Seniorline open all hours

Posted on 10th January 2019


‘I feel desperately lonely today, and I am glad you are there’.   ‘My wife died two years ago in December so this is a very difficult time of year’.   ‘I hate New Year’s Eve as I feel I have nothing to look forward to’.    Just three calls to SeniorLine in the holiday fortnight between Christmas and early New Year.    

Other calls included issues such as elder abuse, physical illness and family conflict.  A number of regular callers phoned to thank SeniorLine for support during the year, and saying how much it meant to them.  “One caller said that the fact that we listen and do not judge is very helpful,” said Fiona, a volunteer.

SeniorLine, Ireland’s only peer-to-peer service for older people,  has been open every day of the festive season, and witnesses at first hand the difficult time this winter holiday can be for many. SeniorLine is a programme of Third Age, the not-for-profit organisation fostering the social inclusion of older people. “Christmas can make everything more so. If you have a fairly happy family life, it can be a time of greater enjoyment, but if you are alone or lonely, Christmas can increase feelings of aloneness and alienation.  New Year can also feel very desolate if you feel it will bring more of the same”, says Aine Brady, CEO of Third Age

These low spirits are exacerbated in people who feel that everyone else is having a great time and they are left out in the cold.  A number of callers who had expected to join family for Christmas dinner were not invited.  Others who had stayed with relatives during the holiday season phoned SeniorLine on their return home to tell us how much they enjoyed it.  

The calls to SeniorLine at a time of national celebration demonstrate the lives of harsh and secret loneliness experienced by many older people in an ageing Ireland.  In a national Happiness Survey conducted among older people by SeniorLine, respondents said that staying healthy, being engaged with others and seeing family help to keep them happy.   When asked what bucks them up when they feel down, over 90% said it was getting out of the house.  Other pick-me-ups included going on holiday, having friends, cooking/baking and talking to their spouse.

The publication of the Happiness Survey coincides with new findings by TILDA, (the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing) where those older people reporting highest levels of social integration had higher quality of life scores than those experiencing more social isolation.  

SeniorLine receives over 1,000 calls a month and can confirm that callers feel better when they have social contact, with family, friends and SeniorLine volunteers.  Being able to get out of the house as an antidote to feeling blue is particularly relevant in winter.  Many older people may be confined indoors if conditions are icy, and if they are afraid of falling.  SeniorLine asks neighbours to remember older people living nearby and check that they have sufficient supplies of food, fuels and medicines - not only at holiday times, but regularly during this new year. 


SeniorLine is open every day this winter from 10am to 10pm, Freephone 1800 80 45 91.  

For more information, contact Anne Dempsey, Communications Manager, Third Age 087-7450721

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