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ESRI report highlights neglect of older people - Crowe

26 February, 2007

Speaking after the launch of the ESRI's Social Portrait of Older People in Ireland report, Sinn Féin Social and Family Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD described the report as 'further proof that poverty still widely affects elderly people, and its findings highlight the urban-rural divide between quality of life for mainly elderly people'.

The Dublin South-West TD said: "While one-in-20 people of working age in urban areas lack central heating, one-in-5 older people in rural areas have no central heating. There is a huge difference in the quality of life of people, with where one lives being a significant determining factor. Social exclusion is increasing with the Government's laissez-faire response to the crisis in the Post Office network, for example, and the hundreds of closures of Post Offices. Elderly people have to travel further to collect their pensions, while the Government sits back and allow the post office network to decay. These closures are also impacting on the social fabric of communities as post offices are one of the few central point of interaction for communities in rural areas.

"The fact that one in five pensioners in Ireland are at risk of poverty is quite literally shameful. While the PDs have announced that they will substantially increase the Pension if re-elected, this is nothing more than a crude election stunt from a party that have been in power for a decade and has willingly participated in a Government that presides over one of the lowest expenditures on pensions in the EU. This appalling fact should be taken in the context of the unprecedented wealth in the bulging state coffers and the fact that Ireland has one of the lowest proportions of older people in the EU.

"An estimated 90,000 pensioners are struggling to make ends meet on a weekly basis while 17,000 are unable to afford basic necessities such as nutritional food and warm clothing. In addition over one-third of older people have private health insurance to ensure quicker access to hospital and consultant services. The fact that older people are being forced into purchasing private health insurance to ensure they receive treatment quicker may mean the difference between life and death. Our crumbling health care system is having serious repercussion for the estimated two-thirds who cannot afford this private health insurance, a significant number of which are struggling to live a dignified life.

"To rectify this increasing inequality Sinn Féin believes in increasing the state pension and quality free health care for all as ways to ensure that older people can live in both dignity and in good health. These are the very people who laid the foundations of our economic success and should be having a fare share in this prosperity."


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