It was recently announced that last year the Senior Helpline received 10,000 calls and it is predicted that this figure is set to rise in 2012! Mary Creedon a co-ordinator and volunteer for Senior Help Line has been quoted as saying “When I first started, I was shocked. I thought ‘Oh, my God, I didn’t realise that there were so many lonely people out there.’ It is very sad.” Mary continues to say “As soon as we plug in the phone, it starts to ring, it is amazing. People want to hear a human voice at the end of the line, they are lonely, they are isolated, they are living in the middle of the country and may not have even seen a person passing by.”
Hunters were shocked to learn of these statistics, especially as we live in an age with such advanced technology which could open so many doors for older people, allowing them to live a more active, independent and engaged life. Older generations do not lack this desire, but lack the tools and knowledge of how to do so. We hope to change the face of ageing in Ireland by beginning with bridging the the digital divide with older generations.
At a very fundamental level, all people including older people need to have social contact and be part of social networks. Attention needs to be paid in particular to those that live alone, are housebound or in residential care, including those with dementia. Men were mentioned in particular. It was felt that their isolation has increased particularly in rural areas with the change in laws and attitudes to drinking and driving.
No society has yet ‘solved’ the challenges of ageing, and no past societies have provided comprehensive models to copy. Instead we have no choice but to innovate, experiment and learn fast, and hopefully offer our older generations the tools to tap into their own late-life creativity, to age well in a connected world, and reduce the level of isolation and loneliness which is clearly abundant in the older generations.