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National Lottery funding helping ease loneliness during lockdown

June 18, 2020

The National Lottery funded Newington Day Centre supports older people in north Belfast to stay independent and keep living in their own homes. To help those feeling lonely during lockdown the centre have been delivering care packages and making twice weekly phone calls to members, to check in and see how they are doing.

It can be very difficult to admit that you’re feeling lonely, but Loneliness Awareness Week which runs from 15th to 19th June is about encouraging people to speak openly about how they are feeling.

Having been shielding at home for the last 12 weeks, 90-year-old Philomena Lee has thanked the Newington Day Centre for being her lifeline throughout lockdown, helping make the long days bearable and easing the loneliness with their weekly packages and phone calls.

Philomena joined the centre back in February 2019, shortly after her sister Irene passed away. The pair had been inseparable all their lives, travelling across Europe and enjoying their weekly trips to Dublin together. The day centre has been a real lifeline to her, but now, like many others across Northern Ireland, Philomena is feeling the effects of shielding and having her independence taken away. It’s the weekly care packages and phone calls from those at the day centre that have been making her time at home less lonely.

“I live by myself and have found the last few months very difficult, it’s very hard having to stay at home all the time and it’s lonely. I look forward to my weekly calls from the wonderful ladies at the centre, it’s lovely to hear their voices but I do miss getting out to see them. I normally go to the centre twice a week and now I can’t even get out of the house. I’m very active for 90 years old, I love going on trips away and meeting up with my friends, but I can’t do any of that now,” said Philomena.

“I try to fill my days by doing things about the house, but it’s not the same as being able to see people. I have been doing a lot of reading to pass the time, I think I’ve read every newspaper they sell in the shops and I’ve been enjoying the packs the ladies have been dropping off too.”

Over the last five years The National Lottery Community Fund has awarded more than £37.8million of funding to community groups in Northern Ireland to help combat loneliness. Prior to the outbreak the Newington Day Centre had been using a £10,000 grant to run daily activities for older people and their carers but have now adapted the funding to create and deliver their care packages, filled with activity packs, colouring books and crosswords, to help keep members engaged in some fun activities and to ease the loneliness of lockdown. They have also recently received over £300,000 of National Lottery funding to run their carer support service over the next four years, which is helping reduce social isolation and loneliness, improve wellbeing and re-connection with the local community.

Margaret McCrudden, Manager of the Newington Day Centre said, “The lockdown has been difficult for a lot of our members, many live alone and the trips to the centre are normally the highlight of their week. Not being able to get out of their homes is a huge change and as a result many are feeling lonely and isolated. That’s why we decided to create our care packages, to help brighten up their day and reduce the pain and anxiety caused by loneliness. This week we delivered cushions, each with a heart and a poem attached, for them to squeeze when they’re feeling lonely. It’s just a small gesture so they know we’re thinking of them and missing them too.”

Now more than ever it is so important to reach out, to help and support those who are struggling. If you are feeling lonely and would like someone to talk to about your worries and concerns, please contact Samaritans on their 24-hour helpline at 028 9066 4422.

For more information on how The National Lottery Community Fund are responding to loneliness during the pandemic and some helpful information for those who may be feeling lonely during this time, please visit:

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