Active Retirement Ireland, the country’s largest membership organisation for older people, said it welcomes recognition by the government of the challenges faced by older people post-COVID, but called for more resources and real action to support older people.
The organisation is making the call following the launch last Wednesday (1 March 2023) of a new government campaign, ‘Hello Again World’, which is aimed at combatting loneliness and isolation among older people, an issue exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the Active Retirement Ireland North Western Region AGM on Monday (6 March 2023), CEO of Active Retirement Ireland Maureen Kavanagh, said: “We welcome the government’s new social connections campaign to address loneliness and isolation among older people. As an organisation, we have lived this mission and championed this message for 45 years. Social connection is one of the most important pathways to better health. However, older people yet to re-engage socially and in their communities after COVID need more than words of encouragement.
“We would like to ask the government what it is doing to support older people who were frightened into isolation and who had their independence and ability to make their own decisions taken from them during the government’s handling of the pandemic?
“Older people did indeed pay a high price during the pandemic, as the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said last week. Many older people felt that their concerns and wishes were ignored during the pandemic. The government must now listen and act for older people. Older people must have a voice at all levels in our society and in government, and this is why Active Retirement Ireland, with our partners in the Alliance of Age Sector NGOs, are calling for the establishment of an Independent Commissioner for Ageing and Older People.”
Active Retirement Ireland said it echoes the sentiments of Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Professor Breda Smyth in her open letter to older people last week encouraging them to return to doing the things they love and that keep them socially connected, referencing the known strong link between loneliness and chronic medical conditions, as well as poor mental health.
Ms Kavanagh added, “Active Retirement Ireland has worked for 45 years to support older people to build and maintain their social connections, whether through their local Active Retirement Association or elsewhere, because we know that social connection is vital for better health and positive ageing. We know that there are still fewer ARAs and members engaging in activities than before the pandemic — at the end of last year our figures showed that just 81% of ARAs had resumed activities and 74% of members had returned to their ARAs.
“The Minister for Health and the CMO last week confirmed their recognition of this significant issue facing many older people, and now we are calling for real action and resourcing to make sure older people are properly supported.”