The median age in Ireland is thirty-four years. The country has a smaller population of elderly than any other European nation. Despite the visions of the little old Irish men with silver hair and tweed jackets that comprise many people’s ideas of the stereotypical Irishman, the nation is in truth dominantly youth-centered. As national resources and attention go to solving the problems of a young populace (concerns like crowded schools and housing prices), the older residents are often forgotten. The nation’s elderly live primarily in remote rural areas, which makes it even easier for them to become an afterthought to Dubliners (more than half of whom are under the age of twenty-five).
And yet it is this older population that carries Ireland’s history in its rich traditions of oral storytelling and song, traditions that are being sidelined by the country’s obsession with technological advancement and its status as a power in the European and world markets. Relative to most of the world, Ireland is a new nation, having been granted its independence in the 1920s. The evolution of the country has been witnessed in its near-entirety by some citizens who are still living. How many nations can make the same claim?
As these people pass on, so does a large part of what makes Ireland what it is – its sense of history, of struggle, of revolution, hardship, and perseverance. In Too much time alone, a first-person nonfiction reflection, an American visitor with Irish roots wonders, “Who will tell us stories now?”