THE need for people to engage with their older neighbours and to assist them in any way possible was one of the main themes in a series of talks and information displays in St Canice’s Neighbourhood Hall last week where many voluntary, community and statutory groups who supporting older or vulnerable people living alone in Kilkenny city appealed for help. The event was jointly organised by Kilkenny/Carlow Contact Services, the Digital Switchover Champions and the Fr. McGrath Family Centre. Co-ordinator of the HSE funded Carlow/Kilkenny Contact, a befriending and advocacy group for older people and based at the Fr. McGrath Centre, Eleanor Doyle, said never before was their such a time to look at how communities support older neighbours living alone when many former services are disappearing because of the economic situation in the country.
“But the positive side of the economic down turn is that many retired and unemployed people are contacting us and asking can we volunteer or get involved in something to help others in our community,” she said.
One of the most popular stalls was that of the Digital Switchover Champion programme. It provided information and demonstrations on what people need to do to make sure they do not get switched off when the country goes digital for all television stations from October 24. They have been working with unemployed or retired people who are acting as volunteer ‘Champions’ in many urban and rural areas across Carlow and Kilkenny and are helping their neighbours with the big national switchover.
Mayor of the city, Sean O’hArgain attended and saluted all the organisations and said they were doing much to provide information and more importantly activities for older citizens.
“Gone are the days when reaching pension age meant the end of ones active life. People now are thankfully living full, active and healthy lives for many years and even decades after retirement. As Mayor I am very proud of the efforts we as a city and council are making to make Kilkenny an Age Friendly place to visit, but more importantly in which to live. I will continue to support any initiatives I can to ensure that this is a great place to live in our ‘Golden Years’. People in our city who have given a lifetime of work, (either in or out of the home) community service or of simply being decent neighbours deserve no less. Nowhere is that spirit of community and decency more evident than here in the Butts.
“In relation to the part of today’s proceedings relating to the Digital TV switchover, I compliment the way this issue is being handled. The switch-off of the old analogue service and its replacement with the new and far better digital service has been well notified to people. While I am younger than many in the room, I am old enough to remember black and white TV with only one station available and even remember renting our televisions from companies like RTV Rentals. We have come a long way from then and television is a vital service for our older citizens. It is, along with radio, a lifeline to the outside world as well as being a great forum for entertainment and education.
“I hope that we will all help out in ensuring that the switch-over will be as painless as possible in the coming weeks. I had direct personal experience of this process in helping out my late father in law in doing so last year. The difference a new digital TV and the availability of Saorview made to a man whose eyesight was failing made the gentle persuasion involved worthwhile. I would hope that most of our elderly neighbours and friends will realise that the small expense involved in switching over will be well worth it in the long run and that they will not be left stranded without a service at the end of this month,” he said.
The Kilkenny Lions Club were present through president Rodger Curran and coordinator of their message in a bottle scheme, Maeve O’Flynn. The little bottle provides information which may be vital for the emergency services.
The Alzheimer’s Society, Home Carers, the HSE Health Promotion Unit, Aware, Age Friendly Ireland, Dementia Awareness, Senior Citizens Helpline, Kilkenny Men’s Group and the Community Garda unit were also there.
The HSE supported Kilkenny/Carlow Contact Service s also one of the main providers of personal security alarms to older people in Kilkenny and is in the process of piloting with Newpark Close and the Fr. McGrath Centre FRC’s, a volunteer run ‘Home Secure and Repair’ service for older people in their neighbourhoods. Kilkenny Contact Service now has established 120 befriending partnerships were local volunteers regularly visit older people in their neighbourhoods. Both the Contact Service and the Digital Switchover Champions Programme hope to attract other volunteers to the community afternoon as they are still actively recruiting volunteers to help them with both services throughout the Carlow and Kilkenny areas.
For details interested volunteers or older people can ring Jo Conroy 0872236050 for the Digital Switchover Programme, Eleanor Doyle at Kilkenny/Carlow Contact 0868530994 or the Fr. McGrath Family resource Centre 056 7751988 were both services are based.