Members of the public are being encouraged to take a few minutes out of their day to interact with their older relatives or neighbours, who may be feeling lonely or isolated this winter.
Launching its Christmas campaign, ALONE, the organisation which supports older people to age at home, highlighted that demand for its services has increased five-fold in recent years and one in 10 people over the age of 75 is lonely a lot of the time.
Speaking at the launch of the new campaign, author, Marian Keyes, warned that loneliness and isolation can be major problems for older people.
"Dropping in for a chat or helping a neighbour with their shopping could make all the difference to their mental health. We've all felt alone at certain times in our lives, but sometimes all it takes is a cup of tea and a bit of a laugh to really lift an older person's spirits. A few minutes may not mean much to you, but to a lonely older person it could be the highlight of their day," she said.
She pointed out that as we age, it can become more difficult for older people to reach out to others for companionship, as they might be too embarrassed or proud to admit that they are lonely.
"What might only seem like a quick chat to you can make an older person feel loved, appreciated, and that they are part of the community. Older people have the most amazing stories to tell and it's really important that we take the time to listen," Ms Keyes said.
Meanwhile, ALONE is also asking for support from new volunteers and donors, as the charity is dependent on the generosity of the public. Its services include a Support and Befriending service, which is designed to alleviate the negative impacts loneliness can have on mental and physical health.
Volunteers are trained and supported by experienced staff, and provide older people with companionship and practical support.
"It takes us 10 minutes to introduce an older person to their new volunteer, but it can lead to years of companionship and friendship and it can change someone's life," commented ALONE CEO, Sean Moynihan.
He said that for those who do not have the time to volunteer, a donation could make a big difference, particularly as demand for services has increased so much in recent years.
"Loneliness is a crisis experienced by thousands of older people and it's important to remember that there are many who will spend the festive period alone. Loneliness is a year-round issue, but it can be particularly difficult during the festive and winter periods.
"We are asking members of the public to support ALONE by giving a little bit of their time to older people who are alone, by making a donation to support our services, or by referring an older person who might use our services," Mr Moynihan said.
At the launch of its Christmas campaign, ALONE also launched its national phone line. This is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm, nationwide.
"We are encouraging any older person who needs support this winter to reach out and give us a call. There are tens of thousands of older people who are experiencing loneliness, isolation, housing and financial difficulties, and other challenges this winter, and we want them to know that support is available," Mr Moynihan added.
The ALONE phone line number is 0818 222 024 or for more information, click on www.alone.ie.
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