The charity has noted that loneliness is a complex national issue which needs more than an awareness campaign to resolve it
ALONE, the national charity that enables older people to age at home, has broadly welcomed the launch of the ‘Hello Again World’ campaign aiming to combat loneliness and isolation among older people, but has said that urgent action is required to develop a national strategy in this area.
The commitment to develop an implementation plan to tackle loneliness and isolation was made in the Roadmap for Social Inclusion in 2019, and again in the Programme for Government, but no plan has been published to date.
“ALONE has been calling for a national campaign on loneliness since we co-founded the Loneliness Taskforce in 2018. A partnership of 12 organisations and academics from across society committed to ending loneliness. In addition, we have been calling for increased attention to this topic since the ending of pandemic restrictions, as we have seen the impact that long periods of loneliness and isolation have had on older people across the country,” said ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan. “We welcome today’s announcement and hope it brings additional focus to the importance of social engagement as a means of maintaining wellbeing into older age.”
“However, a campaign alone will not remedy the situation and we hope that a strategy to combat loneliness for all ages will follow this announcement. We welcome Minister Butler’s commitment to loneliness but have yet to get any engagement with the Dept of Health regarding development of a broader strategy. While some older people we work with will welcome the reassurances to socialise, some older people are experiencing additional mental and physical health difficulties since the ending of COVID restrictions that are holding them back from further social engagement. Furthermore, in many cases the conditions to increase social activities are not available. Some day care centre facilities and rural transport are not fully operating to pre-pandemic levels and some social activities have never fully returned. In addition to this, the cost of living crisis has had a significant impact on older people’s ability to get out and about. There is a commitment to benchmark the pension in the Programme for Government that is yet to be delivered.”
He continued, “While we welcome the renewed focus on this issue, the issue of loneliness requires significantly more than saying ‘hello again’ in order to alleviate the health problems that it causes. We would urge the Department to engage with ALONE and the members of the Loneliness Taskforce so that we can work together towards resolving this challenge in a meaningful way.”
The ‘Hello Again World’ campaign has been launched by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly; Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler; Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton; and the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Breda Smyth. The campaign encourages older people who have not have not re-established their social connections since they were asked to cocoon for their safety to re-engage with their communities.
ALONE has worked at the forefront of loneliness for a significant number of years, including as a founding member of the Loneliness Taskforce. In October, research funded by the Health Research Board and ALONE, hosted by Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN), showed that ALONE’s unique Support and Befriending services for older people can reduce health decline and suppress the negative impacts of loneliness on health.
ALONE is currently looking for volunteers nationwide to provide Support & Befriending and help to alleviate loneliness among older people. Anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer with ALONE can visit www.alone.ie/volunteer for more details. We encourage any older person who is feeling lonely or isolated to call 0818 222 024.