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.