Lottery windfall for Senior Citizens’ Forum

Celebrating the funding announcement are Newtownabbey Senior Citizens' Forum representatives Anne Watson (Vice Chair and Treasurer), Betty Gillespie (Chair) and Pat White. INNT 41-081-FP
Celebrating the funding announcement are Newtownabbey Senior Citizens' Forum representatives Anne Watson (Vice Chair and Treasurer), Betty Gillespie (Chair) and Pat White. INNT 41-081-FP

A PROJECT aimed at improving the lives of isolated older people in the Newtownabbey area has been awarded a major grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

Newtownabbey Senior Citizens’ Forum has been awarded a grant of £199,787 from the Big Lottery’s Reaching Out: Connecting Older People programme which supports older people affected by issues such as bereavement, disability or long-term illness or who live in residential care or sheltered housing.

The organisation will run a range of services and activities to support the most isolated and vulnerable older people in the Newtownabbey area, particularly men and people living in residential and sheltered housing, who are dealing with issues such as bereavement, falling incomes and health difficulties.

The ‘Getting Out There!’ project will involve three strands. The first strand will offer activities for older men who are unlikely to take part in mixed activities with women, the second strand will run activities for older people who are mobile and can travel, and the third strand will provide activities for those who are less mobile and are living in folds and residential homes.

“The Forum was set up a number of years ago to give Newtownabbey’s large community of senior citizens a voice,” explained Chairperson Betty Gillespie, 70. “We offer a wide programme of activities including walking, boccia, line dancing, Tai Chi, bowling, and meetings featuring guest speakers.

“We have around 14 member groups and outreach to 500 people. Our members are on the panels of various organisations and we keep the groups informed on issues such as benefits and pensions.

“But we want to go further. We saw the need in nursing homes and sheltered housing where there is no one coming in to work with the older people.”

She continued: “One aspect of the project will be aimed at supporting older men. They’ll get the chance to take part in activities such as walking, talks from speakers, health checks and a range of social trips and activities. There are a lot of men who are lonely but don’t like mixing because they think the groups are only filled with women. This will give them the chance to mix with other men on their own terms.

“Another aspect will be aimed at those older people who are mobile, but just haven’t had the opportunity to get involved in community activities, and we’ll offer them courses like Tai Chi, line dancing, bowling and boccia to promote physical activity. And we’ll also offer activities for older people who are less mobile, who are living in homes and don’t get out. We’ll run activities in the homes aimed at stimulating their minds and boosting their physical health such as armchair activities, reminiscence and creative writing sessions.

“We want to support those isolated older people in our community who really need our help. People who need someone to care about them, to reach out to them and show them that life still has so much to offer.”

Read the full story in this week’s Times...