to the hairdressers was ok, and I never really minded beans on toast as a meal, and miracle of miracles—you do need fewer clothes when you don’t have to go to work! So on went the jeans and the comfy jacket…. and away I went!

A trip to Australia to spend time with my daughter and her family worked its magic…maybe this retirement isn’t so bad after all, with no worries about using up precious leave! The following year, having reached my 66th birthday I became eligible for free travel travel in Ireland and this opened up a whole new world…a day away in Dublin to go to the theatre, a day strolling around Galway, a day shopping in Cork or a day enjoying the festival in Tralee…all for free!

It took about a year to adjust to not having to rise at 6.30 each morning. During that transition year I discovered the gift of TIME that I now have in abundance. I use it as far as I can to improve my changed life. There is time to seek out and select bargains, time  for long slow cooking and tasty recipes, time to walk, time to read, time to spend hours in the swimming pool, time to exercise, time to catch up with friends, time to do some volunteering work, time to study and learn new things, and time to smell the roses!

I have not yet spent my pension on brandy, but I do have time to enjoy the occasional glass and as for ‘learning to spit’ – I am working on that – figuratively speaking of course!

(Clipart Image)

I plan on wearing purple!

 

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Filed under Age Action Ireland, Ageism, Ireland, Living in Ireland, My Oral History, Older Generation, Poetry, Retirement Age, Seniors

Age Discrimination in Ireland: Adding a voice

This is the first of three posts on my personal experience of mandatory retirement in Ireland.

Irish Labour TD (Member of Parliament) Anne Ferris has tabled a Bill to abolish mandatory retirement age. The Employment Equality (Abolition of Mandatory Retirement Age) Bill would prohibit employers imposing compulsory retirement ages on their employees. In November last, as a member of Age Action, I was asked to take part in their presentation at the Public Hearings of the Committee stage of the Bill at Leinster House,the seat of our Parliament, the Oireachtas, in Dublin.

Leinster House (Kildare St. entrance)

Leinster House, Dublin. Ireland’s Parliament. (Image oireachtas.ie)

This was my first visit to the Oireachtas and it was appropriate that I was there on a mission about a matter very dear to my heart. I had to vacate my job on my 65th birthday. At age 64 and 364 days I was an acceptable employee, but one day later I was unemployable. My ‘shelf life’ was up; my ‘use by’ date had been reached. Indeed I was fully aware for a long time that my career would grind to a halt at age 65, but I had hoped against hope that new provisions whereby public sector employees who joined after 2004 would not have to retire at age 65, could be extended to serving staff members.This was not to be and my pleas fell on deaf ears. The mandatory retirement age of 65 in the public sector department in which I worked was written in stone, and so agreed with the trade unions. In some departments the mandatory retirement age is 60.

Most of my public sector work colleagues are delighted to retire at age 65 or sooner. Many of them have long service and look forward to the day when they no longer have to work for a living. Some of my colleagues however,dread the day when their earning power is decimated. Like me, they may have entered pensionable employment later in life or they may have been subjected to the highly discriminatory ‘marriage bar’ that only ended in Ireland in the early 1970s. (The marriage bar meant that upon marriage, female employees were no longer eligible to work in the public sector and banks). Shorter working lives means smaller pensions. On retirement, I suffered a loss of income of 75%, yet my household bills, my medical bills and my mortgage still had to be serviced out of the reduced income. As the Dickens character Mr Micawber famously stated in the book David Copperfield, Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds,nineteen shillings and six pence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

Committee Lobby

The Committee Lobby in Leinster House. (Image oireachtas.ie)

It was a privilege to be able to add my voice at the Public Hearings of the Committee stage of the proposed legislation at Leinster House and to hear the heartfelt submissions being made by other participants. Some fearful of losing their jobs at compulsory retirement age because of ongoing family commitments, such as children at university for example, mortgage to pay. Others simply wanted to be able to stay and continue doing a good job as they had done for some time, some angry at having to lose their jobs at a particular age, yet not qualifying for state pension for some years afterwards or despairing of a system that allows for the casting aside of a wealth of experience as with doctors and nurses in our health service, just because of an accidental birthday.

