'Isolation and security will worry rural elderly as youth move away'
Communities stripped of younger people are facing an uncertain future in post-boom Ireland, Sean O'Leary of Irish Rural Link (IRL) has warned.
He said declining community activities, a high level of dependence and anxiety regarding the economic difficulties being experienced by grown-up offspring characterised the daunting prospect facing rural communities.
Quoting figures from the National Council on Ageing and Older People, O'Leary told the IRL annual conference in Killala that rural areas would continue to have the oldest age profiles nationally in the coming decades as they are likely to experience static or steadily falling numbers of people under 65.
Isolation, loneliness and security will become key concerns for older rural dwellers as the recession bites and the young move to the cities and abroad in search of work.
"The lack of policing services, particularly at night, has created a heightened sense of fear in particular among older rural residents," according to Mr O'Leary.
"We hope the new Seniors Alert Scheme set to replace the Community Supports for Older People Scheme which provides funding for personal alarms will have sufficient resources."
Mr O'Leary was speaking after this year's IRL Rural Awards ceremony, which took place as part of the organisation's annual conference in Killala on Thursday and Friday. This year's award for combating social exclusion went to the Third Age Foundation of Summerhill, Co Meath, who won the award for their Senior Helpline, a low-cost helpline for older people.