Belfast Telegraph

Public urged to reach out to elderly who may face loneliness over winter

People are being urged to check on older people in their community.

Don Johnson has turned to Alone charity after he spent 19 months in hospital (Cate McCurry/PA)
Don Johnson has turned to Alone charity after he spent 19 months in hospital (Cate McCurry/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

The public have been urged to reach out to elderly people, as pensioners can face high levels of isolation and loneliness over the Christmas period.

Many pensioners worry about warmth, shelter and essentials including food and medication, as well as health difficulties and fuel poverty during the winter months.

Launching Alone’s cold-weather campaign, the charity urged people to check on older people in their community.

Tilda (The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing), says about one in 10 older people have problems heating their home and nearly half have experienced problems with damp, mould or mildew.

Sean Moynihan, chief executive of Alone, which supports older people, said there are pensioners who may need help.

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Sean Moynihan urged the public to reach out to elderly people (Cate McCurry/PA)

“For older people we are saying, if you need help, reach out to us or reach out to your neighbours,” he said.

“Put a priority on heating, and spend your money on heating if we get a cold snap, because ultimately it’s a health issue.

“Keep moving, keep eating, stay connected. Stay linked in, and if you need our help in Alone, please reach out to us. That’s what we’re here for.

“I think the big thing that is going to happen this time of year, at Christmas time, is loneliness.

“We will be out on Christmas Day delivering Christmas dinners to people.

“People are lonely because they can’t get out as much as they can at other times of the year.

“There are people who may have financial issues because the heating costs an awful lot more during winter.”

He called for the Government to respond to the ageing population and those who are living on the basic pension.

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Alone called for the Government to respond to the ageing population and those who are living on the basic pension (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Don Johnson, 67, from Clontarf, turned to Alone after he spent 19 months in hospital following four strokes in 2017.

Mr Johnson was unable to carry out badly needed repairs to his home and struggled with mobility issues.

“Alone just seems to be there with their wings outspread in a kind of a guardian angel way. They are extremely helpful,” he said.

“They make regular phone calls and check in with me and ask how am I doing.

“It’s just the contact with other people, as I know everybody has their own lives.

“I feel that with Alone you feel needed and wanted. It’s an emotional thing really and you know that there’s somebody you can reach for.

“I feel that sometimes, too, that society in general has turned a little bit cold.

We are responsible for each other and it would be a better world if we all realised that Pensioner Don Johnson

“We are responsible for each other and it would be a better world if we all realised that.

“Just tap a neighbour’s window and let them know you are there for them.”

Lord Mayor of Dublin Paul McAuliffe appealed to people living in cities not to forget about the elderly in their communities.

“People go about their day, they come home and make their own dinner, and sometimes they pass by somebody and they think, ‘Oh I wonder how that person is’ while I’m in work.

“So I’d encourage Dubliners to shake off that uncomfortable feeling by knocking at their door.

“Certainly in many new communities, people are a bit uncomfortable about being neighbourly, and yet we know that people really want that connection with each other.

“Take that first step, as that older person needs you to take that first step.

“I’d say to older people out there, don’t be afraid, too, of ringing, the services are there for you. It’s not something you should be ashamed about, calling. Take advantage of the service.”

The public can help older people by donating new hot water bottles, blankets, gloves and slippers through donation boxes in StayWell pharmacies around the country.

PA

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