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BIG grants to change lives of vulnerable NI older people

20 July 2011

A project to transform the lives of isolated and vulnerable older people in the Ballymena area has been awarded a grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

Ballee Community Association is one of three groups across Northern Ireland awarded grants totalling nearly £834,000 from the 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. (For more information on the grants click here)

Listen to a podcast about the project below:

Download the podcast transcript

The group will use £160,000 to expand the club it runs to improve the lives of older people living in Ballymena’s Ballee estate, giving more people the chance to attend and improving the services and activities on offer.

As well as running activities and social outings, the project will offer complementary therapies, bring in a pharmacist to offer health advice, and encourage older people living in local care homes to get involved.

Margaret McKeown, Chairperson, said: “This is an area of disadvantage and a lot of older people live alone and have no families. Some of them barely get the chance to get out of the house and many of them have health issues and difficulties with money. We can now improve the confidence and health of local older people, and ensure they have support in their lives.”

David Lorimer, 76, who lives alone in the estate, said: “It does get lonely for me, and if it wasn’t for the club I would be sitting looking at four walls and wouldn’t meet anybody,” he said. “I have asthma and use a walking stick so having this club so close is a big help.”

“You look forward to going to the club. You talk to people your own age, and reminisce about things you did years ago. It just makes a big difference to my life.”


Springfield Charitable Association Ltd. has also been awarded £173,961 to encourage isolated and vulnerable older people with dementia and other illnesses in west Belfast to come along to its day centre and take part in activities and services.

“West Belfast has high levels of deprivation and disadvantage. With that comes a number of health problems, and all of this can lead to certain types of dementia,” said General Manager Terry McNeill.

“Cases are increasing in west Belfast – in fact eight of the most recent referrals to our centre have been older people with dementia. We are going to offer advice and care to older people with dementia so we can increase their confidence and self worth, get them involved in community life and help them lead healthier, more fulfilled lives.”

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.

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