Older people are the linchpin of their community, a study released by Trinity College Dublin has found.
The research highlights the crucial input by the over 70s to making Ireland a better place for everyone to live in.
However, with the Covid-19 crisis, many older people are at now risk of becoming socially isolated in a bid to protect themselves from the virus.
Head of medical gerontology at TCD and St James's Hospital, Prof Rose Anne Kenny, says the study shows the enormous contribution older people make to society.
Prof Kennedy, who is the principal investigator of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing in Ireland, says older people through their volunteering and caring were enabling others to join the workforce.
“The Irish people and policymakers should have a huge appreciation and greatly value this role which assists the Irish people and the Irish economy," she says.
Almost a third (31%) helped and cared for spouses, relatives, neighbours and friends.
Some helped with household chores and other provided personal care – help with bathing, dressing eating and toileting.
Most (65%) have become a caregiver in the last five years. 38% are caring for a spouse, 55% for another relative and the remainder for friends and neighbours.
Almost 30% of over 70s provide childcare for their grandchildren and the median number of hours in the last month for those who provided care was 16 hours. Over 5% provided over 40 hours in the past month.
Almost half volunteered in the last year with a wide variety of organisations benefitting from their input. Almost one in five volunteers every week.
Also, more than one-third of those who volunteered over the previous year did so for least one day each week.
“Many voluntary organisations continue to provide much-needed supports during this time and it is not unreasonable to suspect that many of the over 70s also continue to contribute,” says Prof Kennedy.
It also emerged that 60% of over 70s enjoy regular social and leisure activities that help them maintain friendships, pastimes, and generally remain engaged. The activities also support the economy.
Participation in social and leisure activities have many benefits including better physical and mental health, and cognition.
One in four adults over 70 is also in contact with their parents several times a week.
They are a small but significant number providing their parents with care and other help including financial assistance.
Among those who are retired, 3% do paid work for at least one hour per week. On average, these individuals did 19 hours of paid work per week.
TILDA collects information on all aspects of health, economic and social circumstances from people aged 50 and over in a series of data collection waves once every two years.
When data started to be collected in 2009, TILDA represented 1:156 people aged 50 and older in Ireland.