Older people have a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer us. In this week’s Community Matters, Stephen Corrigan meets staff and residents at Clúid’s sheltered housing scheme at St Joseph’s Centre in Clifden who say their model should be the template for keeping older people in the community.
“It is about enabling older people to be a part of a wider community and enabling them to live independently.”
That’s the motivation behind Clúid Housing’s sheltered accommodation for older people in Clifden – with St Joseph’s Court providing 43 apartments for older people in the area for the past 14 years.
Unlike residential care, St Joseph’s Court is independent living with the added support of the Clúid team.
Housing Officer, Kathleen Aspel Mortimer, says the scheme has been such a success that it should be a template for the entire country.
“They are making choices about their lives without somebody telling them that they have to have breakfast at six o’clock or tea at six o’clock, or that they have to be in bed by a certain time.
“The whole project here has been set up over 14 years – this didn’t happen overnight and because of the way that it has been implemented, we can see the huge benefits that it gives to older people,” says Kathleen.
Specifically designed for those on the council housing waiting list, aged over 59, St Joseph’s has given older people in the Connemara area a way out of the turbulent rental market – and instead offered them a secure tenancy at equitable rates.
The importance of making the apartment their own and integrating with the people living around them is most important, says Kathleen.
“The wider picture with Clúid is that we provide houses, but it’s about building thriving communities within that.
“It is their place of living – we provide the housing, they provide the home,” says Kathleen.
Those living at St Joseph’s Court come from all walks of life – those who have lived in Connemara all their lives, those who moved to the area and made their life there – and 21 returned emigrants who wanted to come home.
One of those who returned is Marguerite Jackson who has been living at St Joseph’s since it opened 14 years ago.
“I enjoy the place – I needed it badly. We have a good life here. All my family had gone living their own lives and I was on my own – my husband had died, so I wanted to come home to roost.
“I was 39 years in England but I was glad to get back,” says Marguerite with a smile.
Sitting around the table in one of the block’s communal areas, there’s no hiding the fact that all those present are happy with their lot – as a conversation equal in measures of praise and gentle ribbing breaks out.
Another resident at St Joseph’s Court is Pat Bowyer, who moved to Clifden from France with a young family, and she believes the freedom they all have in their own space is crucially important.
Kathleen says that maintaining the right to choose how your own day pans out is paramount to all of us, regardless of age, and while they organise trips and outings, there is no pressure on anybody to do anything.
“We try to get away for a couple of days to a hotel somewhere and to have different outings around the area but for all of that, you have to hire buses.
“It is quite expensive to live in an area like this because while it is lovely, it costs a lot of money to move one inch outside it,” she laughs.
Mike Carr, a local man living at St Josephs, says aside from all the options available to them, the security of knowing your apartment is yours for as long as you need it is a great comfort.
Similarly, upon her return from Egypt during the Arab Spring, Sister Barbara Molloy says St Joseph’s gave her a chance to return home to Galway while continuing to volunteer and avoid retirement.
Older Persons Support Officer, Maureen Batley, says they make a concerted effort to ensure there are activities and links with the community available as often as people want it – something that is coordinated between the GRETB and Patricia Jacques.
“We have intergenerational projects that we do with the local national schools and it is a lovely project.
“We also have social inclusion day where we set up board games that you mightn’t have played for years and we have the residents here, the Transition Years, Ability West and we have people with different abilities all together,” she explains.
Another highlight of the annual calendar is Culture Night – something that resonates greatly amongst the residents given their broad range of backgrounds.
“There are so many cultures in here that we have represented so we would have a table for Germany, France, England, America and Egypt; and then we would have food from all the different countries,” says Kathleen.
Residents can avail of services on site like chiropody, a hair salon, a gym and increased contact with management, should they wish – as well as Food Cloud where local supermarket, Aldi, donates food to be shared amongst residents.
Other staff members include Male Support Worker, Dave O’Holleran and Olive Delap – both of whom Kathleen says are integral to residents’ comfort and safety.
Well-known artist, Joe Boske, says part of the attraction to the centre is the fact that nobody “threads on anybody’s corns”.
“All of that is available, which is brilliant, but it is not in your face and you don’t feel that you must comply with whatever the rules of the house are,” says Joe.
Mary Diamond lived in Boston for many years before returning to Clifden eight years ago and she says St Joseph’s rescued her from high rents and uncertainty when she moved there four years ago.
Similarly, Esther Bolger says the ambiguity of private rental was eliminated for her when she moved to Clifden from Dublin – having returned from England.
Kathleen says the important thing is to get the right people, establish links with the community and have the support of local health professionals – at the same time as ensuring people have the right to determine their own lives.
“With older people, their life can change in a heartbeat – with anyone, it can change in a heartbeat.
“At least here, in a social setting, there is an opportunity for you not to go into full-time care. You might not be able to live out in Ballyconneely on your own but you might here – it is giving people an added opportunity at that time of life,” says Kathleen.
Paedophile for sentencing after arrest in Ceannt Station
A man will be sentenced in December for arranging to meet a child at Ceannt Station for the purpose of sexual assault.
In the meantime, Michael Sheridan, from Cormeelick South, Milltown, must not attempt to use the internet or any other means of communication to contact any child, as set down in conditions attached to his bail.
The 63-year-old pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last Friday week to attempting to communicate with a child by means of information and communication technology within the State, for the purposes of facilitating the sexual exploitation of the child on dates between March 20 and May 26, 2018, contrary to Common Law and Section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.
