Cork County Council has extended the deadline for applications to its Age Friendly County programme, which provides support to groups for the development of a network of Age Friendly towns across the county. The current fund cycle from 2020 – 2021 will provide financial assistance to communities interested in developing Age Friendly initiatives in their town.
Four towns in the county currently hold Age Friendly status; Kinsale, Bandon, Cobh and Mitchelstown. The towns secured funding through the scheme in the past and continue to reap the benefits, which are particularly evident in these unprecedented times which pose many challenges for older people.
Liz Downes is a member of Cork County Council’s Community Support Forum, Vice Chair of the Older People’s Council and an active member of Mitchelstown’s Age Friendly Town Committee. Liz is encouraging other community groups to consider applying for the fund,
“Achieving the status of an Age Friendly Town has brought a huge sense of community pride to Mitchelstown, as well as an awareness of the everyday challenges experienced by older people. The programme has allowed the community to view our town through new eyes; we were spurred into action, with various initiatives, networks and businesses raising awareness of older people’s needs. Age Friendly Towns has laid the foundations for the wonderful supports that are now so important to many in our area. We have made valuable connections with Cork County Council, Local Councillors, HSE, Gardai, Ballyhoura Development, Muintir na Tire and most recently a link with the Council’s Covid 19 Community Support Programme.”
Not to be deterred by Covid 19, Mitchelstown Age Friendly Committee have recently introduced Zoom Digital Meet Up’s to connect older people in the community, while providing advice on various well-being topics. The first of their weekly Zoom calls focused on Physical Activity and Mental Wellbeing, while future meetings will explore further topics on maintaining a healthy mind and body, and staying connected.
Meanwhile, in Bandon, Colette O’Connor is Co-ordinator at St. Michael’s Centre; a community centre that provides information, support and resources to enable older people to live independently in their community. The centre offers services such as Meals on Wheels, a call service and carers support group. With just 2.5 staff, St. Michaels relies heavily on volunteers, many of whom are retired or are older people now cocooning due to Covid 19.
The centre’s close connection with Bandon’s Age Friendly Town initiative has brought many benefits, including access to a large cohort of local Garda vetted volunteers and a network of local business and organisations. The importance of these connections has become even more apparent in responding to the added demands and challenges brought by Covid 19, as the centre adapts to work alongside the restrictions imposed on many of their clients. Colette explains
“the addition of new volunteers in recent weeks has allowed us to expand our Meals on Wheels service outside of the usual 3 mile radius, as well as growing the number of calls made through our “Care Ring Conversations”, reaching out to those living alone for that increasingly important weekly chat.”
This round of Age Friendly funding will offer communities throughout Cork County the opportunity to emulate this success.
Speaking of the Age Friendly Programme, Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Ian Doyle said
“Cocooning can be an isolating experience for many, particularly those that are used to living independently or do not have family or support structures locally. The connections created by the Age Friendly committees and the assistance offered by Cork County Council’s Community Support Programme have and continue to provide comfort for many older people across the county.”
Cork County Council’s Chief Executive Tim Lucey added
“Cork County Council’s Age Friendly Programme has brought communities together, uniting voluntary groups, local businesses, clubs and organisations in their journey to become a better place for older people to live. The programme has enjoyed much success over the past number of years, but its importance has truly come to the fore in recent times. I urge any community groups with ambitions to introduce an Age Friendly approach to their town, to consider applying to the fund.”
The closing date for receipt of applications is Friday May 29th 2020 at 4pm.