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19 Aug 2022

OPINION: Loneliness a huge problem among older citizens during Covid-19 crisis

Loneliness a huge problem among older citizens during Covid-19 crisis

ALONE, the organisation that supports older people at home, has seen over the last 12 months the demand for their support structures increase hugely.

In the last year ALONE has received over 41,000 calls for support and the Covid-19 National Support Line in particular has helped almost 15,000 older people in communities throughout Ireland. These are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, many of whom battle loneliness and isolation in normal times but whose plight has been worsened by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant restrictions.

This week Leinster Rugby announced ALONE as its latest charity affiliate as part of its charity partner programme for the 2020/21 season.

The organisations are using their shared ethos to highlight the value of community and inclusion at a time when we all need it most. The key to ALONE and Leinster Rugby’s partnership is the importance of participation spanning across community, inclusion, physical activity and mental health.

With ALONE operating as a national organisation that supports and empowers older people to age at home, Leinster Rugby aim for this collaboration to celebrate the work they do in the Leinster region and further afield across the Country.

As a national charity, ALONE provide an integrated system of Support Coordination, Practical Supports, Befriending, a variety of Phone Services, Social Prescribing, Housing with Support, and assistive technology. The organisation use support plans, provide a point of contact for access to health, social care, housing, transport and other arising needs using technology and other services and activities to improve physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

In March 2020, ALONE saw the need to provide a National Support service and established their National Support Line which operates seven days a week from 8am – 8pm. Since then they have received over 41,000 calls into the line and in 2020 supported roughly 15,000 older people nationwide. Over 3,000 of those older people are being supported in Leinster.

Communication is key to feeling included and expressing your feelings is important to check in with yourself. ALONE is encouraging older people to reach out and talk when you are experiencing feelings of loneliness as people are here to listen.

Statistics show one in ten people over 75 are lonely a lot of the time and demand for ALONE’s services has increased five-fold in recent years. One in four older people live alone, and this figure increases in rural areas.

The number of over 65s living in Ireland is expected to increase from today’s level of 700,000 to 1.4 million by 2046.

In order to meet the challenges that lie ahead the Government and State agencies must plan now for effective, high quality low cost models of services that will improve the lives of older people for years to come.

The issues the country will face in the years ahead in this area of care are complex and require equally complex solutions.

Over the next 30 years, 20,000 people will turn 65 every year which equates to 400 people a week

Older people need good services of a consistent quality, to ensure that they don’t slip through the cracks and become isolated from other people.

The Government, State agencies and the health service in tandem with voluntary bodies such as ALONE all have a role to play.

But so do ordinary individuals and communities throughout the length and breadth of Ireland, particularly during the Covid pandemic.

While due to current restrictions you may not be able to visit an elderly neighbour, relative or friend you can communicate with them by phone, through social media or even by traditional mail.

Such interaction could make the world of difference to an older person.

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