Struggling to get to social gatherings a key issue for older people, report finds

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Older people in Ireland are highly involved with their family and in society, but many of them face significant challenges in negotiating the built environment and in accessing public transport.

Access to public seating, the duration of traffic lights, and continuity of pavements are some of the issues of concern for older people, which are highlighted in a major report published on Monday.

The report, Positive Ageing in Age-Friendly Cities and Counties: Local Indicators for Ireland, is based on research by the Healthy and Positive Ageing Initiative (HaPAI).

Some 85% of those aged 50-plus engage in one or more social leisure activities at least once a month. Fewer than one in 10 (7.1%) said they often feel lonely.

The people are based in 20 county and city council areas and many spoke of barriers to participation.

The percentage of those unable to get to places where social activities take place varies widely, from as little as 2.1% in south Dublin to almost 25% in Laois.

Older people are very much involved in their family, with one in four of those aged 55 providing care to a child or grandchild weekly.

However, there is a heavy reliance on private cars for transport, with 70% driving a car every week (and 58% of these people are aged 70 and over).

Meanwhile, 31% find it difficult to access public transport and this is more pronounced in rural areas, where it is a problem for 68%.

Because of transport problems, one in four people find it difficult to socialise, to do essential tasks, or to keep health and social care appointments.

One in four have problems maintaining their home, and for one in 10 it is the condition of their home that concerns them.

Elsewhere, 29% of those from rural areas have difficulty walking outside, compared to more than a fifth in urban areas.

About three quarters (74%) of those aged between 55 and 69 use the internet daily, compared to 39% of those aged 70.

Almost seven in 10 of those interviewed have a household internet connection, with the level of usage varying from 45%, in Cavan, to 79%, in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown (Dublin).

Almost one quarter of the retirees would have preferred to have stayed working part-time or full-time.

One in 10 of those aged between 65 and 69 are still working, as are 4.5% of those aged 70 and over.

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