Supporting Local News

Charities provide comfort over loneliest time of the year

The festive period can be one of the most isolating for older people and those living alone – but thanks to the efforts of dedicated volunteers across Galway, there has been support for those feeling alone this Christmas season.

Whether it was a food parcel coming to the door or an invite to a Christmas social, the work of charities such as COPE Galway has been invaluable.

Head of Senior Support at COPE, Jacquie Lynskey (pictured), says supports such as their Meals4Health social enterprise – which provides nutritious food delivered to the door – are invaluable to those in need of support all year round.

But Christmas is a particularly tough time for some people, she says, particularly since Covid-19 put the kibosh on social gatherings for the best part of two years.

“Isolation has always been an issue, but Covid made it so much worse,” says Jacquie.

In addition to Meals4Health’s regular list of participants, COPE’s Senior Support Service was out in force in the days before Christmas to provide food packs to those who needed them.

“On top of our regular meals service, we delivered over 50 meal packs the day before Christmas Eve which included food for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

“As part of that, we were also delivering to some people who might not be on our lists during the year, but they might have specific dietary requirements and the person who normally prepares their food may not have been available over Christmas,” explains Jacquie.

COPE volunteers calling to the doors of those living in isolation can be a lifeline for people feeling isolated, but so too are the organised social occasions that COPE and others provide.

Before Covid, Thermo King played host to an annual party on Christmas Day where food was served and entertainment provided for people who might otherwise see nobody from one end of the day to the other.

During Covid, the event couldn’t run and this year, it didn’t get off the ground either.

COPE and several other organisations were involved with the party, but didn’t directly organise it, and according to Jacquie, it provided a brilliant outlet for those not wanting to spend the day on their own.

“It didn’t happen this year but hopefully next year, there will be an entity able to organise it again.

“Thermo King generously made a donation to ourselves this year and last year as the party wasn’t going ahead which helped with the delivery of our food packages,” says the former COPE Chief Executive who moved roles in 2020 to head up the organisation’s senior supports.

For some people though, the event was as important, if not more important than the food.

And in the wake of Covid-19, following months of rolling lockdowns and fear, particularly among older people who are those most common to suffer isolation, social outlets are crucially important.

“We had our Christmas party the week before Christmas, on a day during the cold snap when it was really frosty outside.

“I was driving a few people home afterwards. Some had very poor mobility and it occurred to me that despite that, they weren’t willing to give in to the weather because they wanted to go,” says Jacquie.

“They so badly wanted a social event and it just shows that people have become even more isolated than ever before.”

For more information on participating in Meals4Health, visit the website or call (091) 354000/085 8719384.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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