Wednesday 17 July 2019

'I was getting depressed but I didn’t want to put pressure on my children' - pensioner Joan (84) on being lonely

Joan Kelly
Joan Kelly

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

An 84-year-old woman has told of how loneliness began to make her feel depressed but she felt it too burdensome to ask her family to help.

Having lost her life partner, Dun Laoghaire retiree Joan Kelly said that her physical and mental health deteriorated as a result of her loneliness.

Feeling that she would be putting too much pressure on her family to ask for their company, she decided to live with her loneliness.

"I just thought I was getting depressed and I didn’t want that," Joan said.

"I was trying not to put too much pressure on my children. The time will come when I will, you know… and I hope if God’s going to take me he takes me in my sleep because I don’t want to be trouble for anybody.

"Although I have five daughters that devote all their time to me at the weekends, they’re all working during the week and then they have to come home and deal with their families and I don’t like to put pressure on them, but I’m somebody that loves company."

Joan’s story is not uncommon. Though she has a loving family who enjoy her company she, like many elderly people are, was afraid of inconveniencing them.

According to a study by TILDA (The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing), around 400,000 people in Ireland suffer from loneliness. The study found that the chance of loneliness increases with age and almost half of those above the age of 74 in Ireland say they are lonely.

Joan said that having heard about the charity Alone while in hospital, she decided she would make an effort to curb her loneliness.

The charity provides support to people living alone. One particular service that the charity provides is a call-out companion for the people suffering. Joan said that meeting her partner in Alone completely changed her life.

"We had a very bad winter and I was getting a bit depressed. I had heard about Alone and I decided to ring them. They came out to see me in the New Year; they wanted to see what kind of person I was to match me up with somebody.

"The minute the girl walked in the door I said ‘that’s my girl’.

"Nessa comes out to me once a week and I absolutely love it. She had recently lost her grandmother and wanted another grandmother so I was happy to fill the space. I consider her now one of my granddaughters," she continued.

"I’m crippled with arthritis and I have a walker so I’m not able to get up on planes and stuff anymore. Alone organises a holiday.

"They look after you so well. I love being with people my age because they are able to walk at my pace and you can relate so much to them. You don’t feel either, like you are holding them back or anything like that. I find it changed my life."

Loneliness is something TV chef Kevin Dundon is passionate about. His role as brand ambassador for Supervalu,  has seen the supermarket partner up with Alone, donating 20c for every packet of ‘Signature Tastes’ mince pies sold this year.

Mr Dundon actively uses his own personal experience as a chef to do what he can to combat the problem. Last year he invited two foreign nationals into his home for Christmas dinner and he is appealing for others to follow suit this year.

The Dublin celebrity chef said that the thought of people living on their own, with no one to eat Christmas dinner with upsets him and he urged everyone to think of their lonely neighbours this year.

"At Christmas time, we all get so involved in our own selves or our family that we seem to forget our poor neighbour that’s sitting on their own," he said.

"I always say with Christmas dinner, you always cook too much anyway. There’s always loads left over, so what difference does it make to bring someone into your house to have your dinner?

"You’ve made their day. You might have lost your partner, your kids could be living away and suddenly you find yourself alone, and all of the memories come back to you on Christmas so it becomes a very long day for some people."

"There will be none of it going towards my wage," he continued.

"The money from this event will go to developing more volunteers, more relationships and more support in the community. Up to now, 100pc of the donations have gone to services.

"The measure of an organisation is not what I get paid. We’re really strong on transparency. I think in a ranking of 30 CEOs of charity organisations I came third from the bottom and I think the two below me are rich enough to not get paid at all."

Mr Moynihan, who has been recognised as having a wage that falls in the bottom five for CEOs of charity organisations, added that serious research has gone into how loneliness can affect both sufferers mental and physical health. He says that the charity is devoted to improving these people’s lives as whole.

"We’ve been campaigning all year on loneliness as a health issue," he said.

"It has been proven that loneliness will damage your physical and mental health. We’ve been promoting the action that needs to be taken because there is no policy in this area.

"There is no funding in this area or even a government department responsible.

"We have around 1,500 volunteers up and down the country helping older people. Whether the older people have housing issues, transport issues, homelessness issues, loneliness issues, health issues, we go work with the older people to help resolve that."

  • For those who have concerns about their own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person in their community, ALONE can be contacted on (01) 679 1032. To make a donation and help aid ALONE’s work this Christmastime visit

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