Is our society adequately addressing loneliness and rural isolation?

Our man Frank on a reader’s views on rural isolation; The All-Ireland SFC finally warms up; The scams continue… but are the choc ice’s days numbered?

It’s funny how our perspectives change as we get older and we begin to look at matters in a totally different light to before. Things like fear, isolation, and loneliness can prey on the minds of people – especially the minds of older folk who live in rural areas on their own, who may have no immediate family locally to look after them.

A reader, who lives in a very isolated spot in the area covered by the Roscommon People, contacted me to highlight the problems that she and her elderly husband already face when it comes to things like shopping, and she wondered why there are so few retirement homes/villages in this country for people like them.

This lady told me that her biggest fear is how one of them would survive if the other was to pass away, as their nearest neighbour is a five-minute drive from them…which would be all very well if they had a car! When I asked this lady who would foot the bill if we had one locally, she said she would be more than willing to sell her house and pay for their place in a retirement home (emphasising that she was not looking for something for nothing).

Even when I put on my politician’s hat and said the powers-that-be would be more likely to try to house young couples with children, she told me that she had said to her local council that she would be willing do a deal and let them use her house to take a family off the waiting list.

I have to admit that when we spoke first, I thought the idea of a retirement home was mad. However, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense – especially for people like this reader.

When I suggested that she should speak to local councillors about a possible solution, she said she is blue in the face from ringing them, and she never gets a reply. Now of course we already have a major housing crisis in Ireland, so maybe the will to build retirement homes for the elderly isn’t there, but for people who are amongst the most vulnerable in our society, surely it could be worth a study.

I looked up such places in England and they are everywhere, so they must be financially sustainable, whether privately or publicly funded. So maybe we too could look at doing more to help lonely, isolated and fearful old folk have a happy and care-free retirement.

A friend of mine recently said to me that in his job, he comes across a huge amount of rural isolation and he believes every village and local community should have a Men’s Shed or some such place where older folk can meet, enjoy a cup of tea, have a chat and get away from their loneliness for a while. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

Astonishing scam stats

One of Monday’s morning newspapers informs me that 365,000 people were scammed in Ireland last year and that there were 89 million irritating communications and 31 million distressing communications to members of the public in the same period.

The cost of all this fraudulent activity is estimated at €300 million, and while businesses are targeted the most often, individuals are also seen as potential targets.

Obviously older folk (which I am proud to be one of) are more at risk because of our lesser knowledge of phone technology, and so we, along with everyone else, need to be constantly on our guard.

Only last week I got an email telling me that my non-existent loan application for €15,000 had been approved and that once I provided my bank details, the money would be in my account inside the hour. When I failed to reply, I got two more messages with the name of my contact and a phone number that appeared to be from Cork!

However, as I hadn’t applied for any loan and had given no details on age, occupation, address, earnings or anything else, I decided that the offer of a €15,000 loan was too good to be true and very obviously one of the millions of attempts being made to part unsuspecting people from their money.

Apparently there is some regulator in place now and they want companies to implement certain precautions (of which I have no understanding) to try to beat the fraudsters and stop them from making millions from their illegal activities, so hopefully that goes some way towards dealing with the problem.

Gaelic football musings

For the second week in a row those of us who hail from the Galway side of our boundary with Roscommon are again licking our sporting wounds.

This time, it was our footballers who committed the cardinal sin of coughing up possession in the last few seconds of their game with Armagh, conceding a free-kick from which the Northerners scored the winning point. The ‘reward’ for Galway is a derby battle with Mayo this Sunday up in Pearse Stadium, and if ever there was a fixture fraught with danger, this is it.

On the other side of our local border, the Rossies too are licking their wounds after being pipped by Kildare last Sunday. But a trip to Cork this weekend for them doesn’t seem too much of a daunting prospect.

This weekend promises to be a pivotal one in this year’s football championship and I can’t wait to see who gets through to the quarter-finals proper.

Before I leave the Galway/Armagh game, I must say the request to move the match to Croke Park looks pretty foolish now – the less than 7,000 attendance in Carrick would hardly fill the bars in GAA HQ!

Can the choc ice be saved?

Comedy is a very personal thing; oftentimes what makes you laugh might get no reaction at all from me.

The same applies to comedians – while some people love the likes of Des Bishop or Deirdre O’Kane, I have to admit that I don’t find them funny at all. The 2 Johnnies are another example. Normally I can take or leave them, but this week, for once, I am totally on their side.

Last week, news broke that HB were getting rid of the beloved choc ice after more than sixty years because “it is no longer as popular as it was”. The 2 Johnnies were so horrified that they launched a petition to save the iconic ice cream.

Michael Healy-Rae, the very popular Kerry TD, also expressed disappointment at the decision and wondered is there anything sacred anymore. He also wondered if the Greens were involved in any way, but it seems they had no hand or part in it as they have already done enough damage to rural Ireland.

Anyway, hats off to the 2 Johnnies; if they manage to save the choc ice, I’ll be the first to buy them one each. The choc ice was always a favourite of mine, so here’s hoping HB will have a rethink and give it a reprieve.

A reminder…

Down the road in Glinsk, Maria Fitzmaurice tells me that the Glinsk ladies are continuing with their gardening. This Saturday morning, June 24th, they are meeting again at Barlow’s (F45 EH27) at 10 am, continuing until 1 pm.

So don’t forget to go along if you’re interested. All are welcome to attend. Who knows, you could be the new Diarmuid Gavin or Monty Don!

And finally…

We have just come back from a lovely walk up rural Lenamarla, and not for the first time, we marvelled at the wonderful peace and quiet.

The only sounds breaking the silence were the birds singing, the cattle mooing, and the sheep doing whatever sheep do. For the umpteenth time, we realised how lucky we are to live out in the countryside. Orchids, wild roses, ferns, and all kinds of shrubs and flowers were in full bloom, and one would have been forgiven for thinking that everything in the countryside garden was rosy.

And yet, as we thought about a piece in last week’s People where Cllr Tony Waldron blamed the lack of verge trimming for a couple of accidents that recently happened in the Ballintubber area, we realised that it’s not only in Ballintubber that the verges are left uncut; it’s all over.

As a result of this inaction, the potential for accidents is certainly very much greater than it should be. I don’t know who should cut them, but something needs to be done, especially at crossroads and T-junctions where visibility is greatly impaired by long, overgrown grasses and briars.

For some reason, back in my younger days when we were supposedly a poor nation, I don’t remember the verges being in the state they are today, so someone must have cut them back then.

Maybe now that our economy is among the best in Europe again, someone could be hired to do them again?