19 December 2017
By Mary Bermingham
While Christmas is a very joyful time for many, it can be a difficult time for people who have lost loved ones or who may be isolated or living alone. Saying that you are lonely can be very difficult for someone to admit to, but it is far more common than people realise.
It can affect all ages, but especially the elderly at this time of the year.
With an aging population loneliness is becoming an increasing problem in today’s society. Our population is growing by 20,000 additional older people every year. By 2036 it’s estimated that 20% of the population will be aged 65 and older. 1 in 3 over 65s are living alone and that number is only going to rise.
As Christmas is just around the corner people are facing into a cold and lonely winter. Isolation and loneliness can be particularly catastrophic for our fellow ageing citizens, but some are more vulnerable due to frailty, in particular those who may be mentally alert but physically not capable of moving around without help. Loneliness affects individuals of any age, but older people are particularly susceptible as a result of losing close friends and relatives, as well as the increased prevalence of limiting health conditions. Older women frequently report higher levels of loneliness compared to men.
Sometimes a person’s only contact in the day could be a simple interaction with the postman, shopkeeper, GP or a neighbour saying “Hello.” For someone living alone these simple interactions can be an extremely important part of their day
Several studies have shown that participation in formal activities, such as volunteering and attending social clubs, are associated with reduced loneliness in later life. Loneliness in Ireland is increasingly prioritised as a public health issue and interventions are being developed to prevent isolation. Funding is available to local community groups to create facilities to improve the lot of the elderly, including many designed to increase social participation. Friendly Call is one such service that provide excellent support in contacting the elderly and keeping them engaged in society. Friendly Call Cork is a free service providing phone calls 5 days a week and is available to older people or individuals who may feel lonely, isolated and vulnerable. The Friendly Caller will chat to clients about their day and check on how they are feeling, providing friendship, security and helping clients feel safer at home. Throughout the year but in particular over the next few weeks we should all make an extra effort to take a few minutes to say hello to the elderly and ask them how they are.
Age Action – 021 206 7399
Friendly Call – 021 430 2310