Revealed: the major issues facing Derry’s older people

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A major new health survey involving almost 700 older people in Derry’s Triax area has found that almost 60% suffer from low mood and anxiety related conditions.

The figure is more than twice the average for the north, when compared with the Health Survey NI for 2012-13 for those aged 55 and over.

The Brandywell, Derry. DER2715MC023

The Brandywell, Derry. DER2715MC023

The new Derry survey of people aged from 59 through to 90s also found that 51% are suffering from arthritis, with almost as many diagnosed as having high blood pressure, and over a quarter having heart problems.

Around one in three of the 668 people surveyed in the Creggan, Bogside, Brandywell and Fountain areas have respiratory problems such as asthma or COPD, while 17% have diabetes.

A new ‘Older Health Matters’ report presents the detailed findings of the survey and lists recommendations for tackling the major issues which have emerged. A leaflet outlining the main points has been distributed to homes across the area.

The project has been developed by the Gasyard-based Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum and the Old Library Trust in Creggan, in association with NICVA and the Big Lottery Fund.

The Fountain Estate, Derry. DER2715MC021

The Fountain Estate, Derry. DER2715MC021

Eddie Rooney, Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency, in introducing the report, states:

“It is clearly evidenced by the findings of this survey that the Bogside, Brandywell, Creggan, and Fountain areas suffer from high levels of deprivation.

“While there is no quick-fix solution, collaboration and partnership working, within and between communities, can play a big part in improving health and well-being of vulnerable older people.

“The report itself,” he adds, “is a good example of how community health sector can work jointly to address local health needs.”

The survey began as a pilot in Brandywell and Creggan Central areas but was broadened out to include all seven electoral wards in the Triax area.

It’s purpose was to determine the current health status and health needs of local people aged 59 and over.

It was also designed to identify barriers that may prevent participation in the local community, with the overall aim of informing and improving the delivery of health services.”

There are currently 3,302 people aged 59 and over in the Triax area and every address in the area was visited with 20% of the target population engaged in face-to-face interviews.

Among the other key findings were that almost 90% had visited their GP in the past six months, with over a third of all those asked having had at least four visits to the doctor’s surgery.

Of those surveyed, 55% of men and 38% of women drank alcohol, although only 3% were concerned about their drinking. Around a quarter of respondents smoke, well above the 15% average for the north. Over a third of smokers locally were concerned about the impact smoking was having on their health.

The survey has also revealed that 43.7% of people do not socialise beyond their own front door. Of the remainder, most only socialise by visiting friends and family, while 21% frequented a pub and 5.3% went to bingo.

Falls and fear of falls were also widespread among the respondents,and over a quarter had suffered a fall in the past year.

In terms of concerns over winter, almost 70% had a fear of falling, while half were worried about getting out and about. One in five was worried about loneliness this winter, while over half were worried about making money stretch and almost 43% were worried about keeping warm.

Recommendations outlined in the report include developing a new programme of care, support and exercise for older people with long-term conditions and establishing drop-in health checks for older people to have their weight, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and blood pressure checked.

Smoking cessation and a new, two-part Falls Prevention Programme are recommended along with a Men’s Shed project and a medical intervention service for advice, treatment, prescription or signposting.

Tommy Carlin, project manager of the ‘Getting On Well’ project at the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum, was among those who developed the project.

Mr Carlin said that a number of the recommendations were already being introduced.

There are also plans to present the findings to the Western Health and Social Trust and to meet with local GPs to discuss how they can help tackle the issues raised.

Mr Carlin said: “We have already begun to implement a few of these recommendations. For example the Men’s Shed has started, and we have had ‘Managing the Challenge’ programmes for people with long term conditions like COPD, arthritis. A lot of people, almost every older person we spoke to, had a long-term condition.

“We had envisioned doing one programme but it was so successful we have done two and are running another one in September. We are going to further develop that into a support group.”

Mr Carlin said many older people were glad that something was being done to tackle major issues facing them and that they were being asked their opinions on issues that affect them.

“Our survey is unique. We have identified what the health issues are in this area and we have also identified where the people are with those health issues are, so we can go knock on their door and sat, ‘we have this programme, are you interested?’

“This is a very active, very live piece of work and it will be live for years. It will shape what we do and what takes place in the future.”