More than 100 older people, many of whom had not seen each other for 20 months, came together on Friday in a “celebration of hope” to mark four decades of offering and sharing friendship.
The Friends of the Elderly charity reached its 40th anniversary last October, but postponed the celebrations due to the Covid-19 situation at the time. The success of the vaccination programme gave organisers the confidence to go ahead and throw a party in a Dublin hotel.
Ann Talbot (82), from Cabra, says Friends of the Elderly "saved my life" following the death five years ago of her husband and partner of more than 60 years.
“That was very tough, a real blow, but coming to Friends of the Elderly really took me out of myself,” she said. “We had singing and line dancing, tea and everybody made you feel so welcome, like one of the family. It was lovely. Then we had the pandemic.”
A year ago Ms Talbot caught Covid-19 and still has no sense of smell.
“I found the lockdowns very, very tough, though what made it not so tough was Friends of the Elderly. They rang every day and sent up parcels, little presents and rang to see if I needed them to get any messages,” she said.
“It’s lovely to see everybody, and everyone in good spirits and getting dressed up, really lovely.”
Tony Dunne, who is 81 "in my stocking feet", also found the lockdowns difficult. He "missed the craic" of meeting friends and going for a pint. He credits his "fantastic neighbours" in Dublin 8 with getting him through.
"They were forever knocking on the door, slipping in newspapers, bringing cans of beer. I also have a wonderful nephew. I have another niece in Wicklow and she was forever coming up. They had me spoilt," he said.
“You have to interact, say ‘hello’. When I saw Friends of the Elderly were beginning to open up again, that we were getting back to old ways, I was delighted. We love to sit and talk. It sets us on fire.”
Sean Darcy, a board member of the charity, said some members were nervous about gathering socially and "getting back out" but that "the vaccinations have been huge in giving people that confidence.
“We have been so careful, organising small groups at first so people can go back after and say, ‘that went okay’. Small steps are really important because it is so easy to become totally cut off and isolated,” he said. “Events like this are important to give people hope, celebrate that a little and to keep going. It’s important to celebrate hope.”