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Elderly to choose food, fuel or medication

Age Action has urged the Government to take “meaningful steps” in the upcoming Budget to assist older people, who are struggling as a result of the cumulative effect of recent austerity budgets.

“Many older people are struggling to heat their homes, pay for their medications and adapt their homes so they can continue to live in them,” Age Action’s head of advocacy and communications, Eamon Timmins said.

“The choices which older people are being forced to make – choosing between food, fuel and medication – are simply unacceptable,” he declared when addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection on Wednesday.

Mr Timmins outlined the results of research it carried out earlier this year with its members across Ireland to assess the impact which austerity measures were having.

“From people going to bed early and staying in bed longer in the morning in order to stay warm, to people cutting back on food, older people revealed how they were suffering in silence,” Mr Timmins said.

On the one hand key income supports (such as the fuel allowance and the telephone allowance) have been cut or abolished in recent budgets, while on the other hand there have been increased demands in the form of taxes and charges (such as the property tax and prescription charges) on their fixed incomes.

Cuts to medical cards and health service budgets were having a disproportionate impact on the sickest and frailest of older people, Age Action told the meeting. Almost 18,000 medical cards have been withdrawn in the last 12 months.

“This year the HSE aims to provide 1.7 million few hours of home help, than they provided in 2010 – despite the growing needs of our ageing population,” Mr Timmins said.

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