Older people should be allowed to stay at home as long as possible

By Maurice Garvey 

THE manner in which the government presented incentives for elderly people to ‘downsize’ from larger family homes into smaller accommodation, was not received well by those who have worked hard all their lives.

Even the term ‘downsizing’ itself is considered “ageist”, according to Professor Rose Anne Kenny, a renowned gerontologist from Trinity College and Director of the Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing at St James’s Hospital.

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Dr Rose Anne Kenny and Eithne Rankin 

Speaking at a mental health seminar for elderly people in Clondalkin this week, Professor Kenny said much of the information on housing and moving elderly people out of their homes was “ill-informed”.

She said social engagement should be key to any developments and the term “re-sizing” is more appropriate to “downsizing”.

“Everybody needs to re-calibrate not just elderly people,” said Professor Kenny, the Principal Investigator and founder of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing - a 10 year study of 8,500 participants.

“The ESRI put out information that was not appropriate language, and we are looking for them to change that.”

Professor Kenny delivered a highly informative talk to over 70 older people at Áras Chrónáin, in Clondalkin Village, during a seminar on mental health and positive ageing, organised by local advocacy group Older Voices for Change (OVC).

David Lynch, Equality Coordinator, South Dublin County Partnership, who support OVC, said the issue of ageism is “close to the heart” of many in the group.

“OVC have strongly advocated that people should be allowed to stay in their own homes as long as possible, and be cared for, rather than going into nursing homes,” said Mr Lynch.

“Research indicates this is more cost effective. OVC have advocated for more community resources (to support elderly care). In 2017, we had a seminar on care in hospitals, nursing homes and community settings, and discovered a lot of ageist terminology like bed blockers, which is very offensive.”

While some elderly people may welcome the chance to move from a bigger home to smaller accommodation with less maintenance, a survey by Housing for Older People found that 66 per cent of over-65s want to stay in mainstream housing.

Siobhan Rooney, OVC Secretary was pleased with the outcome of the mental health seminar.

 “We virtually all know of people in our community and indeed, sometimes family and loved ones, that are affected by mental health difficulties but often times the problem as it pertains to older people can remain hidden.

“We hope from today there can be more public discussion and understanding of the issue and that we can all take positive messages as to how to maintain our mental and physical wellbeing as we age.”

The seminar explored factors that influence good mental health as one ages, and after Professor Kenny’s talk, attendees took part in workshops on mental health.

Advocacy group OVS was established in 2011. Mr Lynch said the group is made up of people from mostly Clondalkin and Lucan, who meet up monthly to tackle issues and support elderly people in the community.

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