A new report has found that loneliness is the biggest problem faced by older people living alone.

The report entitled "Older People - Experiences and Issues" was launched by the Society of St Vincent de Paul today.

The study finds loneliness is particularly acute in rural areas with a reduced level of human contact as a result of declining public services.

The report also covers attitudes to growing old, the younger generation, family links, income support, crime, housing, religion and employment.

The study says lack of transport services to hospitals and medical appointments was a particular problem, and that when local hospitals and health services were closed, ambulance or transport services were not provided in their place.

It also says that elderly people are often forced to undertake long, difficult and expensive journeys to hospitals if they need to attend.

Poor transport services were identified as a significant problem in urban areas as well.

Overall, the report finds that older people's attitude to old age was generally positive and participants regarded Ireland as a good place in which to grow old.

The report is based on the findings of 600 interviews conducted with older people in urban and rural areas across the country.

The study also showed older people especially disliked robotic telephone answering systems used by public and private companies which, they felt, reduced personal contact.

It found that to keep in touch, many older people use mobile phones, mainly for calls and a smaller proportion for texting.

Few people the society talked to used personal computers or the internet.

Commenting on the findings, SVP National President Mairéad Bushnell said the charity was working to combat loneliness by its system of personal visitation, and the provision of services such as day centres, social housing and holidays.

But she said it was a very wide social issue.