Keep up momentum to support older people in their homes, urges Alone

‘We don’t want to go back to business as normal,’ says head of charity

Eileen Murphy, resident of The Iveagh Trust and Michael McCarthy resident of Willie Bermingham Place at the launch of Dublin City Council and Alone’s Cold Weather Campaign, urging members of the public to check in on older people in the community during the winter months. Photograph: / The Irish Times

Eileen Murphy, resident of The Iveagh Trust and Michael McCarthy resident of Willie Bermingham Place at the launch of Dublin City Council and Alone’s Cold Weather Campaign, urging members of the public to check in on older people in the community during the winter months. Photograph: / The Irish Times

 

The pandemic brought out “the best” in services to support older people in their homes and this momentum cannot be lost, chief executive of the Alone charity has warned.

Seán Moynihan, speaking on Friday at the start of the organisation’s winter initiative, said many older people dependent on the State pension were living “just above the poverty line…in poor quality housing and in poor health”. They needed support all year round but particularly when cold weather made them more vulnerable.

The winter initiative, run in conjunction with Dublin City Council, Dublin Fire Brigade and the gardaí, urges people to bear their older neighbours’ needs in mind and to check on them.

“One in 10 older people suffer fuel poverty and might struggle to keep their house warm. At this time older people have to prioritise their spending, and may be going without [other essentials],” said Mr Moynihan.

The Covid-19 crisis had seen a harnessing of community infrastructure in a way not seen before, to support older people who were forced to stay at home for many weeks.

“I think maybe, from this pandemic where so much had to be shifted into the community, we can keep going with that. We have seen the best of the local authorities, the best of the gardaí and An Post supporting older people in the community, and family and carers. We have to keep that investment and that momentum.

“We don’t want to go back to business as normal, whether that is in housing or health care in the community, we don’t want to go back. The right to home-care is critical. This year some home care had to be stood down but there is a commitment in Sláintecare to the right to homecare in 2021 and we really need to see that if we are serious about supporting older people in the community.”

Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu joined Mr Moynihan in appealing to “all Dubliners and indeed people across the country to be mindful of older people in our communities who may live alone or be at risk of struggling with loneliness, health difficulties or food poverty”.

Eileen Murphy (72), who lives in an Iveagh Trust flat in the south inner-city said she was “very lucky” as she lived in a strong community where her rent was “extremely affordable” and where there was a residents’ group that “looks out” for vulnerable neighbours.

A retired receptionist from St Michael’s College in Ailesbury Road, she said more awareness was needed of the circumstances in which many older people lived. “The pandemic has opened up a lot of areas and issues that will need to be looked at,” she said.

ALONE helpline: 0818 222 024 if you are older and are concerned about your own wellbeing, or are concerned about the wellbeing of an older person.