Over the next decade, the number of older people in Northern Ireland is set to increase by 25 per cent but that those aged 85 or more, will rise by 50 per cent during the same period.

It is a statistical trend which must be focussing the minds of Government but especially health departments.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust has just launched a consultation document, “Proposal for the Future of Day Care Services for Older People” which outlines a rationalisation of services currently provided.

Older people in some communities will be disappointed that some day centres are to close and others will merge services. We don’t know whether they were well attended or not but given the trends for the future, many might have thought that providing services in the heart of the communities where people are living, would have been the way forward, rather than closing some of them down.

The Western Trust has a huge geographical area to cover and of its population of 300,000 people, in excess of 38,000 of them are over 65’s.

The Trust plans to close the Rosslea Day Centre, for example, and transport those who avail of it to either Drumhaw in Lisnaskea or to Tempo Road, Enniskillen, a distance of some 25 miles.

The Trust is also remodelling its day centres providing different levels of services depending on the location, some providing full day care, personal care and day clinics while others might have a luncheon club and social club, and others having active living groups.

With the expected increase in numbers of older people, surely our communities will need more services provided, both at medical level such as GPs, hospitals, clinics, as well as recreational activities. Of course more money will be needed to be invested in the home help sector which is severely underfunded if we are to see a significant increase in numbers of over 65’s in the future.

Of course it says something about our society and especially our healthcare system that we will have more older people enjoying longer life in the future. But it must be instilled in all our statutory services and the voluntary sector too, that they cannot simply be forgotten about. Older people have a lot to offer to society.