Thursday 27 April 2017

Over-50s dig deep for family but at expense of their own health

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The over-50s are still propping up their family financially, as well as offering significant childcare - but risk neglecting their own health.

Many are still raiding their own funds to be the 'Bank of Mum and Dad' for adult children, while neglecting to get themselves checked for high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Nearly half of this age group who have children is likely to be bailing children out, in many cases propping up the 'boomerang generation' who are back living at home due to sky-high rents.

In contrast, just 3pc of parents get financial help from their adult offspring.

Along with delivering hand-outs to grown-up children, half of 54 to 74-year-olds provide regular childcare for their grandchildren for an average of 36 hours per month.

The third report of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda) was published by Trinity College yesterday.

The survey has been tracking the health and well-being of the population over the age of 54 since 2010.

It found growing numbers are carrying too much fat around their waists - increasing their risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The rise in middle-age spread is a particular worry among women in their 50s and early 60s, more than half of whom are past the danger-zone for waist size.

Their eating habits can be poor and 76pc are not eating enough fruit and vegetables.

Almost seven in 10 are giving in to temptation, consuming food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar.

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, Tilda's principal investigator, said it was clear the older generation is "making a tremendous contribution to our society".

More than half volunteered during the previous year and 17pc do so at least once a week.

However, it was clear they faced risk factors which, if modified or treated "can make a big difference to positive health and well-being".

She expressed concern at the ongoing prevalence of untreated "treatable" conditions that has not changed in the four years of the study.

One in seven has problems with bladder control and this increases as people get older. But only three in five report symptoms to a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional.

Half of over-75s have hearing loss and men in particular can find it difficult to follow conversations - affecting their quality of life and putting them at higher chance of loneliness and depression.

The report points out there is financial support for hearing aids but their use is low, with just 21pc of people with fair or poor hearing availing of them.

One in 20 older adults suffered a depressive episode in the last year. Yet only 30pc are prescribed appropriate therapy.

Falls are a common problem and a major cause of hospital attendance.

More than a third suffered a fall between 2010 and 2014, rising to 40pc in men and 60pc in women who were over 75.

The report stressed the need for more supports to prevent falls and fractures and this would significantly reduce healthcare costs, leaving fewer older people on trolleys.

A possible concern for the future is the finding that more than a quarter of older people have at least one child living abroad.

"Given the amount of informal care provided by children the pattern of emigration as a result of the economic crash may result in a reduction in family assistance in future decades," it said.

This may mean greater reliance on formal care for older people. Among the over-50s, some 14pc have living parents.

Irish Independent

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