He also pleaded guilty to attempting to meet the child on May 27, 2018, at Ceannt Railway Station in Eyre Square, having communicated by any means with the child, and did so on at least a previous occasion, and did so for the purpose of doing something that would constitute the sexual exploitation of the child, namely sexual assault of the child, contrary to Common Law. The sex of the child referred to in the charges was not revealed in court.
In reply to Judge Rory McCabe, prosecuting barrister, Geri Silke said there was no need to order a victim impact statement prior to sentence taking place as there was no victim ‘in the real sense’ in the case.
By consent with Bernard Madden SC, defending, sentence was adjourned to December 15 next, when the prosecution will outline the facts in the case against Sheridan.
His free legal aid certificate was extended to cover the cost of a medical report for mitigation purposes.
Judge McCabe also directed the preparation of a probation report at Mr Madden’s request and remanded Sheridan on continuing bail with the existing conditions attached to appear back before the court in December for sentence.
Bail was initially granted in the District Court on condition Sheridan surrender his passport and not apply for a new one or any other travel documents; sign on twice a week at Tuam Garda Station; provide a mobile phone number to Gardai and answer his phone to Gardaí at all times; undertake to the court not to make any contact with any child by any means, to include social media; and not to access the internet at any stage pending completion of the case.
Final outing for Your County, Your Colours – to honour an old colleague
It was a simple idea well executed – to deliver 32 GAA county jerseys to frontline workers in a hospital or care home in thanks for their dedication during Covid – but before the dust settled on Your County, Your Colours, there was one final and very special delivery to be made.
It is now nine years since a completely unprovoked attack left Tuam man Shane Grogan with life-changing injuries that mean he still requires round-the-clock medical care today.
Before that vicious assault, Shane was a popular member of staff with Merit Medical – who just happened to be the sponsors of the Your County, Your Colours project, dreamt up by Galway Bay FM commentator and former Galway footballer, Tommy Devane.
The team at Merit had one final request – to deliver a special, framed Galway jersey to Shane and the staff at Greenpark Nursing Home, where Shane has lived for some time.
Karen Smyth, Communications Leader with Merit Medical, said that the staff at Merit Medical had never forgotten Shane.
“We see Your County, Your Colours as a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work of the frontline workers in Greenpark,” she said.
“This is just a small token of appreciation of their efforts; they do an amazing job – not just during the pandemic but every day,” she added.
Shane’s dad Joe relayed his thanks to Merit Medical for this presentation – with a special word to the Accounts Department, where Shane worked prior to his accident.
“They have always kept Shane foremost in their thoughts and hopefully, the visits will start again soon!” he said.
The original idea, as envisaged by Tommy Devane, was to honour the tireless efforts of frontline workers across the country during the pandemic.
So he has asked all 32 counties to supply one county jersey accompanied by a short message of thanks. The jersey along with their message was then framed and sent to the hospital or care setting of the county’s choice.
Greenpark Nursing Home Director of Nursing Brian McNamara thanked Merit Medical and Tommy Devane for what he called this wonderful gift.
“We are honoured to have been thought of in this manner and it is our privilege to look after Merit’s colleague Shane Grogan,” he said.
“In our caring for Shane, there will always be a special bond between Merit Medical and Greenpark Nursing Home,” he added.
(Photo: Shane Grogan (centre) with his parents Joe and Joan behind him, accepting his signed Galway jersey, joined by (from left) the McNamara family – Jane, Cora, Director of Nursing Brian and Ian – of Greenpark Nursing Home; Shane’s physical therapist Johnathan Gibson, Merit Medical’s Karen Smyth and Mark Butler, and Tommy Devane, organiser of Your County, Your Colours).
Teacher has sights set on passing ultimate Ironman test
It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted and it pretty much eats up all of your spare time – but for Claregalway schoolteacher, Rachel Farrell, the Ironman 70.3 world championship test in September is something she just cannot wait for.
Rachel (28) has always been bitten by the sports and fitness bug, being a competitive swimmer and badminton player from her school days, but now she is concentrating on what’s called the Ironman 70.3.
The 70.3 part of the title refers to the total distance in miles that competitors will cover between the swim, cycle and running legs of the event.
It works out at half the distance of the full Ironman Triathlon but that still adds up to one huge challenge for those brave enough to take it on.
The first part of the endurance test is a 1.9-kilometre (1.2 miles) swim followed by a 90km cycle (56 miles) and then a half-marathon run (21.1km or 13.1 miles).
“I did my first Ironman 70.3 in France in 2019 and the Utah event on September 17 next is actually the 2020 world championships which couldn’t be held last year because of the Covid situation.
“The course in Utah is by all accounts a pretty gruelling one and the conditions there will be tough too, but I’ve prepared well for it and am looking forward to the challenge,” said Rachel.
She will be competing in the 25 to 29 age category and in the France event two years ago, Rachel notched a top 49 finish – the target this time around is for a top-20 finishing slot.
The daughter of Josette and Hugh Farrell, Rachel is currently a secondary schoolteacher in Dubai who is hoping to travel to Utah about a week before the event to help her acclimatise to the heat and desert like conditions of the US state.
Even the journey to get there will be a mission itself with Dubai the starting off point followed by stop-offs at Elay and Las Vegas.
Rachel is pretty much committed to an all-year round preparation programme based on a four-week rota system – three weeks of intense training followed by one week of scaled down activity.
“When I was in Oman back in 2018 and the event was held there it just caught my interest. I put in on my bucket list and really enjoyed the one in France in 2019.
“I’m not sure whether I’ll keep doing them or not – I might just concentrate on swimming or cycling events into the future – but for the moment, Utah is the goal and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Rachel.