ALONE raises concerns regarding access to safe public transport for older people

The organisation has highlighted the difficulties faced by older people in accessing safe public transport during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Dublin, 6 July 2020:  ALONE, the organisation which supports older people, has highlighted the significant lack of accessible and safe transport available to older people amid the COVID-19 pandemic. ALONE has received a substantial number of calls to its National Support Line from older people who are now finding it difficult to access transport due to the country beginning to reopen. As older people rely on public transport to attend important medical appointments and collect necessities like groceries and medication, we are now worried for their safety.

While there is strong evidence that older people are keen to attend necessary hospital appointments, many are apprehensive about using public transport in case they come into contact with a carrier of the virus. The organisation has also raised concerns regarding older people with mobility issues, who may not be able to use public transport and rely on other means of transport such as family members or private ambulances.

ALONE are cognisant of the wider systemic issues faced by older people in accessing safe and affordable transport and further delays to appointments are not viable at this time. The organisation said that the cost of getting taxis to and from appointments means that they are not a viable alternative transport for many older people. ALONE have been assisting these transportation queries by providing a redirection for older people to the Irish Red Cross who have been helping older people attend appointments across the country. With transportation continuously arising as problematic for older people, COVID-19 has only compounded this issue further.

ALONE CEO, Seán Moynihan said, “Many older people who cannot drive or do not have access to a car rely on public transport to go about their daily lives, however the arrival of COVID-19 in Ireland has caused older people to become anxious when using public transport. The only other option for older people is to take taxis to their appointments, which is something that many older people cannot afford on a regular basis. As a result of this, many older people with underlying medical conditions are missing essential checkups, because they do not want to put themselves at further risk by using public transport. This is an issue which is affecting older people in both rural and urban areas.”

He continued, “While we were pleased to hear the news that the wearing of face coverings is now mandatory on public transport from the 29th of June, older people are still apprehensive to use public transport as they are one of the groups most affected by COVID-19. We are asking members of the public to remember the older people in their lives who may be struggling, and if it is safe to do so, offer to take them to and from appointments.”

Since March, ALONE’s National Support Line has received in excess of 26,174 calls for support. ALONE staff and volunteers have made more than 127,475 calls to older people who needed support, and provided more than 21,549 units of practical support, delivered from the support line, staff and volunteers. ALONE is providing ongoing support to more than 13,300 older people who require support for difficulties with loneliness, health, finance, housing, accessing services, COVID-19 and other challenges.

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on, 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.

ALONE responds to formation of Government with a series of asks for older people

The organisation has responded to the finalised Programme for Government, addressing issues which will affect the long-term health and wellbeing of older people.

Dublin, 29 June 2020:  ALONE, the organisation which supports older people, has responded to the finalised Programme for Government, highlighting a number of issues which have caused concern. The organisation has previously put forward four asks for the incoming government, and believes that these issues must be addressed to improve the quality of life for many older people.

ALONE have expressed their disappointment that there isn’t a Senior Minister for Older People and Demographic Change. But hope that when the Ministers for State are appointed that there is a minister exclusively for Minister for Older People and Demographic Change. The organisation also feels that the brief of older people has been very much relegated to the back.

The organisation also raised concerns about the lack of reference to the implementation of the principles of National Positive Ageing Strategy. The Government formation documents made no mention of implementing the strategy, or appointing a leader to the strategy, which is something that must change.

While ALONE were supportive of the commitments in housing options for older people, commitments to home care and a commitment for the Commission on Care, the organisation would like to see clearer timelines and commitment to funding. We hope that there will be no further delay in the implementation of Sláintecare while ensuring the Statutory Home Scheme is implemented without any delay. ALONE are concerned regarding the government’s commitment towards improving the health of older people.

ALONE CEO, Seán Moynihan said, “We need to work towards a social recovery alongside the economic recovery, now is the time where we need to implement all the commitments in the health and social care area that are in the Programme for Government. In the past, commitments of support and help within the community have not been delivered to the levels promised or agreed. We had also hoped that the incoming Government would appoint a Minister exclusively for Older People and Demographic Change, which also would have made a huge difference to the lives of older people across the country.”

