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OPINION: Step off the treadmill for a while

December 22nd, 2019 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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FOLLOWING what has been a hectic year, the coming Christmas week provides most people with an opportunity to relax and take stock of their lives; a chance to step off the treadmill for a few days and perhaps reflect on the lifestyles that they lead.

After a surfeit of Brexit, broadband and beef prices, climate action and the children’s hospital, healthcare, housing and homelessness – to mention just some of what concerned us during 2019 – for a country that seems to be doing well economically, there doesn’t appear be any great sense of satisfaction from or enjoyment of the way people are leading their lives. Life is too hectic for many trying to make ends meet with rents and house prices putting people to the pin of their collars to put a roof over their heads.

Scandalously, homelessness figures passed the 10,000 mark last March – over a third of them children – and increased further subsequently. While there is no quick fix, the fact that numbers increased rather than decreased during the year is a shameful indictment of the government and, in particular, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

Having a home in the first place, and hopefully a harmonious one, is what makes most people happy. All the materialism that surrounds Christmas isn’t going to make everyone happy; something much deeper than that – imbued by the spirit of the season that’s in it – is what humans need, such as feeling wanted and loved.

Loneliness and isolation are the worst feelings people can have at this festive time of year, especially older people. Some will be feeling the loss of loved ones, others may not have any immediate relatives to look in on them.

This is where true neighbourliness can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation among the elderly – which undoubtedly has an impact on their mental wellbeing – comes into play. A visit or even a phone call to see that they have enough supplies in of food, fuel for heating and any medicines they need is a welcome gesture.

There are many older people who may not have contact with other human beings from one end of the week to the next, so discretely checking on their welfare without being intrusive would be a much-appreciated good deed. It is also something worth doing, not only at Christmas time but also throughout the year – the winter months in particular.

Meanwhile, as the Christmas celebrations step up a further gear, let’s not forget the appeal from An Gárda Síochána and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) about vigilance on our roads over the festive period. The main thrust of this year’s road safety campaign concerns those who have suffered serious injuries in road traffic collisions. Research presented by the RSA at the campaign launch shows that 3,518 road users suffered life-altering injuries between the years 2014 and 2017, with vulnerable road users (motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists) representing half of all serious injuries as a result of road collisions. Road fatalities are tragic, but people often forget that there is a far greater number of injuries that impact on both the victims and those who are left with the legacy of looking after them on an ongoing basis.

The message to all road users over the Christmas and new year festivities is to behave responsibly and not become a source of danger to themselves and others.

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