A Cork-based advocate of the elderly has spoken of the “heartbreaking loneliness” elderly people have been experiencing on the run up to Christmas this year.
Paddy O’Brien, who is organiser of the Over 60s Talent Competition, urged family members and neighbours to check in on the elderly who are heading into “the most tough winter they have ever faced”.
“During the summer months, it was okay because they could go out around their gardens but the elderly are now really suffering as a result of the current situation.
“A lot of them dread the long, cold wintery nights and it is in the evenings that they really feel most alone and are finding it hard to cope,” he said.
Mr O’Brien said that elderly people have adhered to all restrictions placed upon them during the pandemic and that they now need some normality returned to their everyday lives.
“In the good days they would go to the bingo, they could go to the day care centre and there were always some activities in the community centre and now that’s all gone.
“During restrictions, they followed all the rules and they didn’t go to mass, they didn’t go to the church and they stayed at home but now the loneliness is getting to them and I’m speaking about thousands here and the real victims are the people living alone, the people housebound and the people who are sick. They are just broken-hearted,” he said.
He said some older people “really miss the mass” as a means of getting out of the house and meeting their friends, particularly over the Christmas season.
“Every person I’ve spoken to has mentioned loneliness. They’re not even looking forward to Christmas.
“I’ve never heard such sad stories of what I am hearing currently about people being at home all day on their very own.
“Some have family members living abroad who would normally come home for Christmas and that would be the highlight when they would return and it's of great sadness that they are separated from their relatives this year.
“Some said that Christmas used to be the happiest day but now it has become the loneliest and they just want Christmas to be over,” he said.
Mr O’Brien encouraged people to “be more vigilant in caring for the elderly” and encouraged people to help combat their loneliness and to ensure they have adequate food and heating over the Christmas season.
“Neighbours in the vicinity of elderly people should get their telephone numbers and make a point of phoning someone each day and that would mean so much to them.
“Make contact, knock on the door, or call, as the elderly are nervous to go to the shop. Heating is of vital importance to elderly people too at this time of the year so people should make sure they have sufficient fuel in the home for the cold days ahead,” he said.
Mr O’Brien also commended the charity organisations who have been calling to the elderly since the beginning of the pandemic.