A report by the Irish Penal Reform Trust on older people in prison has found that they are more likely to be bullied and are less likely to have their personal care, mental and physical health needs met.

The report is being published ahead of the United Nations International Day of Older Persons on Saturday.

People over the age of 50 represent about 10% of the prison population and, according to the Irish Penal Reform Trust, that number is growing significantly.

The advocacy body for prisoners says older people in prison are a particularly vulnerable group, and face a wide range of issues that are different from those faced by the general prison population. 

The report, which is based on research commissioned by the IPRT, found that in some instances the mental and physical health needs of older people in prison are not being adequately met.

It also noted incidences where incontinence pads were being changed by other prisoners. 

Older prisoners are also more likely to face bullying with 38% said to be victims in comparison with 12% of the younger population.

Some of the other matters highlighted by the report was the detention of older people living with dementia and other serious conditions in appropriate settings and also the fact that some older people are confined to their cells or are bed-bound.

The IPRT executive director has said the needs of older people are the same on either side of the prison wall.

However, Deirdre Malone said that expecting the Irish prison service to provide an equivalent level of care - in areas such as nursing, palliative and hospice care - is unrealistic in the current circumstances.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said that a long-term strategy, with a clear criteria, should be put in place to help prisoners who are bed-bound, suffering from dementia or at the end of their life.

One of the touching elements of the report, she said, was the care and compassion given to older prisoners by younger prisoners.

She said: "There were instances recorded in the findings where assistance with washing and dressing was provided and really personal hygiene needs."

However, she said that some types of care should be provided by a professional care assistant.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust was delighted that the prison service had already incorporated the call for an older person strategy within its own strategy, she added.