Older people felt so lonely during lockdown periods that they sent themselves letters so the postman would visit, an Oireachtas sub-committee has heard.
Alone chief executive Sean Moynihan said cocooning measures had a significant impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of older people.
The charity set up a national support line that receives up to 1,100 calls a day, a high proportion of which are related to loneliness and social isolation.
“While cocooning measures may have been necessary at the time, there is no denying this is a negative impact on older people,” Mr Moynihan told a meeting of the Oireachtas sub-committee on mental health.
“We noted the older people using the support line were becoming increasingly distressed by these measures.”
Sinn Féin TD for Cork-East Pat Buckley said the work of community organisations such as the gardaí, An Post and GAA clubs helped these older people still feel connected.
“A lot of people are rurally isolated. I’m well aware that people wrote themselves during the pandemic so the postman would actually call down the country lane so they actually had someone to talk to,” he said.
Deprivation, financial hardship and the housing situation were also causes for concern among older people during the pandemic, the representatives said.
Age Action established a hardship fund to “address small Covid-related financial hardships experienced by older people”.
The charity raised €110,000 for the fund, but with 28,000 eligible applications, it was “massively oversubscribed”.
Age Action called for an increase in the State pension, to come in line with the cost of living.