Trinity researchers linked to The Irish longitudinal study on Ageing (TILDA) have called on people to recognise over-70s as the “the fabric of their community”, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads in Ireland.
A report published by TILDA, a research centre based in Trinity, found that over-70s contribute considerably to society – particularly in the areas of care and volunteer groups.
Out of 440,000 people surveyed, 31 per cent of adults aged over 70 help and care for their spouses, relatives, apart from grandchildren, neighbours and friends, in the form of household chores or providing vital care with basic activities of daily living, which includes help with bathing, dressing, eating and toileting.
Some 47 per cent of over-70s do voluntary work in the past year, with 17 per cent volunteering every week. This voluntary work was mainly based around the GAA and other sports or social groups or clubs, a church connected group, self-help or charitable body or other community group or day care centres.
Social and leisure activities were overwhelmingly popular among over-70s, with 60 per cent engaging in activities including going to the cinema, play or concerts, attending classes or lectures, playing cards, bingo, games in general, going to the pubs and taking part in sport activities or exercise.
Many over-70s are also socially active. Some 24 per cent of adults over 70 were in contact with their own parents several times each week, and 22 per cent of adults over 70 had four or more regular contacts.
Among the retirees, three per cent do paid work for at least one hour a week. On average, these individuals did 19 hours of paid work per week.
In a press statement, Prof Rose Anne Kenny, the head of medical gerontology at Trinity and St James’s Hospital and TILDA’s principal investigator, said that “these data highlight the enormous contribution that older persons make to society in Ireland and to the economic fabric of Ireland, including enabling others to take part in the work force through their volunteering and caring”.
“Many recent discussions taking place publicly are forming a narrative which describes our older population as being somewhat dependant on others, living closeted lives”, she said. “Others suggest that the majority are unwell and therefore require much care and confinement indoors.”
“On the contrary, the findings of today’s report from the TILDA study underscores the vibrant and important contribution that over 70s make to society in Ireland.”