Ability West’s Active Aging Service in Galway City opened its doors on 14 July 2008; it provides a day service to 12 service users and has been specifically tailored to meet the needs of these service users.
Following a series of meetings between staff and the service users, a timetable of programmes and activities was drawn up. It was explained to the group that this was an opportunity for them, at this stage of their lives, to choose what they would like to do as part of their retirement. Some of these programmes and activities include interpersonal skills, a fit-for-life programme, art, yoga, literacy, reading, computers, advocacy and independent living skills.
The main ethos of the Active Aging Service is to foster integration into the community. To this end, the group access a lot of community based activities. For example; service users have set up links with their local community active retirement group and attend their weekly meetings. They have shared many outings with this group and attend the annual Christmas lunch. In addition, the group use the NUI Galway gym on a weekly basis; they go bowling, shopping and have lunch out, and most of these activities are accessed through the use of public transport.
In addition, the group links in with another community-based group, ‘The Golden Eye Club’ who meet at one of the local cinemas on a monthly basis.
Ability West’s Active Aging Group has also formed strong links with another aging group in the Brothers of Charity Galway Services, whereby service users and staff attend The Aishling Centre every Thursday morning and partake in music and art with their counterparts there. A very successful art exhibition was held by the two groups in November 2009 in Ballybane Library. Some members of the group have been involved in the national photographic exhibition ‘Celebrating Aging in Persons with an Intellectual Disability’.
Links were also formed when staff and service users visited the St John of God Menni Services for older persons in Dublin and it is planned to maintain this link.
Our service is very fortunate to have a volunteer programme in place where volunteers come to the centre on a regular basis and take part in table top activities, playing pool or going for walks. The centre is also enhanced by student placements who enjoy getting involved in the Active Aging timetable and they are encouraged to bring their own ideas to the group.
We are very fortunate that family members and friends of the group take an active interest in this service and are regular visitors to the centre. Our aim is to keep developing this service in line with service users’ needs and to empower them to live the lifestyle of their choice and to play a meaningful role in community life.