Christmas meals and cheer delivered to elderly people in Dublin

Friends of the Elderly organises festive hampers as Covid surge leads to cancelled parties

In pre-Covid years the Friends of the Elderly held three Christmas parties for its clients in its community hall in Dublin's Bolton Street.

The charity deals with 600 elderly people a year in Dublin and provides phone and befriending services.

Of those they support, 68 have died since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, 60 per cent of them with Covid-19.

For the others who use their services, the last two years have been an endless cycle of lockdown and fears.


Now that the elderly clients cannot gather for their Christmas meals as the pandemic enters a second festive season, the Christmas meals are coming to them.

On Wednesday afternoon 20 volunteers and six gardaí delivered hot Christmas dinners and all the trimmings to 150 elderly people in north Dublin, along with Christmas hampers and cards signed by local schoolchildren.

One card was signed by Ananna, who described herself as the “most beautiful person in the world” and wished the recipient a “beautiful Christmas”.

The meals have been donated by the Bonnington hotel in Whitehall with support from Gahan Meats, which supplied the turkey and ham, and the Seed Potato Company, which supplied the vegetables.

The pandemic has exposed a great deal of want among the elderly. During the first lockdown local gardaí in Santry and Whitehall alone did 800 pharmacy drops for elderly people who could not access their local chemist.

‘Fear is unreal’

Friends of the Elderly manager Bernie Curran said the "fear is unreal" for a lot of elderly people who watch the news all day, are immunocompromised and are afraid to venture out after being strongly advised to cocoon during the first lockdown.

“When they hear about people they know dying, they get more scared,” she said.

Others had looked forward to the Christmas parties and were desperately disappointed that they didn’t happen because of the latest Covid-19 surge.

"A lot of people wanted to come because they were fearing going into another lockdown," Ms Curran added.

Those older people visited by Ms Curran and her daughter Ciara on Wednesday have coped with the pandemic in different ways.

Pat Murphy, who lives in Glasnevin, was grateful for the support.

“It’s a terrible time for us. I never thought I would see this day in our lifetime with this all happening. Everyone’s afraid really because you don’t know who has it.”

Teresa Kinsella (70), who lives in Finglas and has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), is fearful of the consequences of letting her guard down.

“I have to stay away from people because I will pick it [Covid-19] up. I am afraid to take the chance, but the Friends of the Elderly has been really good to me,” she said.

‘Very bad year’

Terese Byrne, who lives in Finglas, pronounced it as a "very bad year – I was at a low ebb". She had been waiting for a hip operation for three years and was in a lot of pain.

“I was very pleased to have the Friends of the Elderly and I had never heard of them. They were so helpful. I am much better now. If you are down, you get a phone call. It’s all helpful and it’s all good.”

Dr James O’Connor (78) was once an engineer and designer. Now he lives on his own in Finglas and copes with Covid-19 by isolating himself. “I keep to myself, wearing a mask and doing everything I’m asked to do.”

There is no substitute for the face-to-face contact and the joy that a Christmas party can bring, but the meals will have to do until the pandemic is over.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times