Lottery boost changes lives of older people

A PROJECT to help isolated older people in the Lisburn area get involved in performing arts has been awarded a major grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

Kaleidoscope is to get £180,000 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 arts organisation will use the grant to create six new performing arts groups across Northern Ireland for older people who are at risk of being socially isolated and excluded – including a group based in Lisburn’s Island Arts Centre, as well as others in Newry, South Armagh, Banbridge, Belfast and Craigavon.

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Each of the groups will run a course of activities designed to steadily build the skills, confidence and self esteem of members and explore the issues affecting their lives. At the end of the project the group will perform a drama piece based on what they have learnt for their friends, families and people in the local community.

Project coordinator Kerry Rooney said the course will give older people involved the chance to speak about the issues affecting them as well as educating and informing the audiences who come along to their performances “There are various factors that cause an older person to becoming isolated from their communities including retirement, health problems, lack of transport, loss of contact with family and friends, rural isolation and low income,” said Kerry.

“In fact, we have chosen to put the groups in these six areas because our research shows that many of the older people living there are living in rural and social isolation and are hindered by lack of transport.

“These groups will get people out of the house, they are more physically and mentally active, it boosts their self esteem and confidence and they have the chance to be creative to learn new skills.”

He continued: “Much of the focus will be on exploring issues which affect their lives, whether that is depression, loneliness, poor health, money worries or retirement from their job. They will get the chance to open up about how they feel and share their fears and worries, helping to improve their mental health and make new friends.

“One of the many aims of the project is to improve the image of older people within our society as active and equal citizens while giving them the opportunity to inform and educate others about the views, ideas, attitudes and experiences of older people.

“A lot of older people do not feel valued. The project is a way of celebrating older people’s talents and activeness, showing they are dynamic and have great skills, and raising awareness of the issues they face.”

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 isolated older people in our communities who at risk of isolation, depression, mental and physical ill health and low self esteem. Our funding is supporting those young people who need our help the most.”