By Michael Kane
A Derry based organisation is reaching out to elderly people who may be alone this Christmas to ensure they too take part in the festivities.
Christine Carlin, Research and Development Officer at Older People North West (OPNW), said it was importance to give people structure and purpose in their lives. Her organisation offers a range of activities to the over 60s to give them a social outlet while also learning new skills.
“This is an important issue and one that’s worth highlighting. The knock on effect of people becoming a member is that they feel they have something to share with their adult children living in other countries and it feeds into a more egalitarian sharing experience.”
She also highlighted holiday events the OPNW offered. These include a costume competition at Halloween, with an incredible view of the fireworks, and a Christmas event.
“We have a special Christmas dinner which will take place on Thursday September 19. It starts at 1 o’clock sharp. It’s a great day and we serve 100 people. This year Allstate has financed a gifts portion so that everyone who attends the dinner will receive a wrapped Christmas present. We’ll have a bit of music and dancing. People will be in until about 6-7 o’clock. So it’s a fabulous day.”
The Older People North West building is located in the middle of Chapel Road, just across the street from a lovely mural designed by its members. Within the building is a lunch room, a computer suite, a snooker room, a room for arts, crafts, and general talks, and a balcony full of plants and flowers.
The members have nothing but good things to say about their experience with OPNW.
“It’s just amazing,” said Dorothy. “The number of people we’ve met and the things we’ve done.”
Her sentiments were echoed by a friend: “I love it here. I love the company. I do love it. Everything. Everybody.”
And one participant simply said: “It keeps us going. It keeps us alive.”
Many people spoke about how they were alone, at home, and then getting down and meeting new people gave them a much-needed lift.
The main barrier to getting new members is awareness. Many people had never even heard of the organisation prior to joining.
The team at OPNW are appealing to the public to make sure that elderly friends, relatives or neighbours know about the centre and encourage them to come along.
A meta-analysis released in 2010, that was gathered over several decades from 148 studies of 308,849 participants, showed a correlation between loneliness and premature death.