Lottery boost to help older people

Those involved with the Reminiscence Network project collate a 'life story book' which has been shown to boost self esteem and improve mental health. INNT 15-603con
Those involved with the Reminiscence Network project collate a 'life story book' which has been shown to boost self esteem and improve mental health. INNT 15-603con

A PROJECT using storytelling and reminiscence to improve the lives of isolated and vulnerable older people in the Newtownabbey area has been awarded a major grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

The Reminiscence Network Northern Ireland has been awarded £416,893 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching out: Connecting Older People programme which supports those affected by issues such as bereavement, disability or long term illness or who live in residential care or sheltered housing.

The Reminiscence Network, in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, will use the grant to carry out visits to the homes of vulnerable older people in Newtownabbey and across other parts of the Northern Trust’s catchment area.

The project will focus on those living in isolation and who are dealing with disabilities that prevent them going out, helping them to create an innovative ‘Life Story Book.’

With support from the older person’s family members, friends and carers, the project worker will support the older person to look back at their life experiences and share their feelings about the past, helping them create a book of lasting memories, building their relationships and friendships and boosting their self-esteem and self worth.

They will also run ‘Creative Reminiscence Groups’ for older people at day centres run by the Northern Health in Newtownabbey.

The groups will encourage older people, living with disabilities such as dementia, depression and hearing and sight loss, to take part in activities and storytelling sessions that help them relive memories, mix with other people and boost their health and self esteem and reduce their isolation and loneliness.

Director Alexey Janes said: “Because of conditions such as social isolation, loneliness, depression, low self esteem, dementia and poor health, some older people can feel like they are no longer viewed as someone who has led a full life and who deserves respect and recognition.

“The Life Story book shows the person as a whole, not just in their current situation.

“The book can also help staff get to know the people they are working with, and the older people feel they are seen as a genuine person. The people who hear the stories gain as much as those who tell the stories, and the project often involves the whole family.”

He continued: “Up to now the Life Story book has mainly been used with older people living in care homes, but this funding will mean we can take it out to the most vulnerable and isolated people in their homes, people who can’t or don’t want to come to a day centre.

“Working in partnership with the Northern Trust, we are supporting older people living in the most extreme isolation who really need our support, giving them back their pride and self worth and helping to show they still have a lot to offer.”

Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “We are already seeing the really positive impact that the Connecting Older People programme is having on the lives of our most vulnerable older people during this harsh period of recession in Northern Ireland.

“The programme is supporting a range of vital projects that are transforming the lives of isolated older people in our communities who at risk of isolation, depression, mental and physical ill health and low self esteem. Our funding is supporting those young people who need our help the most.”

To find out more about the programme visit: