Third Age is bringing members together safely for company, conversation and cake!

Posted on 10th July 2020

Many older people have lost out in COVID, being confined to home and deprived of family and friends. But for the members of Third Age, Summerhill, the loss has been particularly severe. Established 33 years ago, Third Age is as relevant as ever today with a vibrant programme of meetings, services, day trips, activities and holidays. Most members eagerly await its reopening.

However, in the interim, Third Age administrators, Rosemary Doyle and Maeve Carton have gone that extra mile (literally) to ensure that isolated members have felt cared for by organising weekly shopping, safe visiting and regular phone contact. Now that restrictions are easing, Third Age is bringing members together safely for company, conversation and cake!

We gathered in a sunny courtyard in Killyon one recent afternoon to talk about the highs and lows of lockdown and the benefits of Third Age membership. Noeleen Pearle, Readstown, joined the organisation 30 years ago. ‘Third Age gave me opportunities I would never have dreamt of. COVID has been difficult. My family have been very good, but I have good days and bad days’, she says. She looks forward to the weekly film show, and Movement to Music with drama teacher, John Grant, when the centre reopens.

Kathleen Farrell has come through a particularly worrying time as her son Tom contracted the virus and is finally getting well again. ‘I didn’t notice being confined so much, my mind was so taken up with his illness. Though I learnt I was a creature of habit, and it was difficult when the routines we were used to were suddenly taken away’ she said.

A number of members said they missed the loss of independence including shopping for themselves while paying tribute to the kindness of family, friends and neighbours. People were busy in various ways at home. ‘It is 230 steps round my perimeter, I did it 10 to 12 times every day’ said Breda Tuomey. Friends May Flynn and Sadie Geraghty had been used to walking together for an hour every day and missed the companionship. There was a lot of gardening, painting and DIY. Many homes in Co Meath it seems have never looked swankier.

What else did was missed? ‘I missed bridge’ said Phil Geoghegan from Kildalkey. ‘I play five nights a week. Driving home I would wind down, staying in, I found I couldn’t sleep as I was not relaxed’. Other losses. A pint. Sport. Seeing family and friends. Not being able to go to Mass, or to show respect to a neighbour who had died. Not being able to see family was a big loss, and many of the grandparents sitting around the garden table have not yet hugged adult children or grandchildren. Obviously a sadness.

Tom Holmes spent 52 years in London before returning to Summerhill. ‘I couldn’t be in a better place, in an apartment in my own family home, quite safe. Third Age has been wonderful during COVID, organising shopping at the start, and phoning me every few days. Rosemary and Maeve are both very efficient and very caring’, he said.

The Third Age May holiday to Westport has had to be cancelled and an autumn break to Wexford may be another casualty. Centre activities that are missed include the Chairaerobics, computer classes, card games, reflexology, line dancing, ‘so calming’, said Breda. ‘Just the meetings, getting together seeing everyone’ said Mary. What have they learned? ‘I learnt to relax. I am a bit of a workaholic, very organised. During the fine spell, every afternoon Tom Joe and I sat out in the garden in the sunshine. This is not something I would normally do’, said Sadie.

Everyone wondered about the future and if this strange half-life would continue. Kathleen spoke for many when she mused on the loss of fuller days to those of an age group when each one is precious. ‘It was hard to miss a spring and a summer. We won’t get them back’, she said.

Aine Brady is CEO of Third Age: ‘Rosemary gives us reports of the weekly meetings and they are very moving. We are being together while apart. Some members live in very isolated locations and I know it means to much to them to realise we are thinking of them, and really looking forward to seeing them again’, she said

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