A telephone helpline for elderly people received an average of 58 calls per month from Limerick people last year.
Loneliness, isolation, concern over water charges and cuts to services were among the main issues raised by people who made contact with the Senior Help Line service, according to local co-ordinator Terry Clancy.
“We get a lot of calls from people who are not married and are living in rural areas –farmers who might not see anyone from one of the day to the next,” Mr Clancy explained.
While loneliness remains a big issue for many older people, in recent times broader economic factors have also contributed to their anxieties.
“Over the last 14 months, it is things like water charges, emigration, cuts to services,” he said.
Calls to the helpline come from men and women, in both rural and urban area. According to Mr Clancy, the gender split is roughly 60-40 men to women. The majority of callers are aged between 60 and 90.
Senior Help Line provides a confidential listening service for older people by trained older volunteers for the price of a local call anywhere in Ireland.
Limerick is one of a number of centres around the country where volunteers man the phones for a number of hours each week. However, the system is set up in such a way that if one centre if not manned, the call is automatically routed to another. That way, the organisation is able to provide a service every day of the year from 10am to 10pm.
All calls are strictly confidential, and callers are not required to give their name or disclose any private details they do not wish. The purpose of the service is to give support, to keep company and to provide an empathic listening ear. In cases where additional assistance is requested, the operators can refer callers to the relevant agencies, such as the Money and Advice Bureau or the HSE.
Senior Help Line is open every day of the year from 10 am to 10 pm. The LoCall number is 1850 440 444 and no landline call costs more than 30 cent. For more information, or to make a donation, go to www.thirdageireland.ie/what-we-do/14/senior-helpline.