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Christmas feature – changing lives with lottery funding

21 December 2011

Christmas can be a tough time for many older people in the community who might live alone and can feel isolated and lonely.  However there are many groups who support vulnerable older people in disadvantaged communities which BIG supports.

Pictured are Pearl McKenna, 76, from Belfast’s Donegall Road area, and Bob Stoker, Development Manager for Southcity Resource & Development Centre

Pearl McKenna, 77, suffers from diabetes, has heart problems and has severe arthritis. Although she is fairly mobile she finds Christmas to be a difficult time and sad time.

She said: “My husband died almost eight years ago and, well, that makes it a little bit more sad each Christmas because just you feel that little bit more alone. Sometimes I can get a bit down, sometimes I feel a little bit sorry for myself and find myself having a little weep.”

However Pearl gets support from a project in Northern Ireland which secured a BIG grant of £200,000 for a drop in centre for elderly people like her to get out and meet people during the festive season.

Senior Moments in south Belfast is holding social activities like tea dances, shopping trips, computer classes and hope to offer confidential advice to people who need a friendly face to turn to. Fun festive events have already included the Christmas lights switch on in the Donegal Road, a Christmas dinner at a charity youth club where young children helped prepare and give out the dinner to the elderly, trips to St Georges Market, and a performance of the Wizard of Oz by a children’s drama group.

Since attending Pearl now has a much better social life and has gained new friends. She said: “Southcity is really, really good and they have arranged and put on so many things. Christmas is coming up and there’s so many activities being laid on for us I wonder if I’m going to have enough time to partake in all of them.

“You are mixing with friends, you are not isolated, you are not wondering what you are going to do from day to day.”

Adrienne McGill, project manager for Senior Moments, said: “You know there’s a lot of people out there who are probably feeling very lonely and as you get older in age your family does diminish so there’s a lot of them on their own, so it’s just making sure they know there’s someone out there who cares about them.”

Hear Pearl speak about her plans for the festive season below:

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