A project which helps older people in a rural area of Portadown has been awarded £258,000 from the National Lottery.
Richmount Rural Community Association, which runs Richmount Elders group, has aptly named the project ‘Age is no barrier to having fun together’.
The grant will be spent on activities, outings and trips and support services over a five-year period.
The elders group was formed almost 10 years and its ethos is to provide activities and support for older people to keep them physically and mentally active.
It meets at least once a week, with around 50 people engaged in morning and afternoon activities as well as enjoying a two-course lunch cooked in the community centre.
Joe Garvey, chairman of the community association, said the group was “absolutely delighted” with the award.
“It gives us the finance needed to sustain and develop our services for older people over the next five years,” he said. “The ethos of the Richmount Elders is that older people who come here should have fun and get a good lunch when they are here. We have a lively group of older people who enjoy the craic and camaraderie.
“We have always felt that the best way of tackling social isolation amongst this group is to have fun together and that they go home at the end of the sessions with that feel good factor. It is also important that our activities are provided with our older people rather than for them and in this context the programme will be led by them – they know best.
“We are very thankful to The National Lottery Community Fund that it accepted our case for funding, and it allows us to be able to put a people-led project in place plus it gives us some time to develop ways of funding in the future.”
Ulster Unionist Party councillor Julie Flaherty, who was present at the launch of the project, said: “I grew up in this area and before the Richmount Elders group was formed there was nothing in this area for older people.
“I must commend Joe Garvey and his team for the brilliant work they have done to deal with social isolation and older people. Joe, in particular, had the tenacity and skill to build this group into one of the largest and most successful older people’s groups in the borough.
“This grant will ensure we can continue to provide this service with activities that the older people want. I know personally, that for many older people coming to the community centre every Thursday is the highlight of their week and the benefit they derive from it has been instrumental is maintaining both their physical and mental good health.
“Some may think that older people cannot enjoy themselves, but I have been here and seen just how much they can and the title of the project: Age is no Barrier to Having Fun sums it up.”
Kate Beggs, Northern Ireland director of The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We’re pleased to be supporting Richmount Rural Community Association to provide activities and regular hot meals for older people.
“With the rising cost of living this project will be vital to improving health and wellbeing and reducing the isolation felt by older people in this rural area.”