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Peggy McCausland, a widow, attends Age NI’s Skainos day centre in east Belfast. The centre has become like a family to about 140 older people who come through its doors every week.

Peggy M

Peggy has been going to the centre for just a few months and says she absolutely loves it.

'It's the people and the fun we have,' she says, adding: 'That’s why I love coming here. If I wasn't at the centre I'd be at home alone. There’s no joy in that. There’s nothing like having people around you for a chat and a laugh, is there? We all need a wee bit of company, people to put a smile on our faces.'

Even though she feels blessed to have her four children and grandchildren around her, she says it still can be lonely living alone.

'My family is great and every Monday I head out with one of my daughters for lunch and a wee bit of shopping and you never know where we’ll end up. I love days out with her,' she says.

'The thing is that no matter how big and loving your family is, there are always times that you can feel lonely. It can happen at any time. When the door closes, and you draw the curtains, you’re on your own. I really hate this time of year because it’s dark and the evenings can feel very long. That’s when I miss my husband George, and my children and grandchildren.'

Her children leaving home and then her grandchildren growing up have been two of the hardest things for Peggy to cope with as she gets older.

She says she tries to keep herself busy. 'When my children left home, that was a difficult time. The noisy house became awfully quiet, but then my grandchildren came along and those were the happiest years of my life,' she says.

'I looked after them and loved every minute. Just to see their faces coming up the path and them with big smiles and big hugs. I loved to hear their stories and I wish I could have that time over again…even now when I see grannies and grandas picking their grandchildren up from school I feel a bit emotional and envious, to be honest.

'I hate to think what life would have been like without them. It's role reversal now though - when they were younger, I asked to hold their hands to walk along the pavement or cross the road. Now they take my arm to keep me close.

'The one thing I’ve learned about loneliness is that you need to fill your time with things you love to keep it at bay. I occupy my mind and fill my hours with music.

'I've taken up the harmonica, guitar and bought a piano. I also love to draw and practise calligraphy. TV does keep me company, but only if its programmes that feed my brain like Time Team or Countryfile.

'When I feel lonely, I know that if I really need them, that I have people who care about me at the end of the phone. I have my music. I have my friends at the day centre.

'I feel sad for the people I know who have no one and nothing in their lives.'

Make a donation

Text LONE355 to 70070 to donate £5 to help Age NI provide companionship, advice and support to older people facing later life alone in Northern Ireland or donate online.

Further information

For more information: Age NI 028 9024 5729

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