Making Connections was delighted to attend the dlr Age Well Expo on Sunday 11th June at The Pavillion, Leopardstown Racecourse. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk to members of the public, to hear about their needs, to meet the team at TILDA and spend time with some of our collaborators from HSE Healthy Ireland, and the Community Policing Team. A big thanks to our volunteers who supported the event.
Photo: Cathaoirleach, Councillor Mary Hanafin alongside Making Connections staff and volunteers
Making Connections Frontline Volunteers sharing their experiences. Watch this video for feel good stories and inspiration about the positive impact of social connection and volunteerism.
“My life has been so enriched by knowing her, because she has, when you have lived 92 years you have an awful lot of life experience behind you and have met so many wonderful and interesting people and she is just fascinating.”
Making Connections, in partnership with the HSE Senior Physiotherapist, Dearbhaile Oratis and Claire Nicholl, Senior Occupational Therapist identified a need for a local walking group. They sought support from the HSE Community Healthcare East Health and Wellbeing team and collectively devised and delivered a pilot ‘Walk and Talk’ programme. According to Mary O’Donoghue, Executive Director, Making Connections, they realised there was a need for such a walking group when they saw how many people had
“fallen away from their routines as a result of all the lockdowns. We saw that some people had lost their confidence for walking alone – there was a certain fear. So the idea of meeting for a regular walk was very attractive and very motivating for people.”
Having consulted with HSE Senior Physiotherapist, Dearbhaile Oratis, this collaboration ultimately led to the establishment of the group to empower older adults to stay healthy, and socially connected and to help alleviate loneliness and isolation.
According to Claire Nicholl, Senior Occupational Therapist who worked on the programme:
“For us professionally and personally, it’s been a great group to run – there’s been great enthusiasm about it. They’re walking and then we come back for a cup of tea or coffee. So they are increasing their physical activity, they are socialising. I know a lot of the participants have said it’s the highlight of their week.”
Outlining how she designed the programme, Dearbhaile Oratis, Senior Physiotherapist said she had wanted to “evaluate if we could actually improve muscle strength as well as improving people’s physical activity levels. I carried out two standardised outcome measures which were leg strength, and handgrip strength. Each participant was assessed on week one and the same test was repeated again on week six. I was very pleased that on reassessments, over 90% of the clients had demonstrated an improvement in the muscle strength in their legs and their handgrip.”
There were associated benefits too as Claire explains: “We’re also able to manage issues that arise in a timely manner. For example, one lady advised that her home care package didn’t provide for enough care hours so I was able to link back with the Public Health Nurse and we organised for extra care hours. So it’s been really good in that regard.
Feedback from participants
“It was brilliant being able to come out and meet everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s something to look forward to every Wednesday”
Anne Leonard, a participant in the first Walk and Talk Programme in Churchtown, Dublin last year.
For the participants, there has been universal praise and pleasure. According to participant Rhona Sloane: “I am alone for a long time during the day – it’s nice to meet people and they’re lovely. I feel better with talking to someone.”
For William Barton, walking usually means going out alone but the group he notes “ has the added advantage of enabling me to talk to people as I’m going around as well.” Confidence building is a universal theme and for Irene Kelly, it gave her back some of the confidence she had lost: “I did six weeks in the programme – I found it very beneficial. It gave me great confidence.”
Illustrating the success of the programme, Claire notes how “some of the clients from that first group in September still meet up on a Wednesday and go for a walk and come back for a coffee and that’s great to see.”
Expanding the programme
Shane Lee, Health Promotion Officer, HSE Health and Wellbeing outlines how they are now looking at expanding the programme and the experience: “The Walk and Talk programme supports the delivery of Community Health Care East’s Healthy Ireland Implementation Plan, particularly in relation to two key areas of policy – Healthy Eating Active Living and Positive Ageing. We can also see that the programme is very scalable. Two pilot programmes have been delivered in Churchtown to date and the plan to deliver more programmes in the area is underway and we hope to develop the programme across other community healthcare networks.”
Making Connections is delighted to announce the publication of our Annual Report 2021. Thanks to all of our supporters, partners and volunteers who made this impact possible.
Making Connections were delighted to host a Volunteer gathering as an opportunity for us to thank our volunteers for their invaluable role in supporting older people and as a way for volunteers to meet each other.
Volunteers shared stories about why they started volunteering, and the joy that they gain from it.
“I decided to volunteer so that I could make a difference to people in my community and be a role model for my son.” Making Connections Volunteer
A new and exciting 6 week Walk and Talk group was launched in August 2022.The aim of the programme – with 24 participants to date – is to increase physical activity level and social engagement of older people.
This initiative is a new collaboration between MC, Physiotherapy/Occupational Therapy Churchtown Primary Care and Community Healthcare East Health and Wellbeing.
The pilot project is showing measurable impact and the participants themselves are loving it
“I can walk further now, and I’m no longer afraid to walk to the shop alone.”
Making Connections was one of 3 organisations invited to participate in an EU wide Family Volunteering pilot project in partnership with Volunteer Ireland. We engaged families including parents and their teenage children.
Volunteers visited the homes of older people as a family. Activities included garden clearance, light housework, dog and animal lover conversations, games of scrabble, knitting exchange and social meet-ups for coffee.
“I can’t remember the last time that I got to make tea for visitors. We had a great chat and as a bonus, Pat even got my telly working for me. I love the visits, and I never feel out of place withthe ‘youngsters’”
Community Gardaí often encounter older people who are vulnerable, isolated and in need of additional support. Making Connections is delighted to collaborate with Garda Community Policing Teams to facilitate Gardaí referring older people to our services.
Making Connections joined HSE staff and Social Prescribing organisations in Bray on 20th June 2022, to share information and experiences about social engagement, as a way to improve Health & Wellbeing.
On the 24th February 2022, the military assault on Ukraine by the Russian Federation unleashed a humanitarian crisis of scale. People have had to say emotional goodbyes to family who have stayed at home to fight. For those who stayed behind, life has moved underground as people seek safety and shelters, subways or basements.
The Irish Government stated that Ireland will play its part in assisting Ukraine and its people. In this context, a whole of government approach is being taken in relation to manage the crisis. Governance Structures have been established as part of the response framework to ensure there is a coordinated response to the crisis.
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has established a local Community Response Forum, modelled on the forum that worked very effectively to coordinate the response to the COVID 19 pandemic.
Making Connections was an active member of the COVID-19 Community Response Forum 2020 – 2022 and is now one of only ten organisations invited to join the Community Response Ukraine Crisis Forum 2022.
The main purpose of the Forum is to proactively lead the development of a co-ordinated response to support refugees arriving from Ukraine. Making Connections will be advocating for the needs of older people with the support of The Ireland Funds.