Shannon is one of the world’s first age friendly airports

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THE introduction of special parking spaces, improved signage and covered walkways were among a range of improvements that resulted in Shannon Airport being recognised as an Age Friendly airport by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It means that Shannon and Ireland West airport in Knock have become the first airports in the world to achieve the designation.

Minister of State for Transport Hildegarde Naughton said that both Shannon and Knock had taken an international lead in making the airport environment age friendly and in 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,” she explained.

Shannon Group chief executive Mary Considine said it was 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.

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“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”.

Clare County Council chief executive Pat Dowling, who is Chair of the National Age Friendly Alliances said that an age friendly airport should facilitate its passengers to feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed, regardless of the barriers they face.

To become recognised as Age Friendly Airports, Shannon and Ireland West Airport consulted extensively with their older customers through the Older People’s Councils. 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 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.

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.