A referral can be from a variety of sources — from Age NI’s advice team, social services, occupational therapists or the PSNI.
We deal with vulnerable and isolated people, as well as older people who are going through a very difficult time, like a bereavement.
My visits are prearranged with individual clients. It’s a very person-centred approach; I’ll sit down and have a chat with them.
If someone is socially isolated I’ll ask the person where they want to go and where they don’t want to go.
If someone wants to go dancing I’ll try and find |opportunities in their area. Or it could be something as simple as getting a befriending service involved, to provide a longer term face-to-face service.
Benefits checks are a huge part of my work.
If I’m in an older person’s home where they’re not eating properly or they’re not warm enough, I’ll check they’re getting the money they are entitled to.
Often people will be legitimately entitled to things like pension credit and recently I was able to get a lady an extra £54 a week.
A successful benefits check makes a huge difference; people can then afford oil, or food.
Many people out there are totally socially isolated and don’t see a single person from week to week.
The last time I visited a 83-year-old gentleman — who doesn’t have a telephone — he hadn’t seen anyone for four weeks.
There are older people living in Belfast without electricity in their houses.
Previously, I visited man in his 80s, with no family.
He was very poor and didn’t go out at all.
He lived in a very isolated, cold, damp old house, with broken windows.
People don’t realise these things happen in this day and age.
You do see some horrendous things: maybe an older person doesn’t have electricity, or they’re living in a cold, damp house.
Maybe there’s no food in the cupboard, or they haven’t been out for weeks.
A lot of them have just fallen off the radar and you ask yourself how someone can be left like that.
Eimear Gildernew is a co-ordinator with First Connect, Age NI’s support service.