ALONE, the charity that supports older people to age at home, is highlighting the importance of their Befriending Service during Friendship Week which is running this week.
ALONE believes that Befriending can act as a preventative health measure in tackling the effects of loneliness among older people.
In Ireland, one third of older people over 65 live alone and 60% of people aged over 80 live alone.
In recent years, a wide range of studies have shown that isolation and loneliness affect the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of an individual.
With the number of over-65s living in Ireland expected to increase to 1.4 million by 2046, ALONE is reminding the general public to extend the hand of friendship to the older members of their communities this Friendship Week.
It is vitally important that as we age we maintain strong links with our local community.
Older people need good services of a consistent quality, to ensure that they don’t slip through the cracks and become isolated from other people.
ALONE’s Befriending Service provides companionship to over 500 older people who are socially isolated through a weekly volunteer visit as well as a range of social events.
ALONE are continually developing the service to ensure that all older people who require it will have access to a quality assured Befriending Service.
As an organisation that works with older people, we see firsthand the effects of loneliness.
I don’t think that people are aware just how devastating loneliness can be for your general health.
Not only can loneliness lead to depression, but it is also a predictor for dementia, cardiovascular disease and decreased immune system responsivity.
Loneliness is twice as dangerous to the health of an older person as obesity, and is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
Many older people think that by asking for help and support they are bothering people.
We want them to know that they deserve more than a little help and support and they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it.
Befriending Network Ireland, led by ALONE, is a national network of Befriending Services for vulnerable and older people that aims are to provide training, quality, transparency as well as a national voice for befriending. ALONE is the only Befriending Service in the country to have a quality award and are passionate about ensuring quality across Befriending Services.
This Friendship Week, we implore older people who are feeling isolated to reach out to Befriending Network Ireland or someone in their own community for help.
We’re also asking the public to set aside 10 minutes to call in on any older persons they think may benefit from seeing a friendly face.
It could be the highlight of someone’s week.