Belfast Telegraph

Nellie Brolly scales new heights despite arthritis

OAP boosted by activity programme for elderly

Nellie Brolly climbing the wall in the Foyle Arena yesterday
Nellie Brolly climbing the wall in the Foyle Arena yesterday
Nellie Brolly climbing the wall in the Foyle Arena yesterday
Nellie Brolly climbing the wall in the Foyle Arena yesterday
Nellie Brolly climbing the wall in the Foyle Arena yesterday
Nellie Brolly climbing the wall in the Foyle Arena yesterday
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

At one point her arthritis pain was so bad she couldn't lift a kettle to make a cup of tea, but now she's scaled a wall while indoor rock climbing.

When Nellie Brolly's husband died 15 years ago she kept busy by occupying herself with her grandchildren.

But over time the 78-year-old from Tamnaherin developed arthritis, which severely limited her mobility.

However, with the help of the Rural Area Partnership In Derry (RAPID), which uses money raised from Red Nose Day to run activities and programmes for elderly residents, Nellie has seen her condition improve as she takes on new challenges.

As a result of the funding, RAPID set up the HAND (Healthy Ageing Network in Derry) Good Sports programme, which is a two-year scheme to encourage isolated older people in rural areas in the county to use sport to improve their mental and physical well-being.

Three times a week a bus organised by RAPID picks up Nellie and other residents and takes them to social and physical activities such as yoga, dance and kayaking.

Since joining the programme, Nellie's arthritis has improved greatly.

And despite being a little nervous at first, she has taken on and conquered lots of challenges.

"When I joined the HAND Good Sports programme, I was a bit apprehensive about doing exercise as I thought it would make me ache more, but actually the gentle exercises in the gym, chair yoga and aqua aerobics have almost made me pain-free.

"Not just that, but I've made special friends who I now regularly meet up with outside of classes, too."

Last summer Nellie joined 80 others taking part in kayaking on Enagh Lough and canoeing on the River Foyle.

And yesterday was the greatest challenge of all as she was able to climb the wall in the Foyle Arena.

"I have had so much fun, made lots of new friends and have really pushed myself to be more adventurous. We get lots of support from the staff at RAPID and Eglinton Community group.

"I can't actually believe I was able to climb the wall in Foyle Arena. Nine months ago I came to the climbing wall for the first time; I really struggled to get past the first couple of boulders.

"Today, after our chair yoga session and a coffee, I've really surprised myself, I never thought I could get up that far."

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