Tuesday 12 December 2017

Busy Joan (91) lends an ear to voice of the lonely

Jason O'Brien

"MY doctor says us oldies haven't time to be sick."

Joan Coughlan's doctor has a point. Mrs Coughlan turns 92 next October, but at the rate she gets things done that birthday could come around sooner.

"I'm an aunt of Mary Nally, and she started the Third Age Foundation for older people in Summerhill (Co Meath), and ever since I've been involved in pretty much everything that goes on in it.

"So I'm busy with it about four days a week, with dramas and meetings and with the choir, and so on. I'm part of the furniture in there.

"And I go into the primary school to teach knitting on Mondays, and that keeps me busy too.

"I'm a volunteer on the helpline since it began," she added. "It's a listening voice for older people. The people who call are mostly lonely people, but some have other problems, and we hear it all. We hear a lot of sad stories.

"But it's so important to do something. It keeps me young at heart."

Mrs Coughlan was in Dublin yesterday to help launch the Get Active cultural group aimed at over-55s, and to get the active retired involved in drama and music workshops, film screenings and walking tours.

She got the bus from Meath, but she could as easily have driven. "I'm still driving. Aren't I lucky to get a driving licence?" she laughed.

"In 1948 I started to drive, and I think it was some sort of Mini. I have a Seat now, and I use it to get around.

"It is important for people who are older to keep active for the sake of their health."

Mrs Coughlan, whose husband John died 24 years ago, ran a poultry farm before she retired and has travelled to Lourdes 20 times.

Get Active events will run throughout the Temple Bar Cultural Trust's annual programme of events starting with In Handel's Day on April 13.

"This cultural programme for the active retired further strengthens the message that Temple Bar is genuinely an age-friendly area," said Eimear Chaomhanach of the trust.

Irish Independent

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