Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ageism in Ireland

More than half of people over 50 years of age living in Ireland have experienced ageism. There is convincing evidence that when older people experience age-related discrimination they internalise these negative views, feel older and less capable and are less likely to look after themselves.

The Irish Republic's population aged over 65 has increased by 19 per cent, or 102,174 people, since 2011.  The numbers of those aged 0-14 only increased by 71,439. So the population is getting older.  The fact is that people living longer is a good thing.

 The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda), Health and Wellbeing: Active Ageing for Older Adults in Ireland 2017 report found that “older adults in Ireland far from being reliant on social supports are net contributors to their extended families and the communities in which they live”.

Almost half of older people help their adult children out financially, whereas only 3 per cent of adult children provide financial help to their parents. Half of adults aged 54 to 74 provide regular childcare for their grandchildren for an average of 36 hours each month. Two-thirds participate in a wide range of social activities including going to the pub and eating out in restaurants, thus contributing to the local economy. In addition, older people are the backbone of the volunteer structure.

Older people need the same quality and quantity of food as younger adults but they are not feeding themselves properly. Almost 80 per cent are overweight or obese and they assume it is natural to gain weight as they get older. Only a quarter eat the recommended five to seven portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Just 17 per cent eat enough dairy products. They eat about five times the recommended amount of treats and snacks. Significant numbers of older people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, incontinence, hearing loss, pain, osteopenia and arterial fibrillation. These conditions often remain untreated. Fewer than one in three older people with depressive symptoms had been prescribed treatment for their condition. The authors concluded that many of these chronic health problems are “mistaken as part of the normal ageing process” and are underdiagnosed and untreated. Contrary to popular belief older people are not greedy consumers of health services. The Tilda study found that there was little change in healthcare utilisation in the population aged 54 to 80. Increased hospital attendance was observed only in those aged over 80.

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