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Independent.ie

Monday 25 March 2019

Farmers leading drive to combat loneliness

Stock photo
Stock photo

Farmers are lending a listening ear to elderly people in an effort to reduce loneliness and isolation in north Kerry.

Last year, farmers taking part in the Rural Social Scheme underwent a pilot Home Visitation project with North East West Kerry Development (NEWKD), where they would visit an elderly person in pairs each week.

The project began as public health nurses in the area voiced their concerns about elderly people who were living alone in the region and feeling isolated.

"We increasingly meet people living on their own who may have lost contact with friends and neighbours as they grow older and communities change," says north Kerry nurse Ena McEvoy.

"Older people love to talk and socialise and engage, and this project gives them the opportunity to do so."

Anita Bodenham, Rural Social Scheme supervisor with NEWKD, says people look forward to the farmers visiting each week and that it means a lot to them.

"The clients couldn't speak highly enough of the scheme. They love the visits. The 40 or 50 minutes they get with the farmers involved may seem small but it's massive to them," she says.

The initiative covers Listowel, Ballybunion, Moyvane and everywhere in between.

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Anita feels that the big catchment area covered shows just how spread-out the north Kerry region is and how vulnerable people are to loneliness there.

"I remember being at a meeting a few years ago where farmers said that the only contact that they had with the outside world each day was the milk truck, and that is still as relevant as ever today," adds Anita.

"Kerry is so spread-out, and with the closure of post offices and pubs it makes it harder."

Anita says that they have met so many wonderful characters as part of the initiative.

"One client had four radios in his house and they were all tuned to different radio stations," she says.

The project, which is being launched on a wider scale today, also informs the elderly about how they can get involved in local community groups in the area and avail of Local Link transport.

"North Kerry is a vibrant community with many volunteer-led groups in the area supporting the older person", says Hilary Scanlan, HSE community work manager.

"This new service links people living on their own into community initiatives that will promote healthy ageing."

For more information on the project contact Anita Bodenham or Geraldine Kelly, of NEWKD on 068 23429 or call in to the offices in Tralee, Listowel, Dingle or Castleisland.

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