Local 78-years-old proves the elderly ‘rock’ by scaling climbing wall

RAPID (Rural Area Partnership In Derry)
RAPID (Rural Area Partnership In Derry)

A local arthritis sufferer climbed her own Mt. Kilimanjaro last week when she scaled the Foyle Arena’s Climbing Wall.

When 78-years-old Nellie Brolly’s husband died 15 years ago, she could have stayed at home in rural Northern Ireland, crocheting and pottering about the house.

But luckily, Tamnaherin native Nellie had grandchildren nearby to keep her busy.

However, over time she developed arthritis which seriously limited her mobility.

At one point the pain got so bad, she wasn’t able to lift a kettle to make a cup of tea.

Nellie lives in the rural area of Derry, and elderly residents are particularly vulnerable to health problems and loneliness as the area’s poor public transport can leave them isolated.

But with the help of the Rural Area Partnership in Derry (RAPID), which uses money raised by Red Nose Day to run activities and programs for elderly residents in rural Derry.

With this funding, RAPID set up the HAND (Healthy Ageing Network in Derry) Good Sports programme, a two-year programme to encourage isolated older people in rural Derry to use sport, including swimming, rock climbing, dance and yoga as a means to improve their mental and physical well-being and to become more involved in their local community.

Three times a week, a bus organised by RAPID picks up Nellie and other local residents and takes them to social and physical activities such as yoga, dance and kayaking. Since joining the programme, Nellie’s arthritis has improved significantly, and she’s even taken on challenges like indoor rock climbing. Nellie says the opportunities afforded by RAPID are outstanding and that the activities she joins are benefiting her health.

“When I joined the HAND Good Sports programme, I was a bit apprehensive about doing exercise as I thought it would make me ache more, but actually the gentle exercises in the gym, chair yoga and aqua aerobics have almost made me pain free. Not just that but I’ve made special friends who I now regularly meet up with outside of classes too,” said Nellie.

During Summer 2018 the HAND Good Sports programme organised kayaking on Enagh Lough and canoeing on the River Foyle. Nellie joined 80 other Good Sports participants in these activities.

“I have had so much fun, made lots of new friends and have really pushed myself to be more adventurous. We get lots of support from the staff at RAPID and Eglinton Community group. I can’t actually believe I was able to climb the wall in Foyle Arena, nine months ago I came to the climbing wall for the first time, I really struggled to get past the first couple of boulders.

“Today, after our chair yoga session, and a coffee, I’ve really surprised myself, I never thought I could get up that far,” added Nellie. Red Nose Day returns tonight, Friday, March 15, and Comic Relief is asking the nation to Come Together and make a difference.