Major New Study Examines Older People’s Lives in Modern Ireland

10th October 2008: A major new study of the lives of older people in 21st century Ireland, titled ‘The Community Life of Older People in Ireland’ by Dr. Carmel Gallagher, Department of Social Sciences, Dublin Institute of Technology was launched today  by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, T.D. in DIT Mountjoy Square, Dublin 1.

The groundbreaking book is based on primary research that examined the everyday lives of older people in two geographic locations - a suburban area in the Northside of Dublin and a rural area in County Donegal. Dr. Gallagher examined two key ideas in the book – firstly, the contribution that older people make to the lives of others in numerous ways which are often not recognised, and secondly, the importance of local groups of different kinds in creating connectedness and building up community-ness. 

The study found a considerable amount of informal helping and positive neighboring in both urban and rural areas and the book argues that older people are a vital resource in their families and in their communities. ‘The Community Lives of Older People in Ireland’ makes a number of policy recommendations which relate to encouraging local level clubs and voluntary groups and providing opportunities for older people to participate in meaningful activities. 

Speaking at the launch, Dr Gallagher emphasized the importance to older people of community and friendship. 

“The research involved calling directly to people’s homes and being privy to their accounts of their daily lives.  One of the key themes that came out of the research is the importance of local groups, and the fun, friendship and solidarity that older people gain from them.

Older people contribute in many big ways to society, such as through their voluntary work in local and national organisations, but they also contribute in very many small and unobtrusive ways through small social actions and acknowledgement of the lives of those around them,” she said.

The book also highlights the importance for older people of having sense of ‘connectednesses with wider society. Dr Gallagher has developed a model of ‘connectedness’ which will be of use to social scientists and planners in identifying strengths in a community.

Commending Dr Gallagher on her book, Mr Ahern said that it contained some fascinating new research that confirms the important role older people play in communities across Ireland.

Dr. Carmel Gallagher, Department of Social Sciences, DIT and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, T.D.
Dr. Carmel Gallagher, Department of Social Sciences, DIT and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, T.D.

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