He continued, “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted ongoing issues that older people experience on a daily basis, which affect their quality of life. This pandemic has presented us with an opportunity to re-examine the policies in place, to work towards change and to this opportunity to reassess the way we deal with issued faced by older people.”

Since March, ALONE’s Support Line has received in excess of 25,291 calls for support. ALONE staff and volunteers have made more than 119,079 calls to older people who needed support, and provided more than 2,899 units of practical support, including collecting groceries and prescriptions. ALONE is providing ongoing support to more than 13,094 older people who require support for difficulties with loneliness, health, finance, housing, accessing services, COVID-19 and other challenges.

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on, 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.

ALONE release Health and Wellbeing plan to support older people amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organisation has addressed issues relating to the long-term health and wellbeing of older people in a new guidance document.

Dublin, 18 June 2020: ALONE, the organisation which supports older people, has released a Health and Wellbeing plan, addressing key issues which continue to affect the health and wellbeing of older people across the country as we move into the later stages of the COVID-19 Roadmap.

The initiative came about as part of ALONE’s response to COVID-19; however it is also part of the organisation’s long term plan to integrate Health and Wellbeing into the Social Prescribing model and to provide national and local responses to Health and Wellbeing for Older People. The plan is made up of a series of projects which promote social interaction, activities, fitness and positive mental and physical health practices for older people.

The organisation is concerned that older people may lack the confidence to reintegrate themselves into society in the coming weeks and months due to fears of contracting the virus. ALONE’s National Support Line has received a number of calls from older people who say that they do not feel confident going outside, as they are anxious that people have become more relaxed about adhering to safety measures such as social distancing guidelines, hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette.

Corrinne Hasson, Services Manager at ALONE, has been working on the organisation’s Support Line answering calls from older people, and has noticed an increase in the number of older people calling to for advice and support during this time.

Hasson stated ““While we welcomed the further relaxing of cocooning measures for older people, we are receiving a lot of calls to our Support Line from individuals who are concerned about reintegrating into society as they are concerned that they will come into contact with a carrier of the virus. Many callers stated that they would feel nervous leaving the house over the coming weeks, as they worry that they aren’t getting enough space while walking as people are not adhering to social distancing measures. We are encouraging members of the public to continue to observe a safe distance from others while out and about so that we can all begin to readjust to the new circumstances.”

Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ireland, a number of measures have been introduced to protect vulnerable individuals, including designated hours for older and vulnerable people in supermarkets, parks and other public places. ALONE are reminding the general public to continue to respect these hours and to avoid visiting public spaces during the times set aside for older and medically vulnerable people.

Hasson continued, “We have also received an increased number of calls from older people who are afraid to visit their local park or supermarket, as they are anxious that it will be too busy and they could come into contact with someone carrying the virus. We ask that members of the public respect these older people and to refrain from visiting public spaces during the specified times set aside for older people.”

ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan stated, “Even though most people are now going back to their normal lives, certain groups of individuals such as older people are still very worried about the virus and what will happen to them if they are exposed to a carrier of the virus. To try and deal with this we are giving older people practical advice on how to stay safe as they reintegrate into society, and supporting them with any worries or concerns that they may have. Our new Health and Wellbeing plan will address some of the main issues faced by older people and introduce support services such as telephone communications, regular text messages, activity packs and virtual classes and events. These services will help to improve the health and wellbeing of thousands of older people across Ireland.”

ALONE are also have also reminded older people that their services are to be available to any older person who needs advice or support during this time.

“I would like to remind any older person that is struggling at the moment that supports are available to them through ALONE and Local Authorities across the country. If you are struggling at all over the coming weeks and months, please do not hesitate to reach out and seek help.” said Moynihan.

Since March, ALONE’s Support Line has received in excess of 24,529 calls for support. ALONE staff and volunteers have made more than 110,948 calls to older people who needed support, and provided more than 16,500 units of practical support, including collecting groceries and prescriptions. ALONE is providing ongoing support to more than 12,868 older people who require support for difficulties with loneliness, health, finance, housing, accessing services, COVID-19 and other challenges.

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on, 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.

ALONE calls for protection of our older people against violence, abuse and neglect on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

The organisation is also asking members of the public to be vigilant, offer support and safeguard older people who may be struggling in the weeks and months ahead.

Dublin, 15 June 2020: ALONE, the organisation which supports older people is encouraging members of the public to be conscious of older people in our society who may be experiencing elder abuse or negligence on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. The organisation has warned that older people may be more susceptible to elder abuse amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, with many experiencing a loss of independence due to COVID-19 safety restrictions.

ALONE has highlighted the fact that many older people are more at risk now as they are seeing people less frequently. Many older people who would have been independent before the COVID-19 outbreak are now relying on others for support and assistance in their day-to-day lives. However, cocooning and social distancing measures have resulted in reduced home care services and other support services for older people, having a detrimental effect on their overall physical and mental wellbeing. There has also been a reduction in older people going into institutions such as hospitals and care homes to receive necessary care.

The organisation is urging members of the public to remain vigilant and to safeguard our older people while also encouraging older people who are suffering from abuse or negligence to reach out and seek help. As an organisation, ALONE endeavours to support older people experiencing these difficulties and assist them when they need it most.

Seán Moynihan, ALONE CEO, said “There are many different types of abuse of an older person, such as physical abuse, psychological abuse or financial abuse. These may be carried out deliberately, or through negligence. An older person may experience more than one form of abuse at any given time, unfortunately many feel too ashamed to come forward and seek help.”

He continued, “Many older people are at an increased risk of suffering from abuse now as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect older and vulnerable people. Individuals who would have been independent before this crisis now have to rely on people where they didn’t before, and many of these individuals feel that their independence has been stripped away to some extent. We need to address this issue now to prevent it worsening over the coming weeks and months. If you are concerned about an older person, call us on 0818 222 024 or email us at [email protected] If you have immediate concerns about the safety or welfare of an older person in your life, please contact An Garda Síochána immediately.”

ALONE is also urging any older person who may be experiencing abuse to reach out and ask for support.

“I would like to remind any older person that is struggling at the moment that supports are available to them through ALONE and Local Authorities across the country. This isn’t something that you have to go through alone, our organisation is there to offer support, advice and assistance to those who need it. If you are struggling at all over the coming weeks and months, please do not hesitate to reach out and seek help.” said Moynihan.

Since March, ALONE’s Support Line has received in excess of 23,833 calls for support. ALONE staff and volunteers have made more than 102,753 calls to older people who needed support, and provided more than 15,400 units of practical support, including collecting groceries and prescriptions. ALONE is providing ongoing support to more than 12,616 older people who require support for difficulties with loneliness, health, finance, housing, accessing services, COVID-19 and other challenges.

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on, 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.

ALONE responds positively to updated Programme for Government

The organisation has responded to the Programme for Government published earlier today.

Dublin, 15th June 2020: ALONE, the organisation which supports older people, has responded to the updated Programme for Government document released earlier today. The organisation was pleased to see that the Programme for Government contained significantly more references to older people than previous documents, including policies on the right to home care, the commitment to Sláintecare and positive housing options for older people.

While ALONE has welcomed certain aspects of the document, the organisation was disappointed at the lack of reference to the issue of loneliness among older people, as this is an issue that affects a huge number of older people. The organisation have also urged the incoming Government to appoint a Minister of State for Older People within the Department of the Taoiseach, and a Commissioner for Older People and Demographic Change who would oversee and deliver the implementation of the National Positive Ageing Strategy.

The organisation has put forward four asks for the incoming Government, and believes that these issues must be addressed as a matter of urgency to improve the quality of life for many older people across the country. The organisation would like to see funding for home supports and health services which would allow older people to age safely at home as well as housing targets and supports for older to prevent a worsening housing crisis.

ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan stated “We are very supportive of the policies outlined in this document and we are willing to play our part to implement real change for older people in the coming weeks and months. The document contains a lot of restatement of the policies and practices that we have been campaigning for over many years. Now is the time for actions, not words; COVID-19 has taught us that we can implement policies quickly, we are pleased to see that much of what is listed in the document can be implemented. There is still work to be done to improve the quality of life for older people across the country. The lack of reference to older people in previous Government formation documents was a cause of huge concern for us. Therefore, we were pleased to see a number of important issues addressed in the document, such the introduction of a commission to examine care and supports for older people, the right to home care and housing supports, and the commitment to the Sláintecare Implementation Plan.”

