Two-thirds of over-65s provide financial support to the younger generations in their family, while a quarter support their families in everyday tasks such as shopping and driving.
A new report from Edwards Lifesciences said that over-65s play a pivotal role in society and the lives of younger people through the likes of volunteering, mentoring, and providing care.
Launched in Dublin by Minister of State Mary Butler, the report found that Ireland was the most age-friendly country across the six states surveyed as part of this research.
It also found that 31% of over 65s volunteer in their local communities compared to the average of 19% across the other European countries surveyed.
One of them is 75-year-old Mitchelstown native Liz Downes, who has been volunteering for over 40 years with the Irish girl guides.
“The enthusiasm is still there,” she said. “That will never go, even when I’m 95. Guiding is a happy place and a safe place. I love them to bits. I go home smiling, but the only thing I do be dying for is a cup of tea because I do talk so much.”
Ms Downes said that having been active within the community for so long, she has seen whole generations pass through the girl guides.
“A lot of my guides have very good prominent positions,” she said. “One was made a judge recently. I won’t say where, she’ll kill me. I sent her a card and she called me and said, ‘Liz, thank you for the time with you’.”
By 2051, the number of people in Ireland over the age of 65 is set to double from 2019’s figure of 696,000 to 1.563 million.
And there appears to be a recognition of the value the older generation has to offer, according to the findings of the survey of 1,657 people.
According to younger people, listening and giving advice (62%), companionship or friendship (50%), and sharing historical or cultural knowledge (44%) were the most valuable skills that older people could offer.
Compared to the UK, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain, intergenerational relationships were said to be “particularly cherished in Ireland”.
Across all countries surveyed, Ireland has the highest number of younger and older respondents believing that closer relations among different generations are a good thing (85%).
Edwards Lifesciences Ireland business manager Ashwin Kher said that with this upcoming demographic change, this report could act as a timely reminder of the value that older people offer to society.
“Ireland is ahead of the posse in terms of the other countries surveyed,” he said. “When you look at the kind of support, it’s not just about finance. It’s mental, emotional support, and it’s about being there too. We’re such a family-orientated country.
“We’ve identified that older generation as unifiers, and their role will be critical in the post-pandemic period.”
The report makes three recommendations, which include campaigns to transform perceptions of the value of older people, greater opportunities for mentoring and knowledge sharing from older to younger generations, and schemes that help senior people interact more digitally.
Mr Kher added: “There has to be action at the end of it, it can't be just another report. There are clear programmes here the Government can do.”