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Volunteers Wanted to Grow Neighbourhood Links with Older People

03 February 2014

The Red Cross is appealing for volunteers interested in bringing fun and friendship to older people in the Omagh, Enniskillen and Irvinestown areas.

The charity’s ‘Neighbourhood Links’ project, which is being delivered together with the South West Age Partnership, aims to offer individual support to older people who feel they’d like to meet new friends and get out and about a bit more. It will also offer support with shopping, filling in forms or helping with the transition from hospital to home. The project is being supported by a Big Lottery Fund major grant.

Nicola Reid, the project’s service manager, who is based in the Red Cross’ Omagh office, said;

“The project launched in the autumn and is now well underway. We will be delivering a volunteer-led support service to older people facing the particular challenges of living in isolated rural areas. Often these are people who enjoy a reasonable standard of general health but who may be in danger of having their social and emotional needs overlooked. They may have experienced a significant life event such as bereavement, illness, or other change in personal circumstances or mobility; all of which can bring about a loss of independence and social opportunities.”

The Red Cross, which has been engaging with existing SWAP clubs and other groups who already provide services for older people in the target areas, hopes that the project will help address the detrimental effects of loneliness and isolation, which can be so harmful to health and wellbeing.

Gertie Graham, who runs the Colaghty Young at Heart club near Ederney in Co Fermanagh, says that the benefits of a varied social life to older people are immense;

“We have 35 members and would never have fewer than 28 at our monthly meetings. If you offer a varied programme it encourages people to get involved. Members end up learning new skills and trying things they never dreamt of as well as enjoying good company and their dinner out! I’ve had members in their late seventies who have learned to swim for the first time and loved it! We’ve done photography, art, ceramics and are planning computer classes.

The Neighbourhood Links team is actively recruiting volunteers from the local community. They would like to hear from anyone with an interest in contributing a few hours a week for the benefit of elderly neighbours. Enquiries are also welcome from anyone who feels that they, or a friend or relative, would benefit from involvement with the programme. Please contact Nicola on 028 8225 1116.