Shannon Airport and Ireland West Airport have become the first airports in the world to be recognised as Age Friendly airports by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Both airports were officially launched as Age Friendly Airports, certified by the WHO, at a ceremony in Ireland West Airport, officiated by Hildegarde Naughton TD, Minister of State at the Department of Transport.
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 organising a trip abroad and it makes Ireland more attractive as a destination to older travellers from other countries.”
Commenting on the initiative Mary Considine, CEO, Shannon Group said: “It is wonderful to be one of two airports on Ireland’s west coast leading the way to being age friendly by enhancing facilities for older people and becoming as inclusive as possible. Achieving Age Friendly Airport status not only benefits our older passengers, but all of our customers and staff. It facilitates the promotion of Ireland as an ‘Age Friendly’ country. Shannon Airport has already adopted an Age Friendly culture by striving to ensure that our customers’ experience, regardless of age or ability, is enjoyable, simple and stress free. Our Customer Charter demonstrates a commitment to putting our customers at the heart of all we do.”
Both airports have worked closely with Age Friendly Ireland and their respective local authorities to enhance their services for older people. This work was supported by Mayo County Council, Clare County Council, Limerick City and County Council via their Age Friendly Programmes, and Meath County Council, who spearheaded the national Age Friendly Programme.
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.”
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. In their report, the walkability audit teams found Shannon “a very easy international airport to navigate” with an “excellent PRM (Persons with Reduced Mobility) service being offered free of charge.” The team also commended the airport staff for their friendly and helpful approach as well as facilities such as the airport’s dedicated mobility desk, sensory room, even and non-slip flooring, ample seating to rest and seating for wheelchair users.
New features installed in Shannon airport because of this process included designated age-friendly parking, better signage, and covered walkways from aircraft and car parking into the terminal. 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.
Age Friendly Airport guidelines were drafted for certification by the World Health Organisation, based on the walkability studies and reports carried out at the two airports.
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 Ireland’s wonderful tourism offerings, hospitality, adventure, and culture.