Laois Older People's Forum launched the initiative with Laois County Council in Portlaoise
Two parking spaces at the front door of Laois Shopping Centre have been officially launched as spaces reserved for over 55 year old's in Portlaoise.
These spaces are not legally binding like disabled parking or parent and child parking. Instead, they are courtesy spaces that the public are encouraged to leave free for people who may be less mobile.
It is part of an initiative to make Laois easier to live in for older people. Laois Older People's Forum has worked alongside Laois County Council on the project.
Chairperson of the Laois Older People's Forum, Orla O'Byrne, said that Ireland is taking age action seriously and that Laois County Council have been "terrific".
"The Laois Older People's Forum meet six times a year, we have people from Killeshin, Ballylinan, Vicarstown, Rathdowney, Ballacolla and different corners of county Laois telling us what it is like to be older in those towns and how can we make those towns, villages and areas nicer to live in," Mrs O'Byrne explained.
"We want to get one or two car parking spaces at supermarkets, the Post Office, and places where elderly people will be going but have difficulty walking," she added.
The Laois Older People's Forum was formed in 2008 when a decree came from the World Health Organisation stating that instead of trying to build extra nursing homes, it is better to make it easier for people to continue to live independently and healthily.
Chairperson of Laois County Council, Tom Mulhall, said that he wanted people to "use their discretion" and leave the spaces free for others who are "not as fortunate to be as mobile".
"I would like to see it kept for people who need it and see it spread across other places like outside health centers," he added.
Manager of Laois Shopping Centre, Kevin Doyle, said they chose to get involved for the loyal people who have been customers for years.
"The reason we have come on board is because the majority of customers coming into Laois Shopping Centre have been coming in for the last 25 years, you get to know them coming in and out, you get to see the difficulties that some of them have trying to find a convenient parking space near the entrance," Mr Doyle said.
"Many people will feel like they have enough energy and will not need it but there are people who might have an ailment or they might after being in hospital and they do not have the sticker on their car for disabled parking," he added.
"We will try man it and power it for them so that there will be spaces for them. These are our customers and have been for so long, they are all local people they are all good customers and we rely on them so we are trying to make it easy and convenient for them to enjoy their day so it is not an ordeal to come in and do their shopping," he explained.
Manager for Community Development at Laois County Council, Georgina Ireland, said that the age friendly programme is for anyone over the age of 55.
"Even though you might not think at the age of 55 you are regarded as an older person, the Age Friendly programme nationally is for over 55's. If you register for the Laois Older People’s Forum you will be entitled to a sticker which allows you to park in the courtesy spaces," she said.
To register call Geradline Delaney in County Hall on 057 86 64227.
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