On Tuesday, September 15th, an Information Morning for Over 55s (or thereabouts) was held in the Menlo Park Hotel in Galway City. The aim of this event was to promote awareness of both the purpose and activities of two Active Retirement Associations within Galway City with a view to encouraging other people to establish similar groups in their own locality.
There was a remarkable turnout of people from all over County Galway and neighbouring counties at the Information Morning. It was estimated that over 185 people attended on the day including individuals and representatives from community/voluntary groups and statutory organisations.
Billy Pope (Knocknacarra Active Retirement Association) and Eithne Carey (Renmore Active Retirement Association) welcomed all present and outlined the purpose of the Information Morning. At this point Councillor Bridie O’Flaherty, Deputy Mayor of Galway, officially opened the proceedings and was full of praise for the organisers who were drawn from the members of the Knocknacarra and Renmore Active Retirement Associations. She emphasised the importance and value of this event by recalling her own experience of retiring from business in her mid fifites, the difficulties in coping with this new situation and how important it was for her to have an active role on the City Council. She felt that everyone retiring from work or who had spent their lives looking after families needed some other interests in life to enable them use their time and their talents to good effect.
Following the official launch of the Morning, Eithne and Billy shared their own experiences of their respective active retirement associations, focusing in particular on the benefits and positive aspects of older adults coming together as a group to proactively ensure a better quality of life for all.
A number of members of the Renmore and Knocknacarra Active Retirement Associations also outlined what it meant to them to be involved in their local groups. Some of the experiences and sentiments expressed clearly highlights the benefit of their membership within these groups.
All the contributions emphasised the importance of doing for oneself; a philosophy, which is strongly promoted by the active retirement associations. Active participation in these groups has clearly fostered a greater sense of independence, friendship, self-esteem and fulfilment among the members. Throughout the morning contributors underlined the significance of enjoyment as being central to group success.
The range of activities and courses pursued and the oprocess by which these are agreed and organised within the group reinforces the principle of Self-Help.
Some of the activities enjoyed to date include: Creative Writing, Art, Walking, Swimming, Golf, Pitch & Putt, Flower arranging, Computers, Health matters, Bridge and Music Appreciation.
Some of the personal views expressed on the day clearly illustrate the long-term benefits and potential of the Active Retirement Associations:
“We are promoting a positive image of what retirement can be rather than letting it be seen as a burden.”
“We believe we have probably identified more by accident than design a resourceful group of people who can be of particular service to one another by counteracting loneliness and isolation frequently experienced by older people in today’s busy world.”
“Following a stroke I felt very low and I had very little interest in life. I met some people who told me about Knocknacarra Active Retirement Association. More out of curiosity than anything else I decided to go to one of their meetings and I can honestly say my life has changed completely. I have so many interests now and I love the feeling of wanting to get up in the mornings.”
“There is a tremendous resource of life experience and talent within the older community which needs to be acknowledged and respected and we are the best people to ensure that this is done.”
“All my family are reared and are living in different parts of the world. My partner died some years ago, I am very much on my own. My membership of our Association is like a lifeline for me. I know there are many lonely people out there who could equally benefit from the same experience as mine.”
A number of workshops were organised in order to promote discussion and to provide people with an opportunity to raise questions and express their views. Feedback from these workshops clearly indicated that there was a very good reaction to the morning’s presentatiuons and a high level of interest in establishing similar associations elsewhere. Some people expressed surprise and delight at the remarkable attendance and many people commented on the great educational value and social importance of such an event for older people.
As discussions within the workshops progressed it became obvious that many people are anxious to start a group in their own area. Galway City Centre in particular was identified as being in great need of such an association as currently there are very few supports, resources or options for older people in this locality. The need for similar associations in rural areas was also emphasised.
A number of people felt that there was a lack of information about Active Retirement Associations and there was a need to heighten awareness among older people regarding the potential of individuals coming together and promoting a stronger voice for older adults. More knowledge is needed at a local level of all groups already in existence so as to avoid duplication of organisation and effort. The Active Retirement Associations however have a very specific focus and approach, with the result that establishment of such associations should not duplicate the activities of other groups.
The following points were identified during the workshops (by participants) as being essential to successfully establishing an active retirement association:
- Identify a leader or small group in each area
- Suitable premises
- Information and Knowledge need to be more widely available
Knocknacarra and Renmore Active Retirement Associations should send out fliers to different areas where people are interested in starting clubs.
Emphasis of the Active Retirement Associations must focus on enjoyment and doing for oneself.
There is already a nucleus for groups in Oughterard, Mervue and Salthill but nothing similar in City Centre. There is a great need for support to get a group or number of groups established.
It is essential that all the Active Retirement promote and maintain networking among existing and soon to be established associations.
It would be useful that if a member of one Active Retirement Association wished to participate in the activities of another Active Retirement Group that is would benefit both the individual and the associations concerned greatly in terms of sharing of ideas and interests.
It was suggested that Active Retirement Groups should advocate an Open Morning policy where non-members may come along and see what activities are on offer without any pressure to become a member. This idea was seen as useful to give potential new members a sense of what’s available.
In some of the Active Retirement Associations, particularly the rural associations, there seems to be an urgency to promote new activities in oder to maintain present members and to entice new members to join.
It was suggested that members of established retirement groups should be invited along to newly formed retirement groups to assist them to identify effective methods of good practice and to share experiences.
It was suggested that an umbrella body for active retirement groups in the city and county should be set up as a resource to provide relevant information to assist associations to achieve their aims.
It was also recommended that Active Retirement Groups should provide more afternoon activities rather than evening ones, which might be more amenable for older people to attend.
In organising the Information Morning for the over 55s, the Renmore and Knocknacarra Active Retirement Associations hoped that by recounting their own experiences, to act as a catalyst to encourage older adults to establish or become involved in similar groups within their own communities. Members from both associations have also agreed to participate in meetings following the Information Morning, in order to support the efforts of interested individuals to come together in their locality. The fact that so many people attended on the day clearly illustrates the immense need in the greater Connaught region for assistance in the formation and organisation of structures to facilitate older people to become actively involved within their respective communities. On this basis the Community Education and Resource Centre, National University of Ireland, Galway has agreed, where possible, to facilate the involvement of older adults within their community.
Maura Maher, Mary Kearney and Christine Keaney went to the Information Meeting in the Menlo Hotel and feel that such an Association would be a welcome asset to our Parish/Area. The Association could only function if a willing committee of ourselves organised it. Billy Pope and Eithne Carey would come along and give help and advice to get it started. Meantime it is possible to join one of the existing clubs—£10 per annum and £1 per visit. You may go along for two visits before you need to join as a member.