He continued, “We look forward to working with the incoming Government to tackle these challenges, and we hope that a Minister for Older People will be appointed. Older people have struggled the most with the outbreak of COVID-19 and it is the duty of the incoming Government to ensure that they are supported to deal with its aftermath. We must ensure that the needs of older people are prioritised,

and that the incoming Minister for Mental Health and Older People has a strong voice in designing and influencing policy as we move into the later phases of the COVID-19 Roadmap.”

ALONE are also have also reminded older people that their services are to be available to any older person who needs advice or support during this time.

“I would like to remind any older person that is struggling at the moment that supports are available to them through ALONE and Local Authorities across the country. If you are struggling at all over the coming weeks and months, please do not hesitate to reach out and seek help.” said Moynihan.

Since March, ALONE’s Support Line has received in excess of 23,833 calls for support. ALONE staff and volunteers have made more than 102,753 calls to older people who needed support, and provided more than 15,400 units of practical support, including collecting groceries and prescriptions. ALONE is providing ongoing support to more than 12,616 older people who require support for difficulties with loneliness, health, finance, housing, accessing services, COVID-19 and other challenges.

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on, 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.

ALONE seeks guidelines for older people in the later stages of the COVID-19 roadmap

The organisation has welcomed the partial lifting of COVID-19 restrictions as Phase 2 begins Monday 8th of June

Dublin, 8 June 2020: ALONE, the organisation which supports older people, has welcomed the further easing of restrictions for older people as we enter Phase 2 of the COVID-19 roadmap.

With older people now advised they can receive visitors to their homes, ALONE will from this week reinstate home visits by Support and Befriending volunteers where both the volunteer and the older person are comfortable doing so, using the recommended protective measures. ALONE volunteers have been providing support throughout COVID-19 by making phone calls, providing practical supports (like getting groceries), and having outdoor visits and walks in more recent stages when restrictions were eased.

While the organisation is pleased to see the lifting of certain restrictions, it has also called for further clarity from Government and the NPHET on advice for older people who have been cocooning, beyond Phase 2 of the COVID-19 Roadmap. The Roadmap contains no further reference to those who have been cocooning after this phase, and ALONE has said that there are still to be questions to be answered as to what the further easing of restrictions will look like for this cohort, and the supports that will be available to them throughout this time.

The organisation would also like to see the implementation of support structures for older people who are starting to go out again, and has asked for updates regarding the reopening of services such as day centres, health and chiropody services, medical appointments, etc.

Current advice for older and medically vulnerable people is as follows:

· stay at home as much as possible

· small numbers of people are permitted to visit at home, while maintaining social distancing

· when shopping, use the times specially allotted by retailers

“We welcome the fact that older people will now be able to have visitors at home. Loneliness has been a huge issue for older people who have gotten in touch with ALONE during this period and meeting family and friends will be a wonderful moment for those who have been cocooning over the last few months,” said ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan. “However, although restrictions have been eased slightly, this does not mean all the difficulties have gone away. Approximately 20% of the older people who have gotten in touch with us during this period are now getting longer term support from ALONE. The impact of cocooning on physical and mental health will only now begin to be fully realised.”

He continued, “In order to best advise and support older people and those who have been cocooning, we are asking for clearer guidelines for older people in the later phases of the roadmap as lockdown measures are gradually lifted. There is no further mention of older people and cocooning in the Roadmap after Phase 2, which is something we would like to be rectified as soon as possible so that older people know where they stand. There is a lack of clarity as to when facilities such as day centres, chiropody services and other essential medical services will resume, and it is vital that we have the necessary support structures in place for older people who are beginning to get out and about again.”

ALONE have also reminded older people that their services continue to be available to any older person who needs advice or support during this time.

“I would like to remind any older person that is struggling at the moment that even though restrictions are being eased, supports are still available to them through ALONE and Local Authorities across the country. If you are struggling at all over the coming weeks and months, please do not hesitate to reach out and seek help.” said ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan.

