Age Concern tackle bogus callers through drama

Performing scenes from 'Don't Be My Guest' at Age Concern are, from left, Philomena Duffy, Kathleen McNaught and Margaret O'Hagan. (1002PG55)
Performing scenes from 'Don't Be My Guest' at Age Concern are, from left, Philomena Duffy, Kathleen McNaught and Margaret O'Hagan. (1002PG55)
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It’s a sad indictment of society that older people living in Derry have to raise awareness on doorstep crime.

Sunday Reporter Andrew Quinn spent the afternoon with older people at Age Concern to find out how they are addressing the issue of doorstep crime.

Performing in 'Don't Be My Guest' are Irene Crowe, left, and Moya Colhoun. (1002PG54)

Performing in 'Don't Be My Guest' are Irene Crowe, left, and Moya Colhoun. (1002PG54)

It’s a sad indictment of society that older people living in Derry have to raise awareness on doorstep crime.

As part of their ongoing ‘Fear of Crime’ initiative Age Concern Derry, in Malvern House on the Chapel Road, facilitated a play which shows older people how to reduce the chances of falling victim to doorstep crime.

The play was staged by two local amateur theatre groups; the Happy-Go-Luckies, from Creggan and Top Women, from Top of the Hill, in the Waterside.

Emer Doherty from Age Concern said that whilst it was deplorable that older people should be subject to such attacks, they felt that the only way to enable older people to deal with doorstep crime was by addressing the issue head on.

“The threat of doorstep crime is a real issue for many of the older people who use Age Concern,” said Emer. “There’s hardly a week goes by that we are not hearing about an older person being attacked in their home. It’s a sad reality I know but it’s through such initiatives that we can help to reduce the chance of this happening.”

Age Concern Derry cover a wide range of issues and offer an array of services to older people living in Derry however, Emer confirmed that crime awareness has to be at the forefront of their message.

“At Age Concern, we want to make sure that we are doing all that we can so that older people feel safe in their homes. The play here today is about showing older people what to look out for as well as what procedure they should follow when a stranger calls at their door.”

The play is titled ‘Don’t Be My Guest’ and is facilitated by the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) through their Learning Age Project. The project is funded by Derry City Council’s Community Safety Partnership and the Atlantic Philanthropies.

The WEA are in the process of staging the play in ten different community venues serving older people throughout the Derry City Council area.

The performance is made up of four scenarios to show the range of tricks that bogus callers use in order to gain access into the houses of older people. The final scenario offers a step-by-step approach showing the correct measures older people can take to protect themselves.

Each performance is followed by a short discussion on the issue of Bogus Callers and each audience member is given a leaflet outlining these steps that they can take and use in their own homes. The performance is offered free to all older people who attend.

Sinead Devine, Development Officer with the Learning Age Project said that before staging the play at Malvern House the group had been to four other venues.

“The response has been all positive,” said Sinead.

“It’s about showing older people and vulnerable adults how to limit the chances of falling foul of doorstep crime.”

Sinead revealed that after staging the play in Newbuildings recently, one of the older people in attendance said that she had almost become a victim the day before.

“The lady in question was able to describe to us what happened. It was almost identical to one of the situations in the play.

“As soon as she told us what happened she phoned the police to tell them what happened. It meant that the police in the area were aware which hopefully means that older people in the area feel more safe.”

Josie McLaughlin, (68) is from Creggan and is a member of the Happy-Go-Luckies amateur drama group.

“We have been going a few years now and we didn’t work with any other groups until recently.

“There’s a great bunch of us in the Happy-Go-Luckies but it’s been great working with the women from the Top Women drama group.

“It’s all about meeting up, sharing stories and having fun.

“We have staged the play in a few different venues already and it’s been received really well.”

Mary Duddy is a WEA Tutor and is the group’s drama facilitator.

“I’ve been doing this kind of work for a while now but I have to say I look forward to meeting up with the women every week - they are a pleasure to work with.

“There’s a real social side to the project too. Many of the women who are in the Happy-Go-Luckies and Top Women never knew one another until we started the project.

“There’s real talent in the group and from my point of view it’s great to see because many of these women come from a generation that never got the chance to try anything like this before.

“The women in the group have bags of talent but because they were never encouraged to try something like drama out before, their self-confidence isn’t what it used to be.

“However, they deserve all of the credit as it’s because of their talent and passion that they are able to tackle such a complex and important issue as doorstep crime.”

Margaret O’Hagan is a member of the Top Women amateur drama group. Margaret said that whilst she enjoys taking part in amateur dramatics the most important aspect of the project for her was getting the chance to address the issue of doorstep crime.

“We’ve been doing the play for a while now but I still get very, very nervous every time we are due to go on stage.”

Margaret, who plays a burglar, described the project as important and one that she’s extremely proud to be part of.

“The reality of life for many older people now is that there are people out there who want to exploit them and take advantage of their kind heartedness.

“A lot of the people who suffer as a result of doorstep crime are targeted because of they come from an older generation.

“Many of my friends and I were reared in homes where it was ok to leave your front door open - it was ok to invite a stranger into your house - I still leave my door open, it’s force of habit.

“However, it’s through projects like this one that we are able to educate older people and vulnerable adults on the ills of doorstep crime.

“If this play helps just one older person to stop the crime happening then our play will have been a success.”