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Author: Belfast Telegraph
Published on 21 December 2012 09:00 AM

The home that she shared with her older sister for decades can feel like the wilderness.

That is what Nora, who is in her 70s, sometimes thinks of the place since Kathleen died a year ago.

It’s empty, silent, lonely. And until recently, it was really getting her down.

She lives mostly in one tiny room of a house she can barely afford to heat when the weather turns cold.

Without close relatives, she lives a solitary existence, despite living in a city, and that isolation has impacted on her mental health.

And, before Age NI intervened, she admits that she she had been spending all her days in bed, just to keep warm.

“I was feeling very alone after my sister Kathleen died because I didn't have anyone to talk to anymore,” said Nora.

“I was also trying to cut down on shopping to save money for oil, but it was really difficult to make ends meet.

“One of my neighbours visited me in a very cold spell during the winter when my house was freezing and then put me in touch with Age NI.

“Calling the advice line for a benefits check and getting money that I didn't realise I was entitled to made a huge difference to my life.”

In addition to a financial boost, Nora got her house insulated which has made it more efficient and helps to keep the heat in.

Age NI’s advice line also put her in touch with the First Connect service, which facilitates face-to-face emotional support for clients in their home.

“The First Connect co-ordinator helped me to cope with the loss of my sister, which was a devastating blow,” said Nora, whose name has been changed to protect her identity. “We’d lived together all our lives and her passing was terrible — but the adviser understood how lonely and isolated I was feeling.

“She arranged for me to go to a day centre every week and it’s great to be out socialising again.

“Thanks to Age NI I am part of the community again and I no longer feel so alone.”

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For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575