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'I'd love more people to come out to me because I'm not getting out as much as I used to'

Alone is asking people to take the time to call into an elderly neighbour over Christmas.

Image: Jason Clarke Photography

LONELINESS IS AS damaging to an older person as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and around Christmas time, many elderly people who live alone can feel isolated.

Alone – a charity dedicated to older people – is asking people to take the time to call into an elderly neighbour over Christmas.

The organisation said it deals with many people who feel particularly lonely at this time of the year.

“I find it very hard because I’m on my own, I’d love more people to come out to me because I’m not getting out as much as I used to,” says Eithne McGrane from Glasnevin who uses the services of Alone.
Lately I’m getting nervous. People are afraid to open the door and you can’t blame them.

Alone helps elderly people in need by linking them to service providers and organising volunteers for weekly visits.

‘Great craic’

Brendan Crean picked up the phone and called Alone after talking to his friends, who also live alone, about their options.

“There was a few people in my area and we didn’t know what to do so I said ‘I’ll ring and see what happens’.”

unnamed (7) Brendan Crean with Ann Doyle Source: Jason Clarke Photography

A volunteer called Aran now visits every week and Crean said they have great craic.

“I say ‘Aran, there you are again, knocking on the door and ringing the bell.’

“He’s bigger than myself so I joke and say, ‘Will I have to make the door a little bit bigger for you?’

We have great craic and we sit down and have a cup of tea and have a great laugh. We discuss football, we discuss anything at all.

Crean said, “People don’t know how to get in touch, they might be shy”, but he added that it’s important to make that first step and stressed how he feels safe with Alone because they vet all the volunteers.

You don’t like to be stuck in the house either because you feel you’re just going into a rut and if you do that, nobody will speak to you.

Loneliness

Eithne McGrane added that Alone is helping her in lots of other ways too, including getting work done on her house.

Speaking about her visit from a volunteer every week, she adds:

I like to talk about everything and anything. I’d be interested in going anywhere, if she said ‘We’re going to the moon’, I’d go to the moon.

unnamed (8) Eithne McGrane with Ann Doyle Source: Jason Clarke Photography

She also discussed how loneliness has a big impact on how she feels, acknowledging that “When I’m on my own I can get very down in myself.”

CEO of Alone Sean Moynihan explains that “loneliness is twice as dangerous to the health of an older person as obesity, and is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day”.

No one should feel alone at Christmas, however, in Alone we meet many older people who have no one to celebrate this special time of year with.

“Over time they have lost loved ones and become cut off from their local community. Some of the older people we work with might not see anyone from one week to the next.”

Ann Doyle is working with the organisation to urge people to call into their elderly neighbours over the Christmas holidays.

“Today, with our hectic lifestyles, many of us know little or nothing about our neighbours,” she says.

unnamed (9) Source: Jason Clarke Photography

She said checking in on a neighbour to say hello, making sure people have what they need, bringing them out for a drive or to a social event and giving them a hand with their shopping can all be a huge help.

If an older person knows someone is looking out for them it gives them an enormous sense of security and comfort.

Volunteers with Alone range in age from 21 – 85. For information on becoming a volunteer with Alone, check out alone.ie or email enquiries@alone.ie. Alone stands for A Little Offering Never Ends. It was set up by Dublin firefighter, Willie Birmingham, in 1977 after he witnessed the isolation and appalling living standards of the elderly.

Read: This 76-year-old began volunteering with the elderly when he retired>

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