As part of St. Joseph’s Presentation and St. Patrick’s Secondary Schools Young Social Innovators’ programme for Transition Years, the students choose a social problem that they wanted to work on for the year ahead.
The topic they have chosen is one that meant a lot to all of them that being Elderly Isolation. The slogan they have chosen is: A Chat a Day Keeps Elderly Isolation at Bay.
“Statistics show that around 50,000 elders in Ireland are isolated and that is a huge figure that we want to reduce,” said student chairperson, Paddy Flynn.
“We also have found that Elderly Isolation causes damage to physical and mental health and we don’t want anyone to suffer from it,” said TY vice chairperson, Rachel O’Connor.
“A listening ear can mean the world to those who are isolated. Also the fact that a person does not have to live on their own to feel isolated, they could be living with someone but still feel like they can’t talk to them or they may not get on with that person, so keep that in mind when thinking about Isolation,” – Mairead Lane-Cronin, programme guide and teacher.
“We all felt that there is a lot of elders in the area being isolated and we as Social Innovators want to change this and we want the whole area to get on board. We know the Castleisland Day Care Centre, the Active Retirement Group, Kerry Flyer and more are doing great work to help the elderly get out and about and we want to do even more. We believe that if they can’t get to us we’ll get to them. We are already working tirelessly to set up our different events and we are constantly thinking of ideas that will help combat Elderly Isolation. ‘We have already made a great start by doing up a rota and visiting Glebe Lodge and the Active Retirement Group on Thursday and Friday evenings. We play music, sing and chat with them,” said student, Orla O’ Connor.
The plan of pairing off students in both schools with an elder of their choice is helping to develop a good relationship with the elderly in the area and they are encouraged to look out for one another. This will give the elders something to do and will mean they don’t have to be alone – according to the programme.
The students will encourage people to be much more sociable with the elderly and they want to stop ageism against that section of the population.
“We are also keying into Social Media and have coined the idea of taking a ‘Selfie’ with your chosen elder. This will promote links between the young and old and will help promote our campaign. It will also show that the students are really getting involved. We have a YSI noticeboard in our corridor decorated with lots of Selfies and information about our project,” said programme secretary, Jack Daly.
An organisation in Dublin has just this week taken a keen interest in the project and the schools are currently in the process of making very exciting plans with them – so watch this space.
The programme participants are hoping to compile a booklet that will contain the elders’ stories, songs, poems and more. The students are being encouraged to collect these if their elders are willing to and these will be written down and recorded.
“Our goal is to give the elders a sense of purpose and we want to get everyone, including the schools and locals, on board so we can stop elderly isolation for good in the area. We are also linking in with Monsignor O’Riordan and we are putting flyers in the local GPs, Dentists, Community Centres, etc. We are holding special entertainment days and nights for the elderly and plans have been made to go on the local parish radio to help spread the word,” said programme leader and Presentation teacher, Mairead Lane-Cronin.
“Overall, I am enjoying the experience so far with my Young Social Innovators this year as I think they have chosen a great topic that we are all passionate about. Their enthusiasm is what will make this project a success and I am looking forward to seeing the elderly people in the area gaining from their work. Something we really want to emphasise for the winter months ahead is that it is so vital that we check in on elderly neighbours that live on their own in case of a fall in the bad weather. A visit and a quick chat can make someone’s day,” said Ms.Lane-Cronin.
“We might even make a promotional video or play if we find the time in our busy schedule. We want to get the message across so we are already giving presentations to the students and hopefully eventually to the public. We are also holding a poster competition within the schools to find a good logo and slogan. We are currently conducting surveys with both the elderly and the students to get their ideas and thoughts on our project,” she added.
“A listening ear can mean the world to those who are isolated. Also the fact that a person does not have to live on their own to feel isolated, they could be living with someone but still feel like they can’t talk to them or they may not get on with that person, so keep that in mind when thinking about Isolation.
To see elderly people happy and content is all we want. This project has already shown to me how good young people can be when I watched our 24 students in Glebe Lodge last Friday evening chat, laugh, sing and play music with the patients there.
To see their faces light up makes everything worthwhile and makes me proud to be a YSI Guide for these students. We hope you take an interest in this very important campaign and get involved. It’s time we ended Elderly Isolation! Let’s do it together!,” Mairead concluded.