As you age, you sort of fade into the background
Case study: Mary Mulligan (76) from Dundalk
One in 10 people aged over 65 suffer with loneliness so severe, it is as damaging to their health as smoking.
Lonely people are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's as those who are not lonely. And they are more likely to be admitted into nursing home care, according to Alone.
Mary Mulligan (76) readily admits: "I could talk for Ireland."
An enthusiastic member of the Alone Netwell choir where, "I'm an alto now, the smoking and old age have reduced my voice," she appreciates the weekly telephone call she gets from the Good Morning Louth service.
Mary lives on her own now and says, "talking to women and men of your own age is fantastic" and she sees the advantage of talking to someone who is not family.
"They are at one remove from you because if you are talking about say grief, you are aware your family is grieving as well, but we talk about everything."
As she aged, she became aware that, "you sort of fade into the background. I remember being in the hospital one day and a radiographer came out to me and said to my daughter 'can she walk?' and my daughter said 'why don't you ask her, she is sitting here beside me. That happened twice on the one day.
"They reckon if you're deficient in one way, you are deficient in another way - and I am not, and you can shoot me when I get there, you have my permission!"
She knows there is technology to help her but says it has its limitations.
"We did have a talk about technology to take blood pressure and to monitor if you fall on the floor. That is all very well but it is sterile.
"There is nothing to beat somebody rapping on your door and saying 'how are you doing' or lifting the phone and saying 'how are you doing.'"
Anne Murphy co-ordinator of Good Morning Louth says the volunteers, who are aged from 38 to 82, do two hourly slots and the calls are made weekday mornings.
"We make 100 calls a day mainly in Co Louth and bordering areas, but we hope to expand it to the North East."
The people who are referred to them are "from family, gardaí, the public health nurse and they are all assessed by a support co-ordinator who will link them into the services they need".
Last week they rang 74 men and 166 women and 78pc of them live alone. Some 61pc live in urban areas and the majority are between 65 and 80 years of age.
"It is important to have a one-to-one connection but equally important to have a connection with an organisation, and important that you feel like you have an organisation at your back."