Time on our hands
Arklow Active Retirement Association is going strong, offering members representation where it matters and a social environment to meet like-minded people. Deborah Coleman reports
Once upon a time retirement was considered purely the reserve of those seeking a quiet and slower pace of life after a long career and wasn't always associated with those seeking a new lease of life, to make new friends and try new things.
Active Retirement associations have done wonders for changing mindsets in this department and offering those who have completed their full time working years, the change to join a fun and engaging group of like minded people.
Arklow Active Retirement Association is case in point - and with more than 60 current members, is paving the way for older, and not so old local residents to indulge their hobbies and enjoy regular social events in their local town.
'Groups like this are called 'Active Retirement' but they are open to anyone who is semi-retired, retired or simply who might have some extra time on their hands,' explains secretary Colin Huggett.
Together with treasurer Anne O'Connell, Colin administrates Arklow ARA and without the need for a designated chairperson or someone in charge, the group works by listening to what the members want and catering to their needs.
The group was founded in 2003 and membership has been steady, however there is always room for improvement.
'I came on board in 2008 when I moved to Arklow and we have a great bunch of loyal members.
'The problem is, that it is difficult to get new members, or to encourage people to come along and see what is happening. We have a few male members but we have always had more women, and if the men would come along they would see that there is something for everyone and that it is a great way to spend a few hours, rather than sitting at home alone,' Colin says.
'The social interaction is very important for members and our Friday coffee mornings are busier than ever. People can come along for the whole morning or they can pop in and out. A lot of the members meet here (Árus Lorcáin) for coffee and then go to lunch together afterwards.'
So packed is the weekly Arklow ARA schedule, that one would need to be retired to avail of all that is happening.
From craft groups to the weekly coffee morning, mini-breaks, day trips and walking group, there certainly is plenty to choose from.
'We like to be ahead of the game and if there is somewhere new we can visit for a day trip, for instance we try and make it happen,' says Anne.
'The members love to visit new places and we are always on the lookout for some new gardens or a country house that we haven't heard of before. We keep an eye on things like Nationwide and if somewhere sparks out interest we will try and take a trip there.
'During our autumn break to Waterford we really enjoyed seeing Curraghmore House, which was a new one for us.'
Already this year, Arklow ARA members have toured the Royal College of Surgeons and Trinity College and the National Library and they completed the Temple Bar 1916 and WWI tours.
Next on the agenda is the Spring Break, next week, which will see the group spend five days in Sligo.
Monthly meetings are held on the first Wednesday of the month where plans for the coming weeks are outlined but Colin and Anne try to ensure that there are updates given at the weekly coffee morning to hold members' attention.
'We like to update the members on what is happening and where we are in terms of plans and it allows them to make their own plans and think about what they might like to get involved in,' Colin says.
Tai Chi, indoor bowling, crochet and knitting all form part of the Arklow ARA schedule and the aim is to have something on every day, so that members can make at least one event a week if they wish. Guest speakers are also a highlight and everything from history to healthy living have been discussed by the members.
Next up will be an origami and mindfulness workshop with Arklow-based origami expert Michaela Bertsch.
While the emphasis of Arklow ARA is fun and social, meeting like minded retired folk, allows members to discuss concerns they have and to share their stories.
Being part of such an organisation gives them a voice, and the group is always represented at the annual County Wicklow Network for Older People AGM.
Healthcare and public transport is a particular bone of contention with members Breda Tyrrell, Kay O'Neill, Eithne Lee and May Byrne.
Lack of clarity about bus timetables and the sporadic nature of the stops close to St Vincent's Hospital have left the ladies reliant on relatives or costly taxis for transport to and from hospital on occasion, a situation which they say is very serious for those without family to depend on or the financial means to hire a taxi service.
May also says that Arklow is under-resourced in terms of sheltered housing or assisted living services as many older people would like to downsize and move into a secure and supported home.
However, Breda is keen to praise the home care service that many older people in Arklow avail of. 'The service is just wonderful and makes such a difference to people.'
The ladies are eagerly awaiting news of the long-awaited new Arklow Primary Care Centre, which they hope will cut down on the need for hospital visits.
For more details about everything that is happening within Arklow ARA or indeed to take the plunge and become a member please call Colin at 086 2089900 or Anne at 085 8638996 or pop along to the weekly coffee morning at Árus Lorcáin from 10.30 a.m.