Lottery Funding To Change Lives Of Isolated Older People

A project using storytelling and reminiscence to improve the lives of isolated older people in the Northern Health Trust area has been awarded a major grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

Reminiscence Network Northern Ireland is one of eight projects in Northern Ireland awarded grants totalling over £3.2 million from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching out: Connecting Older People programme which supports older people affected by issues such as bereavement, disability or long term illness or who live in residential care or sheltered housing.

The organisation will use a grant of £416,893 to carry out visits to the homes of vulnerable older people across the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to help them create an innovative ‘Life Story Book.’

They will also run ‘Creative Reminiscence Groups’ offering activities for older people at day centres run by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust. The project will encourage older people living with disabilities to look back at their life experiences, helping them create a book of lasting memories, building their relationships, reducing their loneliness and boosting their self-esteem and self worth.

"Because of conditions such as social isolation, depression, low self esteem 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," said Director Alexey Janes. "The book helps staff get to know the people they are working with, and the older people feel they are seen as a genuine person.

"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.

"For those who attend the day centres our groups will also offer them the chance to relive their memories, covering themes such as childhood, singing, dancing and drama sessions. 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."

Anne Greenan, 75, from east Belfast, organises and participates in Reminiscence Network sessions. "I thoroughly enjoy it. It just brings back things I thought I had forgotten about," she said. "At our last meeting everyone was talking about the old picture houses. Many of the people who come along have Alzheimer’s or early Alzheimer’s, but it is amazing how much they can remember. It’s a fantastic organisation and I don’t know what I would do without it."

The North Belfast Partnership Ltd has also been awarded £480,303 to run the SHED project which will provide the opportunity for isolated older men in north Belfast to come together to take part in activities and services teach them new skills, boost their physical and mental health, improve their confidence and self esteem and encourage them to get out of the house and mix with other men their age in similar situations.

The project will create three groups across north Belfast where older men will decide the activities they want to do such as digital photography, gardening, IT skills or woodwork.


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