SOMEBODY once said ‘a society should only be judged on one measure, and that is how that society cares for and supports its young and elderly.’
For 50 years now the volunteers at the Bantry Care for the Aged, with the help of local businesses, organisations and the residents of Bantry, have all come together to support and care for elderly people in the area.
‘In was back in 1967 when the Bantry Care for the Aged group was first formed, from an idea that started with Sister Stanislaus Kennedy which was known as the “Kilkenny Experiment”,’ group chairman Aiden McCarthy said. ‘The then local curate Father Frank Fehily, with the help of Bantry resident Jim O’Sullivan, developed the plan to provide Meals on Wheels and comfortable independent homes for the elderly people of the Bantry area who needed them.’
In fact, there was no shortage of volunteers when the group moved into their first base on Glengarriff Street.
‘There was no running water and things were pretty basic but the volunteers of the Bantry Care for the Aged Association were able to deliver hot meals to 50 elderly people,’ Aiden continued. ‘Fundraising was also well underway and it wasn’t long before the first three homes were built.’
After a few years of drawing water from another nearby building, the association moved to a much more ‘user-friendly’ premises at the Old Convent, where they stayed for the next 20 years.
‘When the Bantry Care for the Aged Association started, the local farmers used to donate the vegetables needed for the Meals on Wheels service,’ Aiden said. ‘And with the support of the local residents, businesses and community organisations down through the decades, today we have 17 modern homes and a dedicated Meals on Wheels kitchen, all organised and run, week-in week-out, thanks to the volunteers who give their time and energy to supporting their elderly neighbours and friends.’
Looking back over the last 50 years, the association has provided those who might otherwise face a cold and lonely situation living on their own with hot nourishing meals, a warm comfortable home and most of, all the social contact they might lack if they were without the service.
‘Our fantastic cooks and drivers provide 200 hot meals, three times a week, from Ballylickey to Colomane, a radius of about five to six miles around Bantry town,’ Aiden said.
‘Our homes are located within easy reach of the many services in Bantry. They provide independence, support and most of all social interaction, which fights isolation and gives a real sense of community.’ Three new A-rated homes have been added to the group’s community and as the service expands, the Bantry Care for the Aged Association is looking forward to the future, ready to provide the support needed in the area.
As well as the Meals on Wheels service and the supported living accommodation provided by the association, Bantry Care for the Aged also developed the Bantry Day Care Centre.
‘The day care centre provides elderly people living alone with a social centre where they can get a good meal, company and a place to go,’ Aiden said. ‘The association worked hard to provide this service which is now run by the HSE. Thanks must also go to the Rural Bus Service that collects those who live outside the centre of the town and transports them to the day care centre.’
‘Volunteers are always welcome,’ Aiden said. ‘We could only have achieved all we have with the untiring support of our committee and volunteers. The association is looking forward to the future where we will continue to provide all we can for the elderly in our community. We want to thank all those who have fundraised and supported us down through the decades. The community organisations and the many businesses in the town have and continue to support us when we ask and of course without the dedication and hard work of our volunteers the Bantry Care for the Aged Association would never have developed into the service to our community that it is today. We look forward to the next 50 years and beyond.’
Applications are always welcome from those in the Bantry catchment area who would like to avail of services provided by Bantry Care for the Aged. For more information, contact chairman Aiden McCarthy on 086-2390705.