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Engage with Age charity's programme to support Belfast's elderly proving popular

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Peter Newman checks out the latest PAL Gazette

Peter Newman checks out the latest PAL Gazette

Peter Newman checks out the latest PAL Gazette

Belfast charity Engage with Age has launched programmes to support older people who are staying at home during the Covid-19 crisis.

Older people becoming isolated during the coronavirus lock-down is a rising concern.

Newspapers, television and radio have highlighted the need to support older people so they can stay in good physical and mental health.

Engage with Age is a Belfast-based charity that seeks to enable older people to live happier, healthier, more connected lives.

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Its staff have devised a wide range of opportunities to enable them to stay healthy and active while staying at home and maintaining social distance, including a book club, Tai Chi and exercise classes, and what they're calling 'chocolate bingo' where the prizes are all sweet treats.

Engage With Age director Eamon Quinn said: "Every week we are speaking with hundreds of older people, some of whom are in touch with friends and family, and some who are quite lonely.

"We are aware that half of the people we work with are not online.

"So we're helping those who can to do so, person by person with individual help, to use things like Zoom and conference calls, where people discuss things together, such as what they saw when they were on their daily walk, which flowers are in bloom, things like that.

"The group is also publishing a free newspaper - the PAL Gazette - during the lockdown."

Fourteen hundred copies are distributed, featuring items aimed at elderly readers. "We've had articles about pubs of Belfast, about the city's architecture and history, stories and reminiscences, as well as health information, competitions and more," he said.

The group's projects, classes and conference calls are proving popular. More than 500 people are taking part in their lockdown-friendly programmes.

Peter Newman (73), who runs the dance group, said: "Getting involved with activities is great for a person's physical and mental health.

"Being in touch with other people is a positive way to help each other cope with having to stay at home.

"And ultimately, these activities are fun and they're free."

Nick Menhinick (75) lives in south Belfast and is a keen participant in the projects.

"We're lucky we have these technological whizz-bangs to help us these days - mobile phone, laptop and so on," he said.

"I'm not saying isolation is not a problem, but elderly people seem to be managing, and the community here in Belfast has me gobsmacked!

"We're fortunate that we've got some old fashioned spirit here - and it seems to be working.

"But it's always nice to put a metaphorical arm around someone's shoulders."

If you interested in joining, telephone Eamon Quinn on 07710 993 036


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