Belfast Telegraph

Loneliness 'scourge of the elderly'

Loneliness is the biggest problem faced by older people, a study has found.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) survey found the problem was particularly acute in rural areas, with declining public services, cuts in rural transport and the closure of post offices blamed.

Mairead Bushnell, SVP national president, said loneliness remained an issue for the elderly despite attempts by the society to tackle the problem.

"Although the SVP is working to combat loneliness by its system of personal visitation, services such as day centres, social housing and holidays, and the provision of personal alarms, this is a very wide social issue," Ms Bushnell said.

"As this study shows older people especially disliked robotic telephone answering systems used by public and private companies which, they felt, reduced personal contact," Ms Bushnell said.

"To keep in touch, many older people use mobile phones, mainly for calls and a smaller proportion for texting. Few people we talked to used personal computers or the internet."

The purpose of the research was to understand the experience of being elderly in Ireland today, with almost 600 people interviewed in 43 different urban, provincial and rural areas by independent researchers.

The Older people - Experiences and Issues qualitative study also found many elderly people on the state pension were "just able to manage", while those living alone were concerned about security at night, fearing attack in their home or on the street.

A particular problem highlighted in the study was the lack of transport services to hospitals and other medical appointments. In rural Ireland, where hospitals or health services were closed, ambulance or transport services were not provided in their place, the survey found.

There are 690,000 people aged 65 or over on the island of Ireland.

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