Public urged to be mindful of vulnerable seniors this Christmas

by Patrick Finnegan

ALONE is a national organisation that supports and empowers older people to age happily and securely at home.

They support individuals and their families, work with other organisations, and campaign nationwide to improve the lives of older people.

They work with all older people, including those who are lonely, isolated, homeless, living in poverty, or are experiencing other difficulties. ALONE supports them through these challenges to help them find long-term solutions.

CEO of ALONE, Sean Moynihan spoke to Dublin Gazette and appeals to our readers to be extra mindful of our vulnerable senior citizens over the festive season.

“With the festive season well and truly upon us, it is a wonderful time of year for families, friends and communities to come together and connect.

For many of us it is the only time of year that we meet up with some family members and neighbours, and the Christmas season is one which is full of reunions and reminiscences.

However, the winter season is not without its challenges, particularly for older people who are experiencing loneliness, living in poor housing conditions, or experiencing financial difficulties – and unfortunately through our work in ALONE, we work with more and more people facing these challenges every year.

At ALONE, we support older people to age happily and securely at home.

This year we have supported more than 5,000 older people who are experiencing loneliness, housing and health challenges, difficulties accessing services, fuel poverty and other difficulties.

We work with all older people, from those who are most vulnerable to those who are most active and independent.

Even though Christmas is a time for connection, there are many older people we work with who will be spending Christmas alone, not by their preference.

There are thousands of older people across Ireland who struggle with loneliness, and Christmas is just one of many long nights throughout the winter months which can be particularly difficult.

One in ten people over 75 feel lonely a lot of the time.

This year, ALONE will deliver Christmas dinners to older people spending Christmas Day by themselves.

However, loneliness isn’t just an issue on the day itself; for many older people it is an issue all year round.

Many of us don’t realise the impact that loneliness can have on your physical as well as your mental health.

Not only has loneliness been associated with mental ill-health, it is also linked to adverse outcomes including premature nursing home admission.

And most troublingly, older people experiencing high levels of loneliness are almost twice as likely to die within six years as those who are not lonely.

We can all be guilty of getting caught up in the build up to Christmas.

But we must remember that for older people, challenges including loneliness, the increased difficulty of getting out and about, the cost of fuel and heating, and associated challenges relating to mobility, finance, and health, can all prove a struggle at this time of the year.

We are working with increasing numbers of older people who are experiencing challenges such as notices to quit from rented accommodation, substandard housing conditions, and many who are struggling to manage on the State pension.

The important thing to remember is that there are solutions to these challenges.

But we need to ensure that every older person knows that support is available.

Getting older can and should be a positive experience, and if not already that way, we can help to support and make it so.

At ALONE, we don’t want anyone to have to rely on charity. Many of the people we serve at ALONE have worked or in some cases struggled all their lives.

For many, things have changed as they have gotten older and they need support.

Most never thought they would be using our services in their old age. But until we fully acknowledge the challenges experienced by older people and resource the solutions, NGOs like ALONE must step up to fill the gaps.

This year we have welcomed the launch by Government of a €3 million funding scheme for organisations that combat loneliness, and the release of a Joint Policy Statement on Housing Options for our Ageing Population.

However, we need to do more, and as a community we need to respond too.

Our volunteers always emphasise the impact that volunteering has had on them and how much benefit it brings to their lives. In helping someone else, you can actually help yourself.

If you are among the lucky people looking forward to the festive season, I encourage you to spread it forward in your community.

During winter we all value connection. It only takes a few minutes to make a difference this Christmas.

If you need support from ALONE, or are interested in volunteering, find more details on www.alone.ie or call ALONE on 0818 222 024.

Related Articles