Below are links to the official tapes of the Public Hearings at Leinster House. The recording begins at about 34 minutes in, with Age Action opening statement at 36.50 and my (very wobbly) contribution at 39 minutes mark. .

https://oireachtas.heanet.ie/mp4/cr2/cr2_20151118T090000.000005.mp4

There are two further tapes covering all the submissions and discussions at
https://oireachtas.heanet.ie/mp4/cr2/cr2_20151118T090000.000006.mp4 and
https://oireachtas.heanet.ie/mp4/cr2/

In the aftermath of the submissions, I was asked to take part in a number of interviews by the media. Ocean FM, a radio station serving the Sligo/South Donegal area still has a podcast available at this link:

Donegal Woman Claims Age Discrimination At Being Forced To Retire From Job, NWT, Thurs, 19th Nov . I am unsure about how long the link will remain live.

Other interviews were aired on the Pat Kenny Show on  Newstalk and on Highland Radio while the Irish Daily Mail carried articles on two separate days.

Just before Christmas the Final Report  to Government was published and can be seen here.  The Report recommends a change to the existing law and we look forward to a time when  this will become a reality.

http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/media/committees/justice/Final-Report—Retirement-Age.pdf

I would like to express my thanks to Justin Moran and all the Age Action team who do such wonderful work  in raising awareness of issues that directly affect the quality of life of older people in Ireland.

 

 

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Filed under Age Action Ireland, Ageism, Ireland, Living in Ireland, Older workers, Seniors, Social Change, Social Justice

Silver Surfers on Irish National Television

The Official Photo on The Seven O'Clock Show set!

The Official Photo on the Seven O’Clock Show Set. L to R: Ian O’Reilly, Actor, Dermot Whelan,Comedian,  Me, Marie Corbett, Lucy, Martin

As a result of the Women’s Way magazine article on Silver Surfers about which I wrote here, TV3, one of Ireland’s National TV Networks, invited us to take part in the The Seven O’Clock Show last night. So it was with a lot of butterflies in my stomach that I headed off on the three-hour drive to the Dublin Studios.

Marie Corbett, who featured in the article with me was quite honestly the most charming,funny lady I have met in a long time. It is easy to see why she is the pin-up girl for Age Action and seems to have an endless list of photo shoots and meetings with important people ,such as TV personalities and the President of Ireland no less! Marie began her cyber-career with the Age Action ‘Getting Started’ programme. Her daughter and grandchildren had moved to Armenia and with unreliable postal and telephone services,she was offered a second-hand computer to keep in contact with her family. Determined to come to terms with this new fangled technology, she says she challenged her very patient tutor, but I am certain he would have found her such a tonic that he loved showing her the ropes! Marie was awarded the ‘Most Dedicated IT Learner’ in Age Action’s 2009’s inaugural Silver Surfer awards.  Enthusiasm is her middle name and she so deserves to be the Queen of the Silver Surfers in Ireland.

Marie with her lovely grand-daughter Adele .

Marie with her lovely grand-daughter Adele .

It was a lot of fun being in TV3 studios – everyone we met from the receptionist at the door to the janitor when we left, was friendly and welcoming.The programme team were just lovely, very positive, very reassuring as indeed were the programme hosts, the beautiful and witty Lucy Kennedy and the very popular Martin King.

It is not often that older people get to feature on national television,so a A big ‘THANK YOU’ to The Seven  O’Clock  Show for having us there to hear why we embraced the internet and how it has been life changing for us. Hopefully we inspired others to make the leap and get engaged with modern technology and social networking. Age Action continues to organize ‘Getting Started’ programmes across Ireland to encourage older people to become familiar with this remarkable resource,  right there at your fingertips!

The Irish Silver Surfers Queen and myself !

The Irish Silver Surfers Queen and myself !

Marie and I are very conscious of the fact that we would not  have enjoyed the success that we have had without the extraordinary work and dedication of Age Action, a charity for older people, that not only advocates for older people, but gets involved in the practical side of things too!

The programme can be viewed here for about two weeks from now, September 8 2015. Our segment is at about the 12 minute + point. Lots of ads!

 

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Filed under Ageism, Ireland, Ireland and the World, Loneliness, Older & Bolder, Older Generation, Seniors

Young at heart? Why not OLD at heart!

“Aging…Not everyone gets here. We, all of us who looked battered and weathered, are more beautiful than we know.”so says Jan Wilberg on a wonderful piece of writing on her blog at   Red’s Wrap. 

It only takes a moment to read   – but it  will  be hours in your head!

Read on  here 
My thanks to Social Bridge  for reblogging this wonderful piece of writing from Jan Wilberg’s  blog.

