The chairwoman of the IFA Farm Family & Social Affairs Committee has requested all of its members to call on their elderly neighbours living alone over the Christmas period.

Mary Sherry said there are 160,000 people older than 70 and living alone in the country, half of which live in rural Ireland.

She said some of these people live in remote isolated areas and the holiday season can be a very lonely time for them.

Ms Sherry said the number of people living alone in rural areas will increase because of our ageing rural population.

The IFA Chairwoman requested members to be vigilant at this time for anything unusual in their communities and to drop in on their neighbours, adding that on dark winter evenings most of us go home and stay indoors.

She strongly encouraged a more active and wider participation by IFA members not alone during the holiday period but at all times of the year.