Many of those in their mid-fifties and older are providing financial assistance to their own elderly parents, as well as their own children, according to latest figures from a major study, writes Noel Baker.
The latest findings from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) shows that half of those aged 54 and over with living parents were providing them with financial help, while 48% of those in the same age category are also helping out their children with money.
The study shows that Ireland's aging population is more likely to help their children financially than to be on the receiving end of monetary assistance.
The research also shows that the rate of hospital admission among older people has increased since earlier phases of the study. While 18% of adults aged 54 years and older in Ireland had visited the emergency department in the past year, among those over the age of 80, 25% had attended an emergency department in the previous year, up from 16% in 2010, and 26% had been admitted to hospital - up 10% compared to the figure in 2010.
It also shows an increase in obesity levels, claims many older people with depression have not accessed help, and points out that since the last round of research in the study, 40% of older adults had experienced a fall.
According to the study, published today: "Importantly, 20% sustained an injurious fall necessitating hospital attendance - this equates to 60,000 people per year in Ireland."
The latest findings are from Wave 3 of TILDA, a study examining the social, economic, and health circumstances of 8,175 community-dwelling adults aged 50 years and older, resident in the Republic of Ireland.
It also shows that grandparents are offering an average of up to 36 hours a week in babysitting services to their children, thereby facilitating them to work more.
Older people are also the backbone of volunteering across the country, while the pattern of Irish people living longer means that some of those aged 54 and over are still looking after their own elderly parents.
According to the longitudinal study, 14% of those involved in the research still had living parents of their own, and one-quarter of that cohort were assisting their parents with personal care and 43% were helping with other activities including shopping, transportation and household chores.
Half of these older adults also provided financial assistance to their own parents. Researchers noted there was a small reduction in the percentage of participants providing financial and non-financial assistance to parents and children.
Reacting to the findings, Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said: “The TILDA research confirms the important role older people are playing in Ireland.
"Right across the country it’s often older people who keep communities together, who are active in local residents associations, raise money for charities or take care of their grandchildren to enable their own grown children to go to work or pursue an education.
“We need to move away from seeing older people as frail or passive and celebrate the contribution they are making to their families and their communities.”
The report also shows that family assistance is matched by civic efforts. "More than half (53%) of older adults in Ireland volunteered at some time during the previous year with 17% doing so at least once per week.
"Retired adults and those with higher levels of educational attainment are more likely to do so. Frequent volunteering is associated with better quality of life and fewer depressive symptoms."
Yet while 60% of the older population take part in active and social leisure activities at least once per week and 47% are involved in formal organisations, such as sports or social clubs, the rate of participation in such activities falls as people age.
Researchers also found a slight decrease in the percentage of these older adults taking part in active and social activities compared with earlier waves of the study.
*Health and Wellbeing: Active Ageing for Older Adults in Ireland Evidence from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing