When Derrick Park’s wife died suddenly in 2015, his life came to a startling halt. Like many older people who’ve lost a loved one, the 80 year old veteran spent most days by himself, following the same old routine and putting his mental health at risk. Thanks to National Lottery players, Newtownabbey Senior Citizens Forum has helped Derrick find a new purpose in life and new friends to share it with.
“I come from Darlington originally and moved to Northern Ireland in 1956,” said Derrick. “A year after I moved to Northern Ireland I met a girl, Margaret, and we got married three years later in 1960. We had four children, eight grandchildren and 54 wonderful years of marriage together until 18 February 2015.
“Margaret had a brain haemorrhage and died. It was a shock – I didn’t know what to do with myself.
“All I did was go out in the car every day, just like a zombie, like Groundhog Day – going for a run in the car, coming home, reading the paper, then going to bed.”
Derrick’s daughters were worried about him and his mental health, and decided to research some local clubs for him to get involved in. His youngest daughter Una came across Newtownabbey Senior Citizens Forum which is using almost £250,000 of money raised by National Lottery players for the +Five-0 And On The Go project. The project reduces social isolation and improves mental health and wellbeing for people over the age of 50 in the Newtownabbey and Antrim area.
Although Derrick needed an initial push to walk through the doors, since then he hasn’t looked back.
“Coming to this club is companionship for a start – I was accepted straight away and then naturally you make friends. I’ve only missed two Tuesdays in the last two years. Great bunch of lads, good conversationalists, good laughter.
“We go on little trips together, somebody organises an activity or brings in a person to give us a talk. It’s interesting, it keeps your brain active, and I would miss it if it was not here.
“I come to an art class on a Monday as well, which I’m not very good at, but I enjoy the craic. The lads do a spot of singing when we’re painting, and we have a good laugh about that, plus you get a free cup of tea!
“I like my trips away too. We were in the Punjana tea factory a while ago, we’ve been to museums, and I’ve been on day trips to Portrush, Ballycastle and Rathlin Island.”
Thanks to National Lottery players, Newtownabbey Senior Citizens Forum are making a real difference to the lives of older people. They’re able to take up new hobbies, make new friends, and find a new lease of life. For Derrick, being part of the club has given him back his spark.
“I really look forward to getting up, getting out and coming here. The main thing is its company and once you’ve got company you can tell your ails to somebody else and they might put you on the right track. I feel very lucky.
“My daughters say they have noticed the difference in me too. They were worried about me, I think, but now my children have to make an appointment to see me and they say my life is far better than theirs.”
To find out more about the Newtownabbey Senior Citizens Forum, including news about upcoming events, check out their website: http://www.newtownabbeyseniorcitizensforum.co.uk/