Active Retirement groups are important social outlets for over 55s across the length and breadth of West Cork, writes Aisling Meath
‘It’s something to look forward to, and a good excuse to get dressed up and off out to meet others for a chat, especially during the winter.’ said Jenny O’ Donovan, who for many years has been involved in her local Drinagh branch of Active Retirement Ireland.
The group meets once a week in their local parish hall and members enjoy many activities and social outings together.
‘We do mindfulness, and gentle exercises. I really enjoyed a lovely workshop we had making (cosmetic) creams using natural products and essential oils,’ said Jenny.
The Drinagh group is one of 55 Active Retirement groups in Cork county with branches spreading from the heart of West Cork in Dunmanway and Drimolegue over towards Dararra, Clonakilty and Kinsale, and to Macroom and south to Castletownbere, as well as the islands of Cape Clear and Bere amongst others. It is open to members from 55 years of age onwards.
‘The local Active Retirement groups offer organised opportunities for people to participate in a wide range of activities – social, cultural, learning and physical – based on what the groups would like to do themselves and their ability to participate.’ said Anne O’Brien, development officer for the Cork and Kerry region.
‘The Active Retirement organisation continues to grow, but our core ethos remains the same,’ said Peter Kavanagh head of communications and public affairs for Active Retirement Ireland. ‘We exist to enable older people to lead a healthy active life well into retirement.’
The organisation started in 1978 in Dun Laoghaire after an exhibition called ‘Focus on Retirement’ generated such interest that it led to the establishment of new associations which spread out from the greater Dublin area.’ Peter explained.
‘Since then the change in the organisation has been monumental and we currently represent 24,000 members in more than 570 local associations nationwide. ‘ he said.
‘We’re planning another trip to Dublin shortly’, said Eileen O’Brien, chairperson of the Kinsale branch. ‘We have lovely meals together and sing-songs, and it’s great for single older people who don’t have anyone to go on holidays with.’
‘We have welcomed some interesting speakers to our meetings in the Kinsale Temperance Hall,’ said Ann, the secretary of the Kinsale group. ‘We revisited 1987 with Leo McMahon which was very interesting.’ she said.
Leo, who was a reporter with The Southern Star for almost 40 years, explained: ‘Last December my slide show with an accompanying exhibition of articles covering Kinsale 30 years ago proved to be very nostalgic for the audience who could remember many of the events from three decades previous.
‘Loneliness and isolation are real issues affecting older people. Making the move to join an Active Retirement group is a positive way of getting out from the four walls of your house.’ He said.
Most groups participate in some form of gentle exercises according to their abilities.
‘We have some 90-year-olds who can get down on the yoga mat as good as any of the others,’ said Maura Harrington of the Castletownbere branch. ‘We really enjoy our exercise sessions, they’re great for your mental wellbeing.’
‘We have line dancing on Fridays, bridge club on Thursdays, art and craft classes on Mondays and painting classes on Wednesdays. We are currently organising a trip to a hotel in Cavan, and from there we will visit Dublin and Belfast.’ said Pat O’ Connell of the Macroom branch, which has over 40 members.
‘We love taking trips to the mainland for those of us who can travel, said Eileen Leonard of the Cape Clear Active Retirement Association. ‘We recently enjoyed seeing “Abigail’s Party” performed by Skibbereen Theatre Society.
‘Mary on the Cape Clear bus brings us to the club where we have our meetings every second Thursday,’ she continued. ‘It’s a great social outlet in the winter. In 2005 we were involved in a book A Miscellany of Cape Clear Memories.’
‘The island can be isolated in the winter months,’ said Tim Hanley, development worker with the Bere Island Project Group. ‘Active Retirement meet once a fortnight and it is a supportive group for members.’ he said.
‘We have talks from chiropodists, advice on looking after our sight and hearing. We have been to tea dances together and meals out,’ said Mary O’ Brien of the Drimolegue branch. ‘It’s very sociable.’
Kay Murphy, president of Active Retirement Ireland wants to emphasise the message to all over 55s to consider joining their local branch. ‘Older people don’t have to be on their own.’ she said.
• To find out if there is an Active Retirement group in your area or for more information, contact Active Retirement Ireland on:
01-8733836. Alternatively keep an eye on your local parish newsletters.