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The Big Knit

Age Action | The Big Knit

As many as 2,000 older people in Ireland die needlessly because of complications due to the cold every winter. Many others spend the time lonely and isolated, unable to heat their homes and struggling to get out and about.

  • Back in 2008 Innocent Smoothies had an idea. They asked some older people, and some younger people, to knit little woolly hats. They put those hats on our smoothies, and for each one sold, 30c is given directly to Age Action.

The idea snowballed and so far the people of Ireland have knit an astonishing 325,000 hats, and together we’ve raised over €100,000, and raised awareness of the great work done by Age Action in Ireland.

  1. The money goes towards Age Action's Care and Repair programme, which involves volunteers visiting older people in their homes and providing a DIY service.  The programme runs all year round, but is ramped up over the winter with volunteers doing jobs such as fitting hand rails, changing light bulbs and fitting draught excluders.  It is a service which enables older people to remain living with dignity in their own homes.  The Innocent Big Knit also helps fund Age Action's information service which runs a public information campaign each winter, providing advice for older people on how to remain well and warm at home.

All of our hats are knitted by real people, just like you. We literally couldn't do it without the folks who give up their time (and wool) to help, and we’re enormously grateful. If you’d like to get involved and knit a hat please visit www.thebigknit.ie

How it works

Knitters from across the land send us their little knitted hats between now and December. Innocent put them onto the bottles by hand and send them off to store. For every hatted bottle sold, 30c is donated to Age Action.

Over the years knitting groups, schools &loads of lovely people all over Ireland have generously knitted for the Innocent Big Knit. We'd love people of all ages to get involved from novice knitters to champion clickers, so please spread the word within your local community. If you don't fancy knitting yourself, wool and needles can be donated to Age Action to help others reach their target.

Your hats will help fund Age Action's work with older people in Ireland. While many older people live healthy, happy, fulfilling lives, some older people need a little support to continue to live with dignity.

The Innocent Big Knit funding will help Age Action's winter warmth public information campaign to enable older people remain well and warm in their own homes. It will also go towards their home visitation and DIY teams which assist thousands of older people each year.

Click here for more information and knitting patterns

Age Action | The Big Knit hats

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Age Based Analysis of Mortgage Arrears Released for First Time

We welcome the publication, by the Irish Times, of data released for the first time by the Central Bank of Ireland that shows the number of people approaching, or already at retirement age, who are dealing wtih significant mortgage debt. The information gives a clearer picture of the worrying situation for Ireland’s ageing population. Simply, a lack of evidence exists on the cost of ageing with less complete data collected about us the older we become. As a result, crucial policy decisions are made without the availability of disaggregated and representative data which can result in discriminatory outcomes. We need an urgent rethinking of how we gather evidence and inform policy that meets the needs of a changing Ireland.

While there has been an assumption that older people close to, and in receipt of, the State pension are generally mortgage-free home owners, it is clear that this is no longer true with many still carrying large mortgages, in mortgage arrears or living in precarious private rentals with no security of tenure in older age. We should all have a choice to age in place which means the creation of age friendly environments, including the provision of support services locally, which enable people to remain in their own homes and in communities for longer; but the changing nature of homeownership, rising cost of living, and the lack of a coordinated policy response to the housing crisis means many people will be facing a very difficult situation in later life. 

Many older people live in the most vulnerable situations in our society. An increasing number are struggling to meet the rising cost of living – in particular costs around rent and mortgages - in the context of a State pension that sees many surviving on incomes only just above the poverty line. Latest CSO EU SILC figures show 1 in 10 older people at risk of poverty. New taxes, and rising prices in recent years have a greater impact on older people generally living on a fixed income with limited opportunities to improve their situation. Budget 2020 saw the income of older person headed households increase by €1.08 per week for those living with another person, and by €6.08 per week for those living alone in older age. It did not offer the majority of older people the support needed to meet the increasing costs of living and it did not offer a concrete plan to support us to age in place.

Ageist attitudes towards working later in life still exist, for example many older people have reported high levels of discrimination during recruitment. Discriminatory mandatory retirement clauses are still in place forcing people out of the workforce earlier than they may wish. These two things undermine people’s ability to continue working in later life whether by choice or necessity. In the context of a buoyant labour market, we urgently need a fundamental shift in how we view and support older workers.

An increasing number of older people are experiencing fear about retirement due to worries about income adequacy. Less than half of those working have a private or occupational pension to support them in later life. While Age Action welcomes the publication of the recent autoenrolment scheme by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection which will see increased pension coverage for more than an estimated half a million workers, the current design will further drive existing pension inequalities unless there is a targeted intervention to include people in low paid jobs, particularly women and long term unemployed.

Our economy has been built on the backs of those already in, and approaching, older age: these are the same women and men who lived through the Marriage Bar, shouldered several recessions and are now dealing with the accumulated disadvantages. Successive government policies have failed to adequately plan and provide for an ageing population which will ultimately impact on all of us throughout our lives.