Since it launched in March, ALONE has received in excess of 22,377 calls for support. ALONE staff and volunteers have made more than 93,498 calls to older people who needed support, and provided more than 13,200 units of practical support, including collecting groceries and prescriptions. ALONE is providing ongoing support to more than 12,000 older people who require support for difficulties with loneliness, health, finance, housing, accessing services, COVID-19 and other challenges.

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on, 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.

ALONE call for reform of housing and care supports for older people

ALONE call on the next Government to implement alternative housing options for older people

Dublin, 1 June 2020: ALONE, the organisation which supports older people, has called for reform of housing and care supports provided to older people, saying the COVID-19 outbreak has highlighted the flaws and gaps in the current system.

ALONE has called on Government to commit to providing Housing with Support options which enable older people with medium to high support needs to live in the community, with the additional support they need to live independently, or semi-independently.

62% of all deaths from COVID-19 in Ireland have been residents of care homes.

“ALONE and other organisations have been calling for Housing with Support options to be provided for older people for many years. While nursing homes have a vital role to play in provision of care for older people with high levels of need, they should not be the only option for older people who require additional support to live at home,” said ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan. “We have worked with older people who have prematurely moved to nursing homes because they could not get the support they needed to live independently, and older people who are currently living at home and struggling to stay well, because those supports are not available.”

He continued, “The next Programme for Government must contain a commitment to alternative options, including Housing with Support, for older people. An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Health Simon Harris, as well as numerous other TDs and commentators, have referenced the need for change to the current system in recent weeks. We are asking them and all TDs not to forget this in the continuing negotiations for the Programme for Government. The COVID-19 outbreak has sadly highlighted what so many of us across this sector have known and been calling for, for many years: we need a system of care which provides fully funded home support for older people who want to live at home, as well as options which provide extra support for older people to live in the community.”

In the past few years, ALONE has seen a lack of investment in community services for older people in favour of acute services. The organisation believes that much of the COVID-19 relief funding has gone into hospitals and acute services, with less emphasis put on services for older people within local communities. ALONE has called for increased funding for the Home Support service and other supports which offer older people independence.

In ALONE’s Housing Choices for Older People: Time for Action report published almost two years ago, the organisation called for 45,905 units of shared and supported housing scheme accommodation for older people, including Housing with Supports.1

ALONE has also welcomed the recent establishment of a COVID-19 Nursing Home Expert Panel by Minister for Health Simon Harris.

Since it launched in March, ALONE has received more than 22,272 calls for support. In addition to this, ALONE staff and volunteers have made 86,402 calls to older people who needed support. 76% of the older people who called the ALONE helpline are living alone. Approximately 20% of the older people who have called are now getting longer term support from ALONE.

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on, 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. The helpline, which is running in collaboration with the Department of Health, the HSE and Local Authorities, is available to all older people including those who have not used ALONE’s services previously. ALONE’s support is designed to complement the clinical advice and information being provided by the HSE through its website and helpline.

Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.

Increase in the number older people struggling financially as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

ALONE Call on Government to take action ALONE has seen in an increase in calls from older people with financial concerns as the pandemic continues, and is asking for Government support during and after the pandemic.

Dublin, 25 May 2020: ALONE, the organisation which supports older people, is calling on the incoming Government to implement long term supports for older people who have been impacted financially by COVID-19. The organisation has seen an increase in calls from older people who are experiencing financial difficulties and issues with pensions, housing and security of tenure as the pandemic continues. These financial difficulties cause stress and anxiety, which in turn have a detrimental effect on older people’s mental health.

Since it launched in March, ALONE’s Services for older people has received more than 21,347 calls. In addition to this, ALONE staff and volunteers have made 78,494 calls to older people who needed support. 77% of the older people who called the ALONE helpline in the last week are living alone.

The organisation has received calls from older people who are struggling financially during the pandemic, as they try to manage the hidden costs of cocooning. Many people in the over 66 age group who would have been working up until the start of the pandemic have now found themselves struggling financially, as those over 66 years of age do not qualify for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and must rely on their contributory State pension of €220 per week. Those who live alone and are reliant solely on the state pension are faced with the additional costs of cocooning, and are struggling with increased utility bills and grocery shopping.

