Airports

Published on June 17th, 2022 | by Alan Dwyer

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Irish Airports Become First WHO Age Friendly Airports in the World

Two Irish airports have become the first airports in the world to be recognised as Age Friendly airports by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Ireland West Airport and Shannon Airport were officially launched as Age Friendly Airports, certified by the WHO, at a ceremony on Friday at Ireland West Airport, officiated by the Hildegarde Naughton TD, Minister of State at the Department of Transport. Age Friendly Airport guidelines were drafted for certification by the World Health Organisation, based on walkability studies and reports carried out at the two airports. The airports have worked closely with Age Friendly Ireland and their respective local authorities to enhance their services for older people.

Age Friendly Ireland is a local government shared service that supports all of society to prepare for population ageing. At present in Ireland, there are about 742,000 people aged 65 and over. The number and proportion of older people is set to increase exponentially in the coming years due to a demographic trend called population ageing. All facilities and aspects of society need to be more aware of older people’s needs and ensure that the built environment and services are fully accessible to older people. This work contributes toward this government’s vision of an Age Friendly Ireland as set out in the Programme for Government.

In order to become recognised as Age Friendly Airports, Shannon and Ireland West Airport consulted extensively with their older customers via the Older People’s Councils hosted by local government. This included carrying out ‘walkability audits’ of the buildings and their environs. These audits examined seating, signage, footpaths, car parking, toilet and other facilities and access routes. Both airports scored well for their existing facilities, but also identified improvements needed, and subsequently rolled out a work plan to develop their amenities as age friendly.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton TD

Commenting as she congratulated the airports, the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegarde Naughton TD said: “Ireland has taken an international lead in making the airport environment age friendly and we now look forward to sharing this learning with other airports around the world. Making sure that airport facilities are Age Friendly is an effective way to enhance their accessibility and usability for everyone. It ensures that domestic passengers feel confident in organizing a trip abroad and it makes Ireland more attractive as a destination to older travellers from other countries.”

Also commenting was the Managing Director, Ireland West Airport, Joe Gilmore who said “We are absolutely delighted to have achieved national recognition for our work towards creating a more age friendly environment at the airport. Over the past two years the airport has been working to transform the airport experience for our customers through the enhancement of our services and facilities and throughout the process have worked in collaboration with the teams at Age Friendly Ireland and Mayo County Council to ensure the transformation works and service offering met with the requirements of the Age Friendly Recognition Programme.”

Although the event was announced at Ireland West Airport, Shannon Airport was represented by the CEO of the Shannon Group, Mary Considine who said: “It is wonderful to be one of two airports on Ireland’s west coast leading the way to being age friendly by enhancing facilities for older people and becoming as inclusive as possible. Achieving Age Friendly Airport status not only benefits our older passengers, but all of our customers and staff. It facilitates the promotion of Ireland as an ‘Age Friendly’ country. Shannon Airport has already adopted an Age Friendly culture by striving to ensure that our customers’ experience, regardless of age or ability, is enjoyable, simple and stress free. Our Customer Charter demonstrates a commitment to putting our customers at the heart of all we do.”

The Chief Officer of Age Friendly Ireland, Catherine McGuigan also welcome the announcement and commented on the significance of these developments by saying, “Many older people enjoy the opportunity to travel particularly in later life. Navigating airports can be a challenge for older people who may experience conditions such as reduced mobility or vision impairment, or who simply find it difficult to stand and queue for long periods of time. I commend Shannon and Ireland West Airport Knock for their stellar work in listening to their older customers and responding appropriately. With the ageing demographic, there will be an increasing expectation for all environments to be fully Age Friendly. This launch today yet again shows how Ireland excels in its commitment to older people and puts us on a map internationally for older people who wish to travel here and have a very pleasant airport experience.”

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