One-in-three people living in nursing homes could be cared for in their own homes and communities, a leading charity says.
The figures, published by the charity ALONE, come amid fresh calls for funding and support from the nursing home sector.
According to new figures, based on Department of Health records, 35pc of elderly men and women in long-term beds have "low to medium" support needs.
Demand for these beds has surged by almost 50pc since 2004.
Now, the ALONE charity is calling on the Government to "enhance" home supports for this group instead of "forcing" them into residential care.
Sean Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, said: "The fact that there is such a large amount of people with low support needs in nursing homes is shocking."
Low supports generally include: a home-care package, a carer one day a week, physio at home, or supports linked to their local GP.
"These are primary-care services that we must put in place and shift focus away from institutional care," said Mr Moynihan.
As part of its 'Home First Campaign', launching tomorrow, the charity is urging the Government to redirect investment into community care so older people can live at home where possible.
The organisation wants the Government to use Fair Deal money for home-care packages. It is also calling on the Government to increase home-help hours and develop primary and community-care systems. "It's about linking all the services and bringing a care plan to people in their homes, otherwise, we're going to have a situation where we have to build more and more nursing homes," he said, stressing that developing community services is "a cheaper option" and that "it's what families want".
A recent cost-comparison survey, conducted by ALONE, found that nursing home care is "three times more expensive" than home help.
Meanwhile, Nursing Homes Ireland has claimed the lack of cohesive government policy and strategy, combined with uncertainty around funding, are among the biggest challenges to the sector.
According to Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, more than 40pc of private and voluntary nursing homes intend to develop "additional bed numbers" in their facilities over the coming year.
"The Government must address this issue of a 'fair price for care' if they wish to enable the provision of additional bed numbers which are forecast to be required," he said.