Elderly worry about 'being a burden'


Half of all older people worry about becoming a burden upon others and one-quarter worry they don’t have enough money, according to a new survey.

However, a big majority feel either prepared or optimistic about getting old and agreed that, on balance, getting old is more a happy than a sad experience.

The desire for maintaining independence is strong, with 65 per cent of older people saying they are uncomfortable with the idea of living in a nursing home, according to the Pfizer Health Index to be published later today.

Six out of 10 older people feel that modern technology has left them behind, while 67 per cent express a willingness to look after grandchildren.

Recently retired sports commentator Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, now 82, said getting older didn’t mean people had to lose their health. “I’ve never looked upon age as anything other than a number. I believe that as you get older you should try and maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Four out of five older people suffer from a serious medical condition, led by arthritis (41 per cent), high cholesterol (27 per cent) and heart disease (20 per cent). Although 72 per cent have a medical card, 37 per cent says they continue to pay for private medical insurance. Six per cent say they have neither a medical card nor private insurance.

Dr Dermot Power, geriatrician at the Mater Hospital, said most older people were happiest at home. “It is interesting to see that maintaining independence and not want to become an encumbrance on others comes out strongly in this research.”

This view is shared by Robin Webster, chief executive of Age Action Ireland. “Ireland needs a national positive ageing strategy that recognises the diversity of older people and that builds on their overwhelming optimism and their extensive service to their families and communities. Older people are not the problem but part of the solution.”

The index, now in its seventh year, also looked at the general health of the Irish population. People’s perception of their own good health has increased this year, with 65 per cent of adults scoring their health assessment at eight out of 10 or over.

This increase is strongest among younger adults and those from middle-class backgrounds; in contrast, people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds perceive their health to be considerably worse.

The 2012 index reveals a considerable fall in the proportion holding private medical insurance, down to 35 per cent from 44 per cent two years ago. The fall is steepest among the middle classes, down from 64 per cent to 52 per cent.

The number of people going to the doctor and taking part in medical screening is also declining.

Some 43 per cent of the population suffer from a medical condition, with high blood pressure (12 per cent) and arthritis (11 per cent) the most common.

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