Icy footpaths '˜making prisoners' of older people

Charity Age NI is aware of older people who have not left their homes for the past five days since temperatures plummeted to freezing in the Province.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 6:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 6:55 pm
One pedestrian takes to the roads in preference to the icy footpaths as she attempts to navigate the Shankill Road in Belfast yesterday
One pedestrian takes to the roads in preference to the icy footpaths as she attempts to navigate the Shankill Road in Belfast yesterday

Frozen footpaths are among the biggest obstacles for pensioners trying to get to the shops or visit friends and family.

The problem is exacerbated in less densely populated areas and rural settings where footpaths may not always be salted by agencies and footfall is not significant enough to break up the ice.

The Department of Infrastructure (DfI) said its primary duty in icy conditions was the gritting of roads.

Linda Robinson, Age NI Chief Executive. Pic By Paul Moane / Aurora PA

A DfI spokesperson said: “The department has agreed local arrangements for the removal of ice and snow from town centre footways during prolonged severe winter weather.

“The department will provide the salt to enable the councils to provide this service and may assist with providing staff if resources permit and are available. However, our main task must be to keep the primary road network salted.

“We would encourage people to take extra care and attention when making any journey and to be extra vigilant of our neighbours, particularly the elderly.”

Age NI chief executive Linda Robinson said its Christmas campaign to address loneliness for older people focused primarily on times like these when older people become prisoners in their homes due to icy conditions.

Linda Robinson, Age NI Chief Executive. Pic By Paul Moane / Aurora PA

She said: “A third of older people in Northern Ireland tell us that they feel lonely, and 26,000 feel trapped in their own homes but as we all know, statistics only tell one part of the story. Can you imagine how many more people will feel trapped over this cold weather period?”

She said frozen footpaths proved a significant barrier for older people especially those with mobility issues.

Ms Robinson said: “We are receiving calls from older people who haven’t been out of the house in five days and need help to get prescriptions, groceries or simple things like getting their bins out.

“It’s not until you hear directly from older people about the severity of the isolation and loneliness that they are feeling that it really hits home.

“At this time of year in particular, feelings of loneliness and isolation are even more pronounced.”

She added: “We would like to ask everyone to look out for the older family and friends who tell us that kindness comes in the simplest of forms – a lift to the shops, a quick visit, help with the bins or clearing the garden, a quick phone-call to say hello.

“We are also encouraging people to pass on our advice number – 0808 808 7575 – or to think about volunteering for us. These are all ways that we can all spread a little kindness.”