Stop portraying old people as lonely

The portrayal of all older people as being lonely or depressed, or both, should be firmly rejected, a major nursing conference has been told.

According to Sylvia Meehan of the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament, people should not assume that being old will automatically lead to loneliness, isolation and depression.

"This is merely the outcome of circumstances which do not cater for the needs of the older generation. Clearly, a minority of older people are in stark positions, but there should be no stereotype that older people are lonely", Ms Meehan insisted.

She pointed out that while most older people want to enjoy old age, 'we are often surrounded by predictions which show a gloomy view' of growing old. It is essential, she emphasised, that we recognise that such predictions are not necessarily true for everyone.

However Ms Meehan acknowledged that for some people, a loss of facilities, such as transport and healthcare services, has led to a decline in social interaction, particularly in some rural communities.

"We need a re-evaluation of ancillary services which must be provided in communities to assist older people. We must move to a strong belief that older people should be assisted in trying to achieve what they want, rather than the idea that something should be done for them", she said.

Ms Meehan made her comments at the SIPTU Nursing Convention.

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