Many people who use ALONE’s services say that their state pension is not enough to cover expenses during this time, and are cutting back on things like food and heating in order to run their cars. For people who live in rural areas of the country, cars are essential. In addition to this, older people living in rented accommodation may feel insecure or worried that they will lose their home as a result of the pandemic.

Although ALONE welcomed the extension made to the fuel allowance, the organisation has found that many older people are struggling financially and have asked Government to consider further interim financial support during this time. The organisation has previously expressed its concern at the lack of reference to the issues faced by older people in recent Government formation documents.

Housing also remains an issue for older people during the pandemic, with ALONE receiving an increased number of calls relating to poor housing conditions. Emergency plumbing, electrical or heating needs forming the basis of many of ALONE’s support plans for older people. As older people spend more time indoors in line with cocooning restrictions, poor living conditions are emphasised, which in turn can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s mental health and wellbeing. Many callers reported feelings of depression and having ‘very low moods’ in the last week.

ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan stated, “We ask that the Government recognise the additional expenses incurred for older people as a result of cocooning and self-isolating, and respond accordingly by implementing additional supports for older people and other vulnerable groups. We are asking the incoming Government to put in immediate supports and also commitment to the pension at 35% of average weekly earnings for older people to help them through this uncertain period and into the

future. Older people are one of the groups most affected by this pandemic, so it is vital that we show them compassion and support now and into the future. As we have noticed, inequality has played a role in the course of the pandemic, with those who are most marginalised among the most affected, and it is time that this changes.”

He continued, “We are urging anyone who is experiencing any kind of financial difficulties or housing difficulties at this time to get in touch with us immediately. These are strange and uncertain times for all of us, but ALONE is here to support those who need it, whenever they need help. If you are struggling with anything, please call our support line and we will do whatever we can to help you.”

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on, 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. The helpline, which is running in collaboration with the Department of Health, the HSE and Local Authorities, is available to all older people including those who have not used ALONE’s services previously. Our support are designed to complement the clinical advice and information being provided by the HSE through its website and helpline..

Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.

ALONE calls on Government to implement long term supports for older people as members of the public begin to return to work

ALONE has now received more than 20,000 calls to national helpline but says that we have still not seen the full impact of cocooning on older people

Dublin, 19 May 2020:   ALONE, the organisation which supports older people, is asking the Government to ensure that long term supports are in place for older people impacted by COVID-19, as Ireland moves into the next phase of the pandemic. As members of the public and supporters begin to return to work, the organisation has called for current levels of support for older people to be maintained and increased, highlighting that we have yet to see the full impact cocooning has had on older people who are medically and socially vulnerable. ALONE has also stated that inequality has played a role in the course of the pandemic, with those who are most marginalised among the most affected.

ALONE is concerned that the lifting of restrictions may create a new set of challenges for older people who are struggling during the pandemic, and are encouraging older people to seek help if needed. ALONE has noted that there may be a reduction in some of the supports that have been available to older people so far, as family members, neighbours and communities return to work and resume their original roles, with those who are more marginalised among the most at risk.

ALONE has highlighted that physical and mental health difficulties are causing increased challenges for older people, with many calling ALONE’s helpline to say they have fallen or are experiencing illness or pain, but do not want to go to GP surgeries or A&E due to anxiety around contracting COVID-19. Lack of access to chiropody and other services are having a direct impact on people’s ability to leave their home for exercise safely, and many callers indicate deconditioning and point to increasing frailty as a result of cocooning. ALONE have also noted a continuing increase in the number of older people expressing very low mood due to cocooning.

Older people who are among marginalised groups are among those who are most negatively impacted, as poor living conditions are emphasised by the amount of time spent at home. Increased grocery and heating costs are also impacting on the financial security of older people, particularly those who are reliant on the state pension.

Since it launched in March, ALONE’s national helpline for older people has received more than 20,000calls. In addition to this, ALONE staff and volunteers have made 70,729 calls to older people who needed support. 72% of the older people who called the ALONE helpline in the last week are living alone.

“We are only now starting the see the true impact that cocooning is having on older people,” said ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan. “While previously older people were expressing boredom, anxiety and concern, now we are seeing a level of mental and physical health difficulty which is extremely worrying. We are concerned that as people begin to return to work, older people who generally rely on day care services and other supports will not have the support they need.”

