Calls to helpline for elderly increase 27%
Resource type: News
Irish Times |
by OLIVIA KELLEHER A NATIONAL helpline for elderly people has experienced a marked increase in calls because families are apparently leaving older relatives at home while they go on their holidays. Calls to the Senior Helpline service are up 27 per cent from this time last year. Helpline co-ordinator Mary Nally said when the helpline was initially set up nine years ago, pensioners primarily called in large numbers in winter but increasingly elderly people are speaking of feelings of isolation during the summer. “More and more people are going away because of the inclement weather,” Ms Nally said. “Often older people are just left at home on their own. Our levels of calls are up during the summer months. It is very busy.” Helpline volunteer Colm O’Connor said callers often relied on teenage grandchildren for assistance but in summer, the youngsters head for popular holiday destinations such as Majorca or Crete. “In summer a lot of people are isolated as family are on holidays and that, coupled with the misery of the weather, has kept our volunteers very busy. Our volunteers are dealing with a lot of difficult calls about depression. “It is hard for callers because families are away and the teenagers are in Majorca or whatever,” Mr O’Connor said. Senior Helpline volunteers say summer/autumn is a time for hidden loneliness and heartache. They insist it is important for people to reach out to elderly or housebound neighbours who may feel increasingly isolated as the dark nights set in. The helpline, which operates from 13 centres nationally, has 300 trained volunteers on its books. Volunteers have noticed that men are becoming more comfortable about calling the helpline with the figure of male and female callers now reaching a 50/50 rate. The service has grown rapidly since its inception nine years ago. It is a peer-to-peer service, in that the trained volunteers who take the calls are older people aged 60-92. The helpline received more than 8,000 calls last year – a 25 per cent increase on the previous year. Almost 70 per cent of callers are aged between 50 and 75. Calls are also received from people concerned about older relatives and friends. “Our lines are open seven days a week, 365 days a year and callers to the helpline are guaranteed to hear the voice of another older person at the end of the line,” Ms Nally said. The helpline number is 1850 440 444.