There is a largely unacknowledged silent killer of older people – and it’s called loneliness. A 2000 study by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland found that more than eight times the number of older people living alone felt lonely compared to the general population.
A European study has linked isolation to mental health problems, including depression and self-harm, (Eurostat 2011), and more recently, a UK survey found that social isolation among older people was associated with increased risk of death.
Loneliness may be lethal and is currently affecting at least 25,000 older people in Ireland. This is the number of calls Senior Help Line – Ireland’s only national telephone listening service for older people – received last year. In most calls loneliness was either expressed or implied.
On Thursday, the 25th anniversary of UN International Day of Older Persons, the Minister of State Kathleen Lynch will promote the value of contact between people of all ages by joining Third Age in an intergenerational morning walk in Albert College Park beside the Dublin City University (DCU) campus. The event will be launched by legendary GAA commentator, Micheal O’Muircheartaigh.
The Walk is part of Third Age’s Operation Conversation campaign to coincide with Positive Ageing Week, October 1-9, and to raise awareness of the challenges and potential facing older people in Ireland.