ALONE, the charity for older people, said the effects of isolation can be wide-ranging and can be detrimental to the person’s physical and psychological welfare.
It said the WHO rates loneliness as a higher risk than smoking, with researchers linking a lack of social interaction with degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
“Time costs nothing,” said Seán Moynihan, the charity’s chief executive. “At this time of year, we must remind the public about the hugely detrimental effects that isolation can have on some older people. It’s very easy for people to get caught up in their own lives at Christmas time, and we’re asking that people remember how important it is to visit and check in on older people who may desperately be in need of company, or some support.”
During the Christmas period, ALONE volunteers will distribute food hampers to 500 people. On Christmas Day, they will also bring hot dinners to older people living on their own.
Mr Moynihan said many older people were affected by increased energy costs and the reduced fuel allowance, so it was vital to check on them on regularly during winter, and particularly over Christmas.
With 150 “befriending” volunteers and a small staff, the charity works with more than 330 older people every day.
ALONE’s call came as 83-year-old Wexford man Jim O’Neill died in a fire in the home where he lived on his own. A passer-by called emergency services to the blaze in Tincarrig in Newbawn at 10.30pm on Thursday. New Ross fire services and an ambulance crew arrived quickly but were initially unaware if there was anyone in the house.
After fighting the blaze into the early hours of the morning, the fire crew were able to search the house. They found the remains of the 83-year-old in a downstairs room.
Gardaí in New Ross are appealing for information from anyone who may have noticed anything suspicious in the area prior to the fire.
* ALONE can be contacted via alone.ie or by calling 01 6791032.