Cuts causing ‘great hardship’ to older people

CUTS to health and social services and talk of means- testing the state pension are causing great anxiety for many older people, a leading charity has warned.

Age Action said the last 12 months had been a period of “doom, gloom and increasing uncertainty” for Ireland’s senior citizens, with the economic crisis hitting those on low incomes hard.

Chief executive Robin Webster called on the Government to take a more positive approach to the country’s ageing society, which now includes 500,000 people over the age of 65.

He told the organisation’s annual general meeting: “The growing pace of cuts in basic services — such as home helps, therapies, dental care, community support schemes and even the implied threat to the state pension — has caused great hardship for those who currently depend on them and great anxiety among many others who are fearful about their future.”

Minister for Older People Áine Brady, who also addressed the meeting, said she was working on a Positive Ageing Strategy and that the Government was at one with Age Action in its commitment to ensuring older people had the services they needed to live independently for as long as possible.

However, her department admitted that a Health Service Executive blueprint for improving access to home help packages was not yet finished, despite the minister stating a month ago that it was due on her desk within days.

Ms Brady told the meeting that older people should be seen as a positive resource for the country.

“Older people contribute to economic, social and civic life in ways that cannot be measured in purely tangible terms. This involves, for example, caring for family members, participating in community and voluntary activities and imparting generational skills to our younger people,” she said.

More than 25,000 older people benefited from Age Action’s information, education, home repairs and advocacy services last year but the organisation has had to make cuts to staff numbers and services because grant aid and public donations were hit by the recession.

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