Skip to content
Please donate

Shirl's Story

Published on 19 November 2020 12:00 AM

My name is Sam Cunningham and I work for Age NI’s First Connect Service. Earlier this year I started supporting Shirl. Shirl is a relatively young service user, at just 62 years old. However, for more than a decade she has been living with chronic health conditions which have left her in a lot of pain and virtually housebound. When she first made contact with Age NI earlier this year, Shirl told us that her self-confidence and self-belief were at an all time low. Her story shows the transformative power of friendship and connection, and she has kindly shared it in her own words below.

“I almost lost my life last year after my body took an extreme allergic reaction to the pain medication I had been routinely taking for the last twelve years. If it hadn’t been for my wee dog, Sasha, I don’t know if I’d still be here today. She alerted my neighbour Dave after I collapsed and it’s thanks to both of them that I’m able to even tell you this story at all.

After five weeks in hospital I returned home feeling exhausted but extremely thankful to still be alive. Coming through something like that made me realise that I needed to appreciate each new day that I have and it’s part of the reason why I first contacted Age NI for support.

The first time I spoke to Sam at Age NI I was feeling very low, I felt like I was unneeded in life and served no purpose at all.

However, Sam was so understanding and so compassionate. Over time our chats have slowly helped me to rediscover my self-worth and helped me to believe that I still have so much to offer this world. He has built my confidence up so much and it’s thanks to him that I met my dear friend, Rosemary.

Rosemary is an Age NI volunteer. She calls me every week, just for a friendly chat. We talk about anything and everything and we both share the same silly sense of humour. Once we start laughing its hard to get us stopped!

Having someone to talk to and share a laugh with has given me a new lease of life. Without Sam and Rosemary at Age NI, I wouldn’t be in the positive place that I’m in today.

When I lost my wee dog in May, Rosemary really helped me to cope with the heartbreak. She understood my grief and it made such a difference to have someone to talk to and lean on. Since then she’s helped me to have the confidence to get my new puppy, Savanna. She knows how much I loved my wee Sasha, and she’s been so supportive since I lost her.

Under normal circumstances Rosemary and I would have got to know one another face to face over a cup of tea, but the COVID-19 pandemic has meant we have only been able to chat over the phone. Despite this, we have developed a friendship which is very precious to me. It has given me so much happiness having Rosemary to talk to, and I thank God for her every day.

If there’s one blessing that has come out of all of this for me, it’s that Sam and Rosemary have come into my life. They have helped me to discover a confidence in myself that I didn’t even know was there, and have given me a sense of purpose again.

I want to use my new-found confidence to help others who may be feeling lonely or anxious or who just need someone to talk to. I have an understanding of what they might be going through and I want to be able to be there for others the way Sam and Rosemary have been there for me.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left so many older people even more isolated than before, and many are feeling increasingly anxious and alone.

Now, more than ever, no one should have no one.

I can’t thank Age NI enough for all that they’ve done for me and if there’s one bit of advice I would give to others who may be struggling it would be to find someone to talk to. To know that you’re not alone makes all the difference in the world.”

Shirl’s story really highlights why Age NI services are so important. Our work is all about lifting people up so that they can start to believe in themselves again. It’s about helping them to make connections, supporting people to achieve the things that are important to them and helping them to live the life they want to live.

If you can, please donate to Age NI today.

A gift of just £10 could pay for a friendly call to an older person in need this winter and could really transform their life.

At Age NI we truly believe no one should have no one – a donation today could make that a reality.

Please donate today 



Last updated: Jul 04 2023

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top