Fight against loneliness ‘is key to elderly wellbeing’

It is a largely unacknowledged silent killer of elderly people: It can be lethal and currently affects up to 25,000 people in Ireland.

However, unlike many illnesses, loneliness is easily treated.

This Thursday marks the 25th anniversary of UN International Day of Older Persons and, to celebrate the occasion, minister of state Kathleen Lynch will join Third Age in an intergenerational walk.

The event will take place in Albert College Park beside the Dublin City University (DCU) campus and will be launched by GAA commentator Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh.

DCU staff and students, local older people’s groups and organisations, and Transition Year pupils from nearby schools and friends of Third Age will take part.

As it is leading a global initiative as the first age-friendly university, DCU is an apt setting for the walk which is part of Third Age’s Operation Conversation campaign to coincide with Positive Ageing Week, October 1 to 9.

“Third Age is a member of our expert advisory panel and we are delighted to support this event which demonstrates collaboration with community at its best,” said Christine O’Kelly, DCU’s Age-Friendly Project co-ordinator.

Operation Conversation began as a pilot project in Co Meath aimed at encouraging isolated older people to meet.

Third Age CEO Aine Brady said the latest commitment from the Government to tackle social isolation and foster village renewal will also significantly help older people.

“Our organisation promotes the value of face to face contact, conversation and chat,” she said. “While the communication industry is booming many people in Ireland, particularly older people, can experience great isolation and loneliness. Senior Help Line, our listening service for older people testifies to that. We know at first hand the value to older people of local amenities which are easily accessible.”

The overriding aim of Third Age programmes is to promote social inclusion, community connectedness and the value of older people remaining engaged with friends and neighbours.

The group has more than 1,400 older volunteers in projects that promote social inclusion.

Ms Brady says the importance of the Senior Help Line in reducing loneliness in elderly people cannot be underestimated .

“We know from our programmes how lonely and isolated older people are helped by being able to phone Senior Help Line every day if they wish,” she said. “Some callers tell us we are their lifeline. Our volunteers also tell us how beneficial it is for them to feel needed, and to know they can continue to make a difference.”

Call the Senior Help Line on: 1850 440 444

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