 

 
http://redswrap.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/youre-asking-the-wrong-question/

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Filed under Ageism, Healthy Living, Older Generation, Social Policy

Philanthropist Wants to Be Rid of His Last $1.5 Billion

From the New York Times:

Across from a television set with the obsolete girth of a model bought 20 years ago, beneath the grandchildren’s crayon artwork taped to the wall, to the left of an abandoned hula hoop, Charles F. Feeney sits in an armchair and explains how he will get rid of his last $1.5 billion, give or take, by 2016.

Brad Vest/The New York Times

Charles F. Feeney, 81, has already given away $6 billion through his foundations.Just as he did with his first $6 billion, it will all be awarded through Atlantic Philanthropies, the group of private foundations he created in 1982 and managed to run anonymously for its first 15 years, even though it was one of the largest sources of grants in the United States, Ireland, South Africa and Vietnam.

Why shut it down? Mr. Feeney, 81, a man with no romantic attachment to wealth or its trappings, said the world had enough urgent problems that required attention now, before they became even more expensive to solve.

“When you’ve got the money, you spend it,” Mr. Feeney said. “When you’ve spent it all, let someone else get going and spend theirs.”

When the last of its money has been spent and it closes its doors sometime around 2020, Atlantic Philanthropies will be by far the largest such organization to have voluntarily shut itself down, according to Steven Lawrence, director of research for the Foundation Center. (The much bigger Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to shut down 50 years after its founders die.)

By its end, Atlantic will have invested about $7.5 billion in direct medical care,immigration reform, education, criminal justice advocacy and peace-building initiatives. It was an invisible hand at the end of armed conflicts in South Africa and in Northern Ireland, providing funds to buttress constitutional politics over paramilitary action. It has supported marriage-equality campaigns, death penalty opponents and contributed $25 million to push health care reform.

Last fall, Mr. Feeney gave his alma mater, Cornell University, $350 million to seal its bid to build a new campus for advanced engineering that New York City has commissioned for Roosevelt Island. The day the gift was announced, Stanford University dropped out of the competition. He has also given $270 million for a new medical campus in San Francisco. “If only I could remember who hooked me up with it,” Mr. Feeney said. “He said, ‘You’re out here a lot anyway, it won’t take much of your time.’ ” That was in 2004.

With grand philanthropy often comes public glory for wealthy donors, as buildings and institutes are dedicated to benefactors, their names embedded above doorways like graffiti tags chiseled in marble. No building anywhere bears Mr. Feeney’s name. Among tycoons, he has been a countercultural figure of rare force, clinging to his privacy far more fiercely than to his money.

He set up the philanthropies in Bermuda, in large part because that would allow him to escape United States disclosure requirements. That also meant he could not take tax deductions when he contributed his holdings.

Mr. Feeney, who grew up in a working-class family in Elizabeth, N.J., served as a radio operator in the United States Air Force and attended Cornell on the G.I. Bill. He sold liquor to sailors in ports, then formed a company that ran airport duty-free shops around the world. He secretly turned over the duty-free business to the philanthropies in 1984 and continued to invest.

In 1997, he disclosed his role in Atlantic when the business was being sold, but stayed out of public sight. In the last 10 years, he decided that enlarging his profile might inspire rich people to share their fortunes. One result was “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t,” a sparkling, unblinking biography by Conor O’Clery, a leading Irish journalist.

Another was that Warren Buffett called Mr. Feeney the “spiritual leader” of a campaign urging extremely wealthy people to donate their money.

He buys clothes off the rack — “I’m a shabby dresser,” he said — and until recently, flew coach as he traveled among four or five continents. “They decided as part of my 75th-birthday celebrations that I would be entitled to fly first class,” Mr. Feeney said, sounding a bit embarrassed. “I’ll be honest, I’m not good at flying anymore. To my credit, I can stretch out on two coach seats.”

When in New York, Mr. Feeney lives in a building on a side street in Midtown Manhattan, preferring to bob in the anonymous streams of a crowded sidewalk to being swaddled in the liveried privacy he could easily have bought on Park or Fifth Avenue.

He has given away essentially everything he has made, apart from decent, though not extravagant, provisions for his four daughters and one son. They all worked through college as waiters, maids and cashiers.

“I want the last check I write to bounce,” Mr. Feeney said.

My previous post on this remarkable man who has done so much for Ireland and other communities who are disenfranchised, is as follows:

Celebrating Irishness: Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney – March 2-011 

Charles Feeney was born to a working class family in New Jersey, USA in the early 1930′s. His father’s mother hailed from near Kinawley, in Co Fermanagh, from where she emigrated to the USA.

