HAVING family and friends, an inner resilience and a garden are coming through as major assets for older people these days, according to SeniorLine.
Ireland’s national confidential telephone service for older people has analysed data over the past three months and concluded that social, personal and environmental factors combine to play a crucial role in mental and emotional health as we grow older, and particularly since the advent of Covid-19.
SeniorLine, whose service is delivered by trained older volunteers, has 22 years of experience of listening to Ireland’s older people every day of the year, and so has a keen insight into what is needed for long-term wellness – and the converse.
The service identifies two worrying aspects that need attention.
These are the paternalistic attitudes, however unconscious, held by many towards older people which the virus revealed, and the possible negative long-term effects for over-70s in being isolated home alone for so long.
Damian Leneghan is Programme Manager of SeniorLine: ‘As the restrictions are easing on older people going out or inviting family and friends into their home again, we find many callers are nervous and unsure.
Only safe place is home
One can become institutionalised very quickly. If you have been told for over three months that the only safe place is home, on your own, it is understandable that many now feel unprotected and unsafe when going out.
‘We find callers need information and reassurance. Our volunteers are encouraging our callers to begin taking up their social life again, to see friends, to exercise in the fresh air, all the time observing safe distancing.
It is not good for older people to be shut away, and the community must not be deprived any longer than is necessary of the presence of older people in our midst, of their contribution and their voice.
Older people make a significant economic and social contribution to families, communities and society as a whole.
Depriving them of the opportunity to contribute means that we all lose out’, he said.
Callers to SeniorLine in recent months have felt frustration and resentment at the way they were represented to the general population. “We were all lumped together as one.
“I am an individual, healthy, involved in my family and community. I did not recognise myself in the headlines,” said Elizabeth.
Many others agreed, objecting to the homogenous nature of the restrictions, characterising all septuagenarians as weak and needing protection.
SeniorLine is a programme of Third Age; Aine Brady as its CEO.
“All Third Age programmes are delivered by trained older volunteers, a total of over 3,000 people working in their communities in socially useful programmes that help thousands of people of every age in every county.
“Covid-19 is highlighting that we need to prepare for an ageing Ireland in a more positive way, to realise the contribution that older people give, and to implement policies to facilitate this. Much of the preparation for societal ageing can concentrate on cost, on negativity.
“There is another side to this. Older people are an asset, and many families deprived recently of the physical presence and loving care of parents and grandparents will endorse this,” she said.
Anne Dempsey Communications Manager 087-7450721.