Charity warns elderly lives at risk as cold weather sets in

Almost one million older people feel lonelier at Christmas than at any other time of the year

A leading charity is urging members of the public to check in on older people in their communities over the coming months.

The winter months can be some of the hardest of the year for the elderly with a recent survey finding that almost one million older people feel lonelier at Christmas than at any other time of the year.

Almost 55% of those surveyed said they rely on the television for company over the festive period.

This morning, ALONE launched its cold winter initiative, warning that the drop in temperatures can have a devastating effect on vulnerable older people.

Speaking at the launch, the charity's CEO Sean Moynihan said it is a very challenging time of year. 

"I think what people may not realise is that one-in-ten older people who live on their own wouldn't have enough money to heat their home all winter long," he said.

"Keeping warm for older people; keeping active is a public health issue.

"Ultimately we have a terrible thing called excess winter deaths where more older people pass away during the winter than during the summer."

With more than half of the excess winter deaths linked to poorly heated homes, ALONE is urging older people to prioritize spending on heating during the winter months.

Anyone struggling to keep up with utilities bills can contact utility companies directly to set up a payment plan.

"I think what many people don't realise is that there is a huge change in society and now with around a third of all older people living on their own," said Mr Moynihan.

"Around one-in-eight struggle with isolation and loneliness to the extent that it actually shortens their lives," he said.

"What we do is we bring friendship, comfort and support and time to older people to make sure that no older person is left in that situation."

Dublin's Lord Mayor Mícheál MacDonncha said communities have a responsibility to ensure that vulnerable people are not left without supports:

"We do have a lot of people living in older persons dwelling or tenants of the city council and in most cases that is a community setting in itself," he said.

"But in many cases people may be living in the family home, the last person left, or in private rented accommodation and they can be easily very isolated so it is important that neighbours, friends, family look in on them."

ALONE has volunteers and staff ready to act on requests for assistance and can advise on issues relating to food, heat, or medication.

Anyone with concerns for their own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of a vulnerable older person in the community can contact alone on (01) 679 1032 or visit www.alone.ie.