ALONE, THE CHARITY which provides support to older people living in Ireland, has called on members of the public to spend some time with their elderly neighbours over the Christmas period.
“Time costs nothing, so please give generously,” said Seán Moynihan, the group’s chief executive.
According to Alone, many older people find the holidays a lonely and isolating time and a visit from another community member can make a huge difference. The organisation itself experiences a dramatic increase in calls for help and support over the winter.
Volunteers will distribute food hampers. blankets and other essentials to hundreds of elderly people in need on Christmas week. On Tuesday, hot meals will also be delivered to those living alone.
About 120,000 older people live by themselves in Ireland, about 10 per cent of whom could be classed as vulnerable.
The World Health Organisation rates loneliness as a higher health risk than lifelong smoking, with researchers also linking a lack of social interaction with the onset of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Alone tries to combat isolation and loneliness via its network of almost 200 volunteers and its small, dedicated team of staff who provide companionship, support and housing to older people in need.
“At this time of year, it’s vital that the public are reminded about the negative effects that isolation can have on certain older people,” continued Moynihan. “It’s very easy for people to get caught up in their own lives at Christmas time, and we’re asking that people remember that a simple visit to an older person can make a huge difference to their wellbeing, as they may be desperately in need of some company.”
He stressed that the vast majority of older persons are not at risk, but one in 10 are a priority for the public. “Not all older people in the community are in need of support, we support the group of between 10 – 15 per cent of those who are at risk of isolation, and we need to be sure that these people are factored into people’s plans at this time of year.
“The public have been very generous and thoughtful in the past, and this year we’re encouraging people to support us in our work and be aware of the needs of older people living alone in the community.”
ALONE receives no Government funding, relying solely on donations from companies and members of the public.