Active Retirement Ireland (ARI), the country’s largest community-based older people’s organisation, today strongly criticised the Government for contributing to the decline of rural communities.

Speaking at the organisation’s AGM in Galway today, ARI President Mai Quaid said: “For many Active Retirement members, their way of life is under threat. After the closure of 129 Garda stations, more than 200 branches of banks, and almost 1,300 rural pubs since 2011; we are now faced with a new threat: the closure of post offices in rural communities. These post offices are often the hubs around which communities revolve, and are more than just financial institutions.”

The criticism levelled at the Government was based on feedback from ARI members across the country. “We have been consulting with our members and working on their behalf, and we have received assurances from Government that post offices will not be closed; but this is the same Government who assured us we would keep our pensions, and have been eroding their value steadily through stealth taxes. We are worried that they will just allow these rural communities to die, which will disproportionately affect older people, as they are the ones left behind in the wake of mass emigration,” said Ms. Quaid.

Recent studies by the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology show that older people in rural areas are more likely to become isolated and suffer from ill-health as a result.

“Isolation is worse than smoking for the health of older people, and the constant withdrawal of services in rural areas is causing more and more older people to suffer from isolation and loneliness,” said Ms. Quaid, “Our Active Retirement Groups can only do so much to keep rural communities going. This Government promised us the best small country in the world to grow old in, and instead they have the death of rural communities on their hands. We are calling on them to honour their commitments to older people and implement the National Positive Ageing Strategy, which has laid out the best way to keep older people, and their communities, thriving and successful.”