New campaign to help older people Reconnect after COVID pandemic
21 March 2022
A new campaign aimed at breaking down the barriers between the generations and promoting inclusivity has been launched in Derry and Strabane.
The Reconnecting Again campaign is part of the wider Age Friendly initiative being rolled out by Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) working in partnership with the Public Health Agency (PHA), which aims to reduce social isolation and loneliness in the over 50's age group.
The Reconnecting Again campaign will raise awareness, using a range of tools including social media, to highlight opportunities to connect and re-engage, particularly as COVID-19 restrictions ease further and it becomes possible to socialise safely.
Launching the campaign, Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Alderman Graham Warke, said: "It's hugely important to tackle isolation, particularly in the older community. The past two years have been exceptionally difficult for everyone, especially for those in more vulnerable groups and our older people.
"Many people found themselves cut off from family and friends at a very stressful time when we all needed emotional support. During these difficult times the community and voluntary sector were tremendous in supporting people, who overnight become isolated due to the pandemic and their support has continued throughout. For others this may be a more difficult and challenging time in their lives, as they begin re-establish those connections and to reengage in social activities.
"Through the Reconnecting Again campaign, Derry and Strabane Council hopes to encourage the many organisations that offer services, activities and programmes to support older people by encouraging them to get involved and access the support and friendship on offer. We all need to be more mindful of family, friends and neighbours who may be struggling, and the importance of maintaining regular contact. No one in our community should feel isolated or alone, especially as we move towards normality as restrictions ease, but the onus is on all of us to do our bit and create opportunities to interact."
Almost one third of the people aged 65+ years within the DCSDC area are living alone. That's a significant group of people and we all know someone who is living by themselves. Chronic loneliness, when people always or often feel this way, can have impact on your overall health and wellbeing and it affects 1 in 20 people in Northern Ireland.
The Reconnecting Again campaign reaches out to all sectors, encouraging local organisations in the community and voluntary sector and also local businesses to help promote the message by getting involved and showing their support. Building on the Take 5 Steps to Wellbeing, this campaign outlines ways that everyone can help support each other through five simple ways to maintain and improve mental wellbeing, including to - take notice, connect, give, be active and keep learning.
This approach will help empower people to reconnect, even as individuals and may be a stepping stone to other group activities which will being positive benefits to help address social isolation and loneliness.
Council's Age Friendly Co-Ordinator Ciara Burke said: "We know that having someone to speak to and getting into the habit of connecting and meeting others, particularly family, friends and neighbours is good for our overall health and wellbeing. There are people in our community who are understandably hesitant about getting out and about again especially as the pandemic impacted our lives in many ways and hindered our social connections.
"We want this campaign to encourage others in our community to involve our older citizens and also help prompt and encourage them to strengthen and build their social networks to help support them so they feel that they can re-engage and reconnect within their community again. It's important that everyone has a role to play across all generations to help establish strong social connections where people can participate and feel valued and respected safely."
Fiona Teague, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement at the PHA (West) said: "We recognise the impact COVID-19 has had on the health and wellbeing of our communities, in particular members of our older population, where feelings of loneliness and isolation were greatly exacerbated. The PHA is delighted to partner with Derry City and Strabane District Council on the vital work it is undertaking through the Reconnecting Again campaign.
"We welcome the coordination and promotion of the Take 5 Steps to Wellbeing as building blocks for the campaign, as this will help work towards addressing the negative impact the pandemic has had on peoples' lives. The campaign highlights the need for us all to play our part to help friends, family and neighbours re-integrate confidently into our community."
You can find out more about the Reconnecting Again initiative at derrystrabane.com/reconnectingagain