Dublin, 30th September: ALONE the charity that supports older people in Ireland is celebrating International Day of the Older Person on Saturday October 1st. This day is all about celebrating the positive contribution that older people have made and continue to make to our society, culture and economy as well as highlighting the struggles and ageism that some older people continue to face. It is estimated that there are more than 1 million people over 60 in Ireland today, with diverse skills and backgrounds.
ALONE is highlighting increased difficulties experienced by older people that were not resolved in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, including loneliness, lack of access to services, and lack of connection, noting that similar difficulties are being experienced across all generations.
As a member of the Loneliness Taskforce ALONE continues to highlight the impact of loneliness amongst older people and all age groups, and noted that calls on Government to commit €5 million in funding towards loneliness were not answered in the Budget. Similarly, a commitment in the Roadmap for Social Inclusion to deliver an action plan to combat loneliness has been delayed and the unfortunate fact is we have over 100,000 older people living in poverty or at risk of poverty.
The Healthy Ireland Outcomes Framework report1, which was released on the 29th September, indicated that a large majority (81%) of people aged 50+ reported feeling less socially connected due the COVID-19 restrictions, with 15% reporting no change, and 4% feeling more socially connected. The report notes that the percentage of people aged 50+ who engaged in one or more social leisure activity at least once a week decreased from 2016 to 2018. While social connectedness was measured in 2021, the figures were not included in the report, which notes that given the closure of most in-person social activities at the time, results are not directly comparable.
“It is great to celebrate the positive impact of older people in our country today, while also acknowledging the hardships felt by some older people. We underestimate how much older people enrich our lives, communities and economy every day,” said ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan. “Over the last number of months in the run-up to Budget 2023 there has been a lot of ‘Old vs. Young’ discourse in the media and unwelcome attempts at stoking intergenerational tension. We know from our work around loneliness, health, income and housing that the oldest and the youngest in the country are experiencing similar difficulties and have so much more in common than what divides them. This International Day of the
Older Person, I hope we will all come together and take stock of what we have in common and the relationships that we have with people from different generations.”
ALONE’s visitation support, befriending and telephone support all work to reduce the impact of loneliness with older people by increasing their social activity and morale. Almost one third of adults aged 50+ in Ireland experienced emotional loneliness at least some of the time and we know from TILDA research that loneliness leads to a lower quality of life. Older adults who live alone have a higher risk of social isolation than those who lived with others and social isolation was associated with poorer self-rated health, functional limitations, poorer quality of life, and depressive symptomology.
The over-50s are the only group that have seen a net increase in the number of applications for social housing in 2021, and struggles experienced by young people finding homes and student accommodation have recently been highlighted once again. ALONE is keen to highlight the commonality of the problems faced by older people and younger people and that despite of the age and generational divide the issues faced are similar and the solutions are similar.
A key pillar of ALONE’s services are the support and befriending services offered, which is a perfect opportunity for younger people and older people becoming friends. These relationships often last for years, with many older people and younger people describing the relationships built as life changing.
CEO of ALONE Seán Moynihan commented that “For younger volunteers it is not only about helping the older person but being open to them helping you, and being ready to learn a lot from people who have been there and seen it all. This relationship helps continue the wisdom from one generation to next”
International Day of the Older Person will be celebrated globally on 1st October.
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