Public perceive older people as a nuisance, conference told

Publication of report on positive ageing told many parents ‘wary’ of leaving young with elderly

The public’s view of older people is that they are frail, a nuisance and bed blockers, a conference on ageing has heard.

Gráinne Hines, a member of Donegal Older People’s Council, said she believed that public opinion on older people really needed to be changed “because most older people are active, helpful and are contributing to the community”.

“But what we have to make sure is that everybody has that opportunity. To contribute to your community you have to be comfortable, you have to have an adequate pension, be able to afford home heating, good clothing and being able to afford socialising,” she said.

Ms Hines was speaking in Dublin at the publication of a report involving more than 10,000 people aged 55 and over. The report, Positive Ageing in Age Friendly Cities and Counties – Local Indictors for Ireland, found almost half of those interviewed participated in local community events and activities.


More than one in 10 of those surveyed for the report said they experienced negative ageist attitudes or behaviours towards them.

Barriers to participation, such as not being able to get to the venues, varied greatly across different parts of the State from as little as 2.1 per cent in south Dublin to almost 25 per cent in Laois.

‘Very wary’

Ms Hines said many parents she encountered were “very wary” when it came to older people mixing with youths.

She called for more intergenerational initiatives to be run in order to allow older people to engage with youths and prevent them feeling lonely and isolated.

“We’re not really getting into the schools, into the clubs to mix with younger people and that is a problem,” she said.

“The GAA actually are probably one of the better organisations for this because there are people who are still involved in their older years, helping out with the younger kids.

“Again, they are having problems. Parents are very wary of older people mixing with younger people. We might as well admit it, that is a problem.”


Ms Hines said the need for frequent Garda vetting was a deterrent to some older people volunteering in their communities.

She said she had been vetted three times in the past two months as a result of being involved with a number of organisations.

“Each time you volunteer you must get Garda vetting. I know this is essential in today’s world but it is actually stopping people volunteering and that is a pity,” she said.

Dr Stephanie O’Keefe, the HSE’s national director for strategic planning and transformation, said the organisation had been working with local authorities over the last five years to strengthen community involvement in decision-making to improve community health and wellbeing.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times