£500,000 grant to help elderly

A PROJECT encouraging active older volunteers in the Mid Ulster area to support vulnerable and isolated older people in the community has been awarded a £500,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

Crossroads Caring for Carers (NI) Limited (CCFC) has been awarded £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Out: Connecting Older People programme which supports older people at risk who have been affected by issues such as bereavement, disability or long term illness or who live in residential care or sheltered housing.

Crossroads Caring for Carers will give older people in three NI Trust areas including the Northern Health Trust, who are current or ex-carers or have recently retired, the chance to provide support services for older people who are dealing with issues such as loneliness, poor health or the loss of a loved one.

The volunteers will be trained to offer services such as transport to shops and hospital appointments, a weekly telephone call, friendship visits, social outings and computer training.

Crossroads representative Janette Whitehouse explained that the project will bring dignity to the lives of older people who may feel isolated and lonely. “This is an innovative project that will improve the lives of the older people being supported and our older volunteers,” she said.

“There are older people in our society who might have retired but still feel fit and healthy and want to contribute something to society. As well as the training they get from us, they will be able to use their experience, knowledge and life skills to help older people who are facing difficult times in their lives.

“Adding to the care and support already offered by care attendants, they will be able to understand and relate to the needs of vulnerable older people, while the older people they are supporting will feel more comfortable being helped by someone their own age.”

Janette said that the volunteers will also be encouraged to help organise events and fundraising, while project partner, the British Medical Association (BMA), will help raise the project profile. “We hope the volunteers will use their expertise to help attract more volunteers and make more people aware of the project, while the BMA will raise our profile with doctors, through medical journals and at conferences,” she said.

“This project will help return purpose to the lives of volunteers and ensure they remain active and involved in their communities, while helping to cut transport costs, tackle isolation and improve the health and confidence of vulnerable older people in our society.”

Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “I am delighted that we are announcing the first grants awarded through our £20 million Connecting Older People programme. We would encourage organisations in Northern Ireland that have an idea for a project to support the most isolated and vulnerable older people in society to apply to the programme now.

“Grants of up to £500,000 are available to support older people through activities such as physical and mental health projects, volunteering programmes and projects that will bring isolated older people and young people together.”

The Reaching Out: Connecting Older People programme is open now for applications. To find out more visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk