Are we ready for an older Ireland?


Sir, – As a member of the over-85s, I can only laud Prof Des O’Neill’s common-sense views (Letters, August 28th).

However, space did not permit him to elaborate on the social as well as economic benefit from our and the over-65s cohort who are reasonably fit and in a position to support ourselves financially.

For the last 20 years I have been and continue to be amazed at the undocumented but immense and diverse voluntary contribution of older people to Irish society – visiting the sick and/or lonely in hospital, nursing homes or housebound and the elderly (!) on a regular basis, driving or accompanying family members, neighbours and strangers in need to medical appointments, shopping, or just to social events, raising funds for charity from schoolbooks for Traveller children to cancer research, working to promote literacy among those whom an older educational system failed, etc, etc, and not to speak of the regular army of grandparents who might wish to enjoy their leisure but instead give their energy to make it possible for their children to pay their mortgages and contribute to the Irish economy. Voluntary work is so good for our own health and wellbeing, we meet such a variety of interesting (if, like ourselves, on occasion tiresome) people, usually in very different circumstances from our own and have our pre-conceived notions challenged.

We may not like this, but it surely helps us to move with the times. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – I’m puzzled as to why Prof Des O’Neill, a geriatrician, objects to elderly people being regarded differently from younger people, especially concerning any suggestion that they may be more in need of community support.

Geriatricians practice a branch of medicine, geriatrics, that has evolved into a separate specialty and has a been given a special name for the very reason that older people are indeed different from younger people, need to be catered for differently and are in need of medical treatment different from that given to young people.

I have observed within my own family that a geriatrician is the very person whose expertise is required for an old person to be considered for mobility aids, to be recommended for home help due to frailty, and finally for an older person to be consigned to a retirement home on a one-way ticket.

I sometimes think that, had geriatric medicine existed in the time of Thomas Carlyle, it is geriatrics, not economics, that he would have described as “the dismal science”. – Yours, etc,




Co Waterford.

Sir, – I am moved to challenge the editor of The Irish Times to a triathlon. Let us agree: a kilometre swim, an eight-kilometre walk, and a 20-kilometre cycle.

Incidentally, I am 77. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 18.