Today Bishopstown Senior Social Centre is host to up to 200 older people per week who participate in a wide range of activities. These activities run from Monday to Thursday (inclusive). Different activities and programmes are provided each day, although the ‘Computers for the Petrified’ programme, offering older people the opportunity to learn about and become comfortable with using computers and information technology, runs each day.
From Monday to Thursday the ‘Computers for the Petrified’ programme provides computer tuition in small groups (4 people at a time) and hundreds of older people in the community are now computer literate and are in regular contact with family and friends at home and abroad through email and Skype. Access to the internet has also opened up new possibilities in people’s lives from the freedom to book holidays from home, to maintaining interests through the internet, to finding information and support through online networks and information hubs. The learning atmosphere in the computer training room is warm and supportive and everyone is able to participate and learn at a pace that is right for them. Michael O’Connor, the very experienced tutor, ensures that fun and learning go hand in hand. For a generation that often had very negative educational experiences when they were young this opportunity brings a late found confidence in their own abilities and an awareness that learning can be an enjoyable and fruitful experience.
Monday afternoons are very full and lively in the social centre. The ‘Go For Life’ group take over the lounge and, with the able guidance of their tutor Noel Carey, work their way through a fitness routine. What can be witnessed here is not the groans of push-ups and sit-ups but rather peals of laughter that accompany gentle stretches and easy movements that strengthen and maintain flexibility. These routines are developed in a way that includes everyone, from those who are very physically active to those who are more constrained. In the kitchen the card players occupy two tables and maintain and build friendships through the medium of games of ‘45’. This involvement supports older people’s mental agility as well as fostering great friendships and social connection.
Tuesdays are especially dedicated to ‘cardplaying’ – the game of ‘forty-five’ in particular. Ireland has a long tradition of ‘cardplaying’ and the game of ‘forty-five’ is thought to have originated here. The players are divided into two groups, ‘newcomers’ and ‘serious’ players. The ‘serious’ experienced players take over the lounge and the newcomers and beginners avail of some tuition and guidance in the kitchen from the ever patient Haulie Lynch. The ‘serious’ game is serious and is played at a highly skilled level, with players having a deep understanding of the game and all its nuances.
Wednesday afternoons are particularly oriented towards older people who may not have much opportunity to leave their homes. Disability accessible transport is provided to bring people to the centre and a very gentle afternoon of storytelling, conversation and sing-along evolves from the group themselves with gentle support and leadership from Breda Scully and Nora Fitzpatrick.
Thursday is a colourful and theatrical day at the centre. The dance group convene with their gifted tutor Margot Lyons to work their way through dance routines that are wonderfully energising, good for flexibility and great fun. This group travel regularly to other older people’s grouping across the city and county to perform and inspire other older people to take up similar involvements.
The contrast between the quiet entertainment on offer on Wednesday and the more active and boisterous movement based activities of Monday and Thursdays highlights the concern of Bishopstown Senior Social Centre to cater for a diverse range of older people. It is a core part of the centre’s ethos to recognise that older people are not a homogeneous grouping and that one size does not fit all. People come to the centre with a very diverse range of interests, and also with varied health issues and personal joys and losses. It is very important to the centre that everyone finds a place within that is right for them and hence the importance of ensuring a varied programme of activities.