ALONE has been working alongside the Irish Gerontological Society to ensure that long term supports and services are in place for older people who need them.  Both organisations have asked that the next Government prioritise the needs of older people by focusing efforts on the delivery of the Sláintecare strategy, the statutory home support scheme and the implementation of the National Positive Ageing Strategy.  They also suggest that the new government appoint a Minister for Older People, with a cross-departmental reach and brief.    

Diarmuid O’Shea, President of the Irish Gerontological Society stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted again that the health and support needs of older people have gone unmet for many years. We need to provide a broader range of acute, psychosocial and community supports.  Our new Government needs to prioritise this as part of the Programme for Government. This is not just a time to observe, pause and reflect.  It is a time for action.  We previously asked the new government to appoint a Minister for Older People, with a cross departmental reach.   The conversation about what we have learnt, and how we can improve and transform the care that older people receive in our communities, must start now.”

Seán Moynihan, ALONE CEO stated, “We are asking that the new Government prioritise the needs of older people in order to mitigate the impact that the pandemic has had on older members of our society. Recent Government formation documents have contained minimal reference to the issues faced by older people, which is something that urgently needs to change. Older people have been profoundly affected as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 and must be adequately supported to deal with its aftermath.”

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice or support to call their support line, 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. The support line, which is running in collaboration with the Department of Health and the HSE, is available to all older people including those who have not used ALONE’s services previously. The support line is designed to complement the clinical advice and information being provided by the HSE through its website and helpline.

Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.

ALONE and Irish Gerontological Society call on Government to take action and provide long term change for older people

Both organisations are seeking long term solutions for the physical and mental wellbeing of our older people from the next Government

Dublin, 17 May 2020:   ALONE and the Irish Gerontological Society are calling on the incoming Government to take action to provide long term support services for older people, both during and after the Coronavirus crisis.

The organisations have stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted healthcare and support gaps experienced by older people which must be urgently addressed. Both organisations are calling on the incoming Government to implement long term changes for older people, including acute and psychosocial supports, to support older people with both physical and mental health.

ALONE and the Irish Gerontological Society are seeking to initiate a national conversation around the issues faced by older people during the pandemic, including healthcare and home care supports and new housing models for older people, a shift from the nursing home model and the introduction of technological supports which would enable older people to age at home comfortably. Both organisations have also stated that long term supports for older people must be available in their local communities. We also need clinical programs that are supported to work and reach out into the community.

Both organisations have asked that the next Government prioritise the needs of older people by focusing efforts on the delivery of the Sláintecare strategy, the statutory home support scheme and the implementation of the National Positive Ageing Strategy.  They also suggest that the new government appoint a Minister for Older People, with a cross-departmental reach and brief.    

Diarmuid O’Shea, President of the Irish Gerontological Society stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted again that the health and support needs of older people have gone unmet for many years. We need to provide a broader range of acute, psychosocial and community supports.  Our new Government needs to prioritise this as part of the Programme for Government. This is not just a time to observe, pause and reflect.  It is a time for action.  We previously asked the new government to appoint a Minister for Older People, with a cross departmental reach.   The conversation about what we have learnt, and how we can improve and transform the care that older people receive in our communities, must start now.”

Seán Moynihan, ALONE CEO stated, “We are aware that the issues raised by this pandemic will have a long lasting impact on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of older people across the country, which will continue long after restrictions have been lifted. We are asking that the new Government prioritise the needs of older people in order to mitigate the impact that the pandemic has had on older members of our society. Recent Government formation documents have contained minimal reference to the issues faced by older people, which is something that urgently needs to change. Older people have been profoundly affected as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 and must be adequately supported to deal with its aftermath.”

ALONE and the IGS continue to work together to ensure long term supports and services are in place for older people. The IGS Annual & Scientific Meeting has been postponed but it is hoped that a digital programme will take place later in the year, and will include the annual keynote Willie Bermingham lecture sponsored by ALONE.

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice or support to call their support line, 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. The support line, which is running in collaboration with the Department of Health and the HSE, is available to all older people including those who have not used ALONE’s services previously. The support line is designed to complement the clinical advice and information being provided by the HSE through its website and helpline.

Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.