ALONE has been campaigning for many years around the implications of loneliness
Many older people were affected by Government safety measures such as cocooning in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
ALONE is a charity that works with older people who are socially isolated, homeless, living in poverty or crisis.
Many of the older people who have contacted ALONE in the past six months are living alone and are most at risk of experiencing loneliness and isolation, which can negatively affect mental wellbeing.
ALONE has been campaigning for many years around the implications of loneliness and with the establishment of The Loneliness Taskforce in 2018, the organisation continue to advocate towards coordinating a response to the epidemic of loneliness and social isolation in Ireland.
In order to combat loneliness, the taskforce established five principle actions: responsibility allocated to a specific minister and government department, a public campaign to be undertaken, support offered to initiatives and organisations which alleviate loneliness as their primary function, an action plan for volunteering is initiated, and Irish-specific research on loneliness is undertaken.
It is now an urgency to see these actions fast-tracked due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, ALONE has consistently voiced its concern regarding the impact of cocooning measures on older people’s mental health, particularly in relation to social isolation and loneliness. The organisation has noted that older people using their helpline are increasingly distressed by the impacts of cocooning and limited social contacts.
ALONE also reported seeing a huge increase in the number of calls they were receiving in relation to suicidal ideation. Many callers are already in touch with mental health services and where this is not the case, ALONE will link them in.
In addition to this, many older people are dealing with heightened anxiety due to the pandemic. As most of society slowly returns to normal, certain vulnerable groups such as older people are still very worried about the virus and what will happen to them if they are exposed to a carrier of the virus. In response to this, ALONE give older people practical advice on how to stay safe as they reintegrate into society, and support them with any worries or concerns that they may have.
ALONE believe the long-term mental health impacts of the pandemic will continue to affect older people long after the pandemic has passed if immediate action is not taken.
ALONE is concerned that older people may lack the confidence to reintegrate themselves into society in the coming weeks and months due to fears of contracting the virus, particularly as we begin to move into the winter months.
Since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland, a number of measures have been introduced to protect vulnerable individuals, including designated hours for older and vulnerable people in supermarkets, parks and other public places. ALONE is reminding the general public to continue to respect these hours and to avoid visiting public spaces during the times set aside for older and medically vulnerable people.
Financial issues are also negatively impacting older people's mental health and causing anxiety.
Many people in the over 66 age group who would have been working up until the start of the pandemic have now found themselves struggling financially, as those over 66 years of age do not qualify for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and must rely on their contributory State pension of €220 per week.
As many older people are heavily reliant on the State pension as their main source of income, ALONE is seeking to safeguard older people from poverty and support them to age comfortably without having to worry about financial difficulties.
If you need support, or would like to make a referral, please call 0818 222 024 or got to www.alone.ie.
Calls to the ALONE helpline cost no more than a local call to a landline.