The Government has been called to focus on policy that will help elderly people live at home, as the number of people over the age of 65 in Ireland will double to nearly one million by 2031.
As Ireland’s population ages Social Justice Ireland (SJI), an independent thinktank, released a report this week stressing that the Government needs to take action to offer elderly people more options rather than having to go to nursing homes.
“We know what the numbers are going to be like, it’s not as if we wake up in 10 years’ time and suddenly become stunned,” said the director of SJI, Fr Seán Healy.
Stopping people from depending on A&E is another goal, he said: “We have to develop the primary care sector so that people have a one-stop shop in their local area where they have access to a doctor, a nurse and so on.
“This is going to become a bigger and bigger challenge in the years to come, because we’re going to have more people in this space who do have the capacity to live at home if they’re supported, but if they’re not supported they’re going to wind up going into nursing homes which will cost an awful lot more than if the Home Care packages were being provided at home,” he added.
Improving the public transport system is also a necessity for many people living in rural areas that want to live at home according to the report.
This comes as Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has offered to lower the contribution to the Fair Deal Scheme for people living in nursing homes from 80% to 70% of their income, in an effort to entice elderly people to become landlords.
Fr Healy criticised the proposal, saying that “to think in terms of the houses that are available through the Fair Deal, it would make a very small impact on the overall scale of what is required”.
He added that there are now 90,000 households on waiting lists in local authorities who can’t afford to buy housing and are struggling to pay rent.