When war veteran John McMillan Leishman lost his beloved wife of 67 years he was left living hand to mouth.
For as well as having to deal with the pain of Florence’s death, the 91-year-old had to re-assess his finances which forced him to cut back on what he spent on food.
“I was living hand to mouth on less than £100 a week after Florence died,” said John, a former army sergeant.
“For months after she passed away in Belfast City Hospital on May 1 2008, I felt completely lost.
“Money was tight, even though I don’t smoke or gamble, so I started cutting corners on food and I wasn’t eating very much.
“I couldn’t afford to go out anywhere either and I started to feel as though my life had gone too — until I contacted Age NI.”
The Dundonald pensioner, who is a father of two, grandfather of four and great-grandfather of four has credited the charity for saving his life.
“It was like being reborn. After carrying out a benefits check they discovered I was entitled to housing benefit, rates rebate and attendance allowance,” he said.
John has seen his weekly income double thanks to the help he received from Age NI.
“Now I get weekly benefits amounting to £209, which has made a huge difference to my life.
“I had to go through a bit of a battle to get my pension credit, but after an initial rejection Age NI persuaded me to pursue my application and I was eventually awarded the benefit as well as a rebate of more than £6,000 for back payments,” he explained.
“When I got attendance allowance and housing benefit I thought I was in heaven. Then since the pension credit came through, I’m living in glory.
“I like travelling and plenty of good food and now that I have £209 a week to live on, that allows me to save up to do things.
“I can also afford to go on holiday and I can buy proper food to keep me going.
John, who served in the armed forces during the Second World War, has urged other pensioners to pick up the phone to Age NI.
“I don’t think there is any shame in turning to an organisation like Age NI and I’m very thankful I found out they were there.
“They respect you, they look after you and they go well out of their way to help you and there’s no need to be embarrassed about that,” he added.
“They looked after me — and now I’m sure I’ll live until I’m 100!”