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Alcohol can rob older people of quality of life



The focus of society and the media on the harmful effects of alcohol on young people eclipses an emerging issue among the over 50s, who are drinking more at home.

The ‘Older People and Substance Use’ Seminar, held in NUI Galway last week, was one of a number of events organised by the Western Region Drug & Alcohol Task Force as part of its annual awareness week.

Thelma Abernethy, CEO of Addiction NI (Northern Ireland), said that this was everyone’s problem, and that we must start speaking about the issue so that alcohol does not prevent one’s enjoyment of life.

“The sad thing is that the over 50s are less likely to be offered a service,” she said.

“There is a real stigma – what’s the point, they are old, there is not going to be a lot of change, but our evidence is that when older people get offered a service, they actually have better outcomes.

“We need to ensure that we are giving them that opportunity. People are living longer, we need to make sure they have a quality of life and that they are supported to do that, and that alcohol doesn’t rob them of that.”

Social isolation is one of the major reasons for the growing problem, with the most common causes being life transitions such retirement, loss of a sense of purpose, bereavement of parents or partners, and lack of social opportunities.

“The over 50s aren’t seen out and about on the streets socialising,” she adds.

“Social isolation is a big thing; when people retire and get older those social networks become less, people spend more time in their homes and, as a society, we are drinking more at home, and it can be part of a weekly shop.”

“There is an impact on medication, on the body processing alcohol as we get older, that is information that is not widely available out there.”

With a high percentage of the over 50s still in the work place, Addiction NI specifically engages with companies in this regard.

“Because alcohol is so much part of day-to-day life, it is very easy for that one (drink) to become two, and two becomes three and, all of a sudden, it’s out of control.

“There is a stigma about drinking, especially if someone starts thinking they’ve got a problem, as we get older ‘we should have more sense’, and people aren’t coming forward.

“The people who are working with the over 50s don’t feel comfortable asking about alcohol intake, and having that conversation.”

The challenge, she says, is to start talking about alcohol in a more positive way than we are currently doing – busting the common myths that a good meal is soakage, or drinking water dilutes the alcohol – so that it does not become a problem as we grow older.

Much of the focus when Addiction NI goes into the work place is with those who are facing retirement, and the danger that they will lose their sense of purpose.

“Maybe it’s a pain to have to go to work, but it’s a protection factor – you’re getting up, you’re meeting people, you’re doing things, you’ve less time on your hands – imagine taking that away.

“There’s people who dream of playing golf all day, or following some kind of sport, but there’s an increased risk that alcohol becomes more and more a part of everyday life. I’m thinking about one man who retired, and that’s what he dreamed of – playing golf every day – and he always had a social drink after a game, but sadly that one became two, became three, became four, and he came to us at the point when his family were ready to leave, and his health was shot to pot. He said it all happened so quickly, so easily.”

The Western Region Drug & Alcohol Task Force will be holding training days for those working in front line services, in a bid to start addressing this issue head on. Further details, when they become available, will be on the ‘training calendar’ section of the website.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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