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.
Congratulating the airports, Hildegarde Naughton TD, Minister of State at the Department of Transport 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.”
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 towards 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.
New features installed in Shannon Airport as a result of this process included designated age friendly parking, better signage, age friendly seating, covered walkways from aircraft into the terminal, along with an existing Person of Reduced Mobility (PRM) Service with dedicated staff to assist older people transit from arrival at Shannon Airport to the aircraft. Shannon is home to Europe’s first airport sensory room for passengers of all ages with sensory and neurodevelopmental needs. It has also recently introduced a new high-tech scanning system which removes the 100ml only rule for liquids carried in cabin bags. As a result of this the time passengers spend in the airport’s security screening area has been halved.
Following its consultation with older people, Ireland West Airport Knock installed extra seating in arrivals and departures area, an adult changing facility, new signage, new equipment airside (ambilift and ramp), and delivered staff training.
Key features of an age friendly airport include low noise levels, places to rest and sit, safe passageways and pathways, pedestrian access, accessible toilets, a secure environment and good public transport, and clear signage for displaying airline arrivals and departures information.
Joe Gilmore, CEO of Ireland West Airport Knock 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.”
With these two airports now recognised as Age Friendly, Ireland is very much open for business for older people across the world to come here and sample our wonderful tourism offerings, hospitality, adventure and culture.
Maurice commented: “I greatly welcome the designation of Shannon Airport & Ireland West Airport as the World’s First official Age Friendly Airports. Both offer a hassle-free experience from parking to boarding which make them particularly suitable for older people travelling. The Older People’s Councils have carried out various audits of both facilities and we are pleased to note that the observations and suggestions which we have made have been taken on board by both Airport Authorities”.
This work was supported by Mayo County Council, Clare County Council and Limerick City and County Council via their Age Friendly Programmes. Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council and Chair of the National Age Friendly Alliances said:
“An Age Friendly Airport should facilitate its passengers to feel safe, comfortable and relaxed, regardless of the barriers they face. Based on the valuable input we have received from members of the Older People’s Councils and working with our colleagues in both Shannon & Knock Airport we are proud to have achieved this”.