Eighty-two year-old Mary Devlin has just had her blood pressure checked.
“The man told me that my blood pressure’s fine,” smiled Mary.
“When you’re my age, hearing that your blood pressure is at a safe level is exactly the kind of news you want to hear.”
Mary, along with scores of other men and women over the age of 60, attended the launch of the ‘Getting On Well’ project in Pilot’s Row Community Centre on Wednesday.
“It sounds like a great project,” said Mary.
“I live on my own in Brickfield Court so hopefully this project will give me the chance to get out and about, meet new people and try new things.
“There are a few activities and services available today so that’s why I am getting my blood pressure checked.
“I have a good family but not every older person is that lucky. There are some older people that I know of that have no-one. They literally see no-one from one end of the week to the next. The ‘Getting On Well’ project will help them and that’s why I think that it’s a great project.”
‘Getting On Well’ is a project for people over the age of 60 living in the TRIAX (Bogside, Brandywell, Creggan, the Fountain and Bishop Street) area who feel isolated in their own homes.
The project was launched by the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum on Wednesday and many of the people who attended got the chance to try out many of the activities that will be on offer when project starts.
The ‘Getting On Well’ project is funded with £499,994 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Out: Connecting Older People programme.
The ‘Getting On Well’ project will provide a range of activities to reduce the social isolation and improve the health and well-being of older men and women living in the TRIAX area.
Some of the activities and therapies were on show during the launch, including boccia, acupuncture, massage and archery, with guests invited to enjoy a taster session.
Speaking at the launch, Project Manager Thomas Carlin of the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum said that the project could help to improve the quality of life of many people over the age of 60 living in the area.
“The project will target older people living at home alone or in sheltered housing, who are facing issues such as loneliness, ill-health or depression and are not involved in any support services or community activities.
“The ‘Getting on Well’ project will target people over 60 who need help the most by visiting door-to-door, meeting with local GPs and social workers and speaking to the local organisations that offer support.
“Activities will include a gardening-grow your own initiative; a health, exercise and social engagement programme, a sustained programme of complementary therapy to relieve pain and stress and an intervention and support programme to assist older people at risk during summer disturbances or difficult winter periods.”
Mayor of Derry Councillor Kevin Campbell praised the new project by saying it will significantly benefit vulnerable people in the local community.
“Social exclusion among the elderly and vulnerable and the issues arising from loneliness and ill-health have been well documented and I am supportive of any initiative that provides real evidence of the practical, proactive and positive work being delivered within the city.
Commenting on the launch of the project, 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 older people in our communities. Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum’s ‘Getting On Well’ project will work to improve the lives of some of the most isolated older people in the Creggan, Brandywell, Bogside and Fountain areas,” he said.
Andrew Shiels is 73 years-old and since his wife died 18 years ago, he has lived alone in Kildrum Gardens.
Andrew, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease got out of hospital three weeks ago but still finds time to meet up with his friends Frankie and Micky every morning for a few frames of snooker.
“I’ve been hugely independent all of my life,” said Andrew.
“I am not as well as I used to be but when Bronagh Cooper from the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum came and spoke to us about the ‘Getting On Well’ project a while ago, I decided to give it a go.”
Andrew, a keen fisherman, said that there are many men and women who are over the age of 60 living all over Creggan, the Bogside and the Brandywell.
Andrew said that he understands why for some, living alone can bring on a sense of loneliness and isolation and explained that through such initiatives as the ‘Getting On Well’ project such issues could be tackled head on.
“I might be 73 but I still think the same way I did when I was in my twenties. I lost my wife 18 years ago - she used to work in Altnagelvin Hospital and I would pick her up from work all of the time so when I visit the hospital now it brings it all back. It was a very tough time for me when she died but thankfully I have some really good friends.
“I still like to get out and about and I play snooker in the St. Mary’s Community Centre. I’ll definitely have a look at what activities are on offer in the ‘Getting On Well’ project - who knows, I might try something different for a change,” he smiled.
Pam Kelly is 79 years-old and like her friend, Mary Devlin, she lives alone in her home in Brickfield Court near the Eastway Road.
Pam is an insulin dependent diabetic and said that her own circumstances can sometimes make her feel isolated but she said that she is interested in taking part in many of the activities that the ‘Getting On Well’ project has to offer.
“The way older people are viewed now is very different to the way they were seen when I was a girl growing up,” said Pam.
“Nowadays people see older people as people with very little left to offer but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I have leg and back problems which sometimes stops me from getting out of the house but I am really interested in the ‘Getting On Well’ project - it’ll help to get many people over the age of 60 out of the house.
“Sometimes the best thing for when you’re feeling isolated is to talk to other people and I think the ‘Getting On Well’ project will certainly help me to mix with and meet new people,” she smiled.
Mary Ward is 84 years-old and before she retired she worked for most of her life in Hunter’s shirt making factory.
“I think this project is really good because older people are facing the issues of isolation and loneliness everyday.
“I am lucky in the sense that I have a large family. There’s never a day that goes by that I don’t see my grand-children or children but not everyone is as lucky as me so that’s why I think the ‘Getting On Well’ project will help many older people living in the community.”
Mary is a fan of opera and in her younger years she enjoyed nothing more than going to dances.
“I am too old to try my hand at dancing again but I dance in my head every day,” she said smiling.
“I also keep myself happy by listening to opera all of the time - I haven’t a notion what the people are saying but I think that it sounds beautiful.
“The people on the ‘Getting On Well’ project have told me all about the different activities that will be on offer and I might give a few of them a try - I might surprise myself and actually end up discovering a new hobby,” said Mary excitedly.
For further information on the ‘Getting On Well’ project contact Thomas Carlin or Bronagh Cooper at the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum on 02871 262812.