Charles ‘Chuck ‘ Feeney

In the 1960′s he co-founded Duty Free Shoppers, which sold luxury goods ‘duty free’ in Honolulu and Hong Kong and which eventually became hugely successful, making the partners very wealthy. DFS was to become one of the largest liquor retailers in the world and in 1997, Feeney sold his interest to Louis Vuitton  Moët Hennessy (LVMH).

In 1988, the Forbes Rich List ranked Feeney in the top 20 richest people, with estimated wealth of €1.3billion.  But, in reality his wealth was much less as he had in 1982 transferred much of it – reportedly between $500 million and $800 million –  to a charitable foundation, The Atlantic Foundation. Based in Bermuda to avoid disclosure requirements in the USA and to give Charles Feeney the anonymity he craved, The Atlantic Foundation was the first of The Atlantic Philanthropies.  A very private and modest man, the story of Charles (Chuck) Feeney was not well known until the 1990s when in an interview with The New York Times he revealed that he was the benefactor of one of the top 5 philanthropic foundations in the world.

In 1987, the Enniskillen Bombing had a profound impact on Feeney.  His grandmother having emigrated from the same county, meant he had family roots here and he became determined to try to effect change  in Northern Ireland.  He  joined with other Irish Americans liaising between the White House and various parties in Northern Ireland to try to broker a peace agreement.  He had as a particular and personal  agenda the aim of encouraging the Republicans to join in mainstream politics and he personally funded the Sinn Fein Office in Washington D.C.  for some years.  (Atlantic Philanthropies is precluded from funding political parties.)

It was not until 2007 when Conor O’ Cleary, a  well respected correspondent of The Irish Times, published a book : The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly  Made and Gave Away a Fortune, that the truth about Feeney became known.  (Feeney had decided to cooperate with the author to promote ‘Giving While Living’ and inspire wealthy people to donate their wealth during their lifetime). Also in 1997  RTE, the Irish television service,  aired a TV documentary, ‘The Secret Billionaire’  looking at the life of this  extraordinary man.

Universities in Ireland, notably University of Limerick, Dublin City University and Trinity College, Dublin have benefited from donations from the fund of over $1billion.  Many philanthropists will endow projects in return for recognition, but this has never been the case with Chuck Feeney who has shunned public recognition such as honorary degrees, and having buildings named in his honour.  One of my favourite stories that exemplifies what Chuck Feeney  is all about, relates to  Queens University, in Belfast, who in 2007 were building a new library, costing  £44 million. It was to have been called the Sir Anthony O’Reilly Library.  Tony O’Reilly had contributed £4 million in return for ‘naming rights’. Chuck Feeney on the other hand had anonymously provided £10 million  and it was his wish that this should not be made public. (Tony O’Reilly later withdrew his wish to have the library named after him in 1999!)

Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney does not own on a house, he does not own a car and his $15 plastic watch is now famous!  He lives modestly, having said that a man can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.  He has never strayed far from the sense of community he was born into –  one of helping his neighbour, and he has the ability to empathize with people less fortunate than himself who lead difficult lives and who may not have enough to eat.  And so this week, the week of St Patrick’s Day, will see Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney, extraordinary Irish American,  inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame.  There is no doubt but that his benevolence has had a huge impact on life and society in Ireland, and continues to do so through funding for social issues from The Atlantic Philanthropies, including fighting ageism, of particular interest to this blogger.

The website of The  Atlantic Philanthropies can be viewed here.

For more on the Irish American Hall of Fame click here.

To see more about Conor O’Cleary’s book on Charles Feeney, click here

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Filed under Ageism, Irish American, Irish Diaspora

European e-inclusion awards 2012 – inspiration in action

Attended by 1,150 people, followed through internet live-streaming by another 4,000 and, with more than 1,000 social media contributions, I was honoured, thrilled and humbled to be part of the Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels on 21 and 22 June 2012.

The e-Inclusion Awards were established by the European Commission in 2008  ‘to discover and  celebrate organizations and individuals across Europe who champion new technology and harness the potential of the internet as a means of improving prospects, increasing employability and meeting today’s complex social and economic challenges‘.

Finalists Brochure

As one of only three finalists from across Europe in the category ‘ I am Part of IT  ‘ Personal Stories’ -(Larger Organizations) ‘ I was nominated by Age Action Ireland as a result of winning the Google /Age Action Silver Surfer Award, Social Networking category in 2011 . Age Action is an Irish  national charity which promotes positive ageing and better policies and services for older people. It actively encourages older people ( age 55+ ) to embrace social media. Their ‘Getting Started’ programme, spearheaded by the inspirational Pauline Power, promotes active e-inclusion and has been rolled out to over 6,000 people in the past four years.  Nominated as a finalist from entries from 34 countries,  Pauline accompanied me to the  Digital Media Agenda conference in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Day 1 was devoted to workshops, and our invitation was specifically for the Social Media workshop and feedback sessions,  with day 2 seeing the plenary sessions in the European Parliament chamber itself. Here we  were honoured to be among delegates to greet  Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, after her very eloquent address to the assembly. Among the academics, industrialists, politicians and social groups participating were  Professor Luciano Floridi from University of Hertfordshire and University of Oxford, Harry van Dorenmalen chairman of IBM Europe, Gyula Vamosi leader of the Roma  (Gypsy) community ; Anna Maria Darmanin , Vice President European Economic and Social Committee.

Whilst the conference focused on the ‘big picture’ with regard to the information society and the  breaking down of barriers to e- inclusion for all citizens of Europe, it is the ways in which ordinary people access and use the internet that demonstrates just how well the high level goals are making a difference to everyday lives.

Anna Maria Darmanin from Malta  presented the e-inclusion awards in the four categories.

There were 3 finalists in each of 4 different categories

I am part of IT – Personal stories, small organizations (< 19 employees).

The three finalists  were

  • Rosanna Nazir and Nila Smart from the Netherlands for their project helping  women looking for work in the Netherlands
  • Joy Matthews from Caerphilly, Wales and the 50+ Positive Action Partnership.
  • Elton Kalica , Italy . Elton was a most worthy and inspirational winner of this category . Arriving in Italy from Albania he found himself in prison for a long time. Through ICT skills he improved his capabilities,  did two university degrees  and now, having been released he has a good job on the ‘outside’; helping prisoners.

I am part of IT – Personal stories ,big organizations(>19 employees) 

The three finalists were

  • Marek Sikora, Chezh Republic. Marek was the first visually impaired ECDL tester in the Czech republic and he set up a not for profit organization Eye-T.cz to enable visiually impaired people take ICT skills tests.
  • Myself, Angela Gallagher, Republic of Ireland with Age Action , who in spite of living in a rural location without the benefit of broadband has embraced social media. My  experience of how technology can change a person’s life will hopefully inspire more older people to take the plunge and learn how to use computers and the internet.
  • Siemon Dekelver from Belgium had a story about ability, not disability. He was a most inspirational and worthy winner of this category, with WAI-NOT which provides mentally challenged young people with secure web-based communication tools so they can learn IT skills and lead happy and independent socially interactive lives.

Be part of IT –  small organizations .

Finalists were

  • From Romania – a project encouraging e training for 1.8 million people in Romania by reducing the skills gap between rural and urban communities
  • Inforum, Hungary – a project showing how kids and grandparents can encourage one another
  • Storybook Dads – UK were worthy winners –  the simple yet ingenious way to use the internet to improve the lives of families of a parent in prison was truly moving. Imprisoned parents record stories for children to be involved in their lives. The initiative has been shown to cut reoffending.

Be part of IT – big organizations.

The three finalists were

  • UK Online Centres  which help communities deal with social and digital exclusion . A network of 3,800 online communities spreads the word on digital inclusion.
  • Barcelona Activa,  Spain that promotes ICT training and skills  to improve employability
  • The Information Society Development Foundation Poland –  local libraries as agents for digital change. Thousands of librarians in thousands of remote communities have been trained to help otherwise excluded communities become e-included.

The judges felt that both the Barcelona Activa and Information Society Development Foundation from Poland were such extraordinary projects that touched the lives of so many, both were declared winners.

Anna Maria Darmanin, Vice President European Economic & Social Committee  (on extreme right) with finalists in the e-inclusion awards.

Each finalist had a wonderful story to tell. Each story was thoroughly inspirational, and each story was a tribute to the perseverance and dedication of ordinary people who through personal efforts and dedication, made their own lives and the lives of others, extraordinary.

I am grateful  to Age Action Ireland for nominating me and especially to   Pauline Power who was with me in Brussels;  to my son Damian, author of his own excellent blog http://irishamericancivilwar.com/ for encouraging me to get started and for his  support in setting up this blog, and to the over 20,000 visitors to this site. Thank you all!

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Filed under Ageism, Older workers, Retirement Age, Seniors, Social Justice, Social Networking, Social Policy