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Lord Mayor launches elderly support effort

Elderly residents in east Belfast have been given a boost with a new Belfast Central Mission (BCM) initiative launched by the city’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Pat Convery.

The befriending scheme entitled ‘Loneliness — one hour of my time made the difference’, is a cross-community initiative. BCM are now seeking more volunteers, particularly in east Belfast, of any age who are prepared to give one hour of their time regularly to visit an older, isolated person.

Figures show that 39% of older people in Northern Ireland live alone, with many not having close family near them. Others are too infirm to socialise and a befriender is often their only point of contact with the outside world.

Brian Burns, director of BCM, explains: “We act a bit like matchmakers in this initiative, as we work to partner a volunteer who can commit one hour of their time to provide companionship to an older person in need. I would encourage everyone to look at their schedules to see if they could fit in one hour to brighten up the day of an older person. It could literally be a matter of life or death for someone and may often be the only company that person has all week.”

Mrs Young (98) loves to see her befriender Kathleen Whitten. “As I am in a residential home, I see other people with streams of family visiting them and unfortunately, as my niece and her family live so far away, I do not get any visitors. BCM paired me with Kathleen, who visits me once a week and really gives me something to look forward to.

“As I am 98 years young, we unfortunately can’t get out and about to meet, but if I was 10 years younger I would be out meeting her in a cafe for a cup of tea.”

Kathleen said: “I wanted to volunteer some of my time for something worthy and I honestly say that I too look forward to that one hour a week. Mrs Young is a character and tells some great stories and I really enjoy our time together.”

For further information, contact BCM on 9024 1917, see Facebook BCMNI or visit www.belfastcentralmission.org. Training and support are provided.

Belfast Telegraph