Press Release

Minister Helen McEntee, TD, calls on people to look after elderly neighbours during the Christmas period

Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Helen McEntee TD, has today called on people to be mindful of their elderly family, friends and neighbours this Christmas.

Minister Mc Entee said: ‘”Christmas is a time of enjoyment for most of us. We are busy celebrating the festivities and good cheer, and can neglect to think about others for whom Christmas can be a difficult time of year. We all have a responsibility to ensure that the most vulnerable among us, the older members of our families and communities, are not forgotten at this time of year. Christmas can be an especially lonely time when it is spent without company, which is the case for many members of our communities.

“Many elderly people live alone and may have limited mobility, or other health issues. I would appeal to everyone to think of an elderly or vulnerable person in their community who could benefit from companionship at this time of year. Calling into an elderly person for a chat can mean so much. In some instances, this may be the only contact they have with another person for the whole day, or even longer. Older people, particularly those who may not be able to get out and about, can suffer from feelings of social isolation. This is not just confined to those living in remote areas. Many older people living in vibrant and busy communities can also experience feelings of loneliness, particularly if they have no family or friends remaining in the area. Simple gestures such as a phone call once a day, a regular arrangement to call in for a chat, or offering to bring the older person to visit other friends and family who may not be able to travel, can mean so much and make a world of difference in someone’s life.

“We should also make sure that our older neighbours have sufficient food and heat available to keep them well and warm over the winter. Offering to do a weekly shop for an elderly friend can be a lifesaver, as everyday activities such as shopping can become more difficult on cold, dark days. It is vital that older people stay warm during the winter months. The winter weather can have a major impact on the health of older people, and a failure to stay warm can lead to stroke, hypothermia or respiratory illnesses. Please take the time to make sure that your elderly neighbour is keeping their home heated over the Christmas period.

“I would also encourage you to continue looking out for each other throughout the year. Although loneliness may be more pronounced at Christmas, we must not forget that some older people need a little extra help from those living in their community year-round.

“I would like to appeal to all elderly people to make sure that they take care of themselves this winter. Make sure that you keep your house warm, eat well and have regular hot drinks. Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for and accept any help that is offered by friends and neighbours.”