The Mitchelstown Social Club kept its community members engaged during the Covid-19 lockdown and highlighted the importance of continuing services at a time of great need.

Social Club could see how a difficult time it was for people who due to Covid-19 were forced to change the way they live in order to stay safe and to protect each other.

What did they do?

The first thing the Mitchelstown Social Club did during the lockdown was posting out the Mitchelstown Newsletter to all their members outlining what services were available locally to them.  

In the midst of all this, they have continued to provide opportunities for older people to be more active, more visible, more creative and more connected. Having to think of different ways to connect didn’t seem like a possibility, but gradually they got people interested in using social media to keep connected with one another. They set up a Zoom account and organized initially to start with two Zoom meetings per week.

The members were encouraged to participate and with the help of grandchildren downloaded the Zoom app on their smartphone or laptop, and were able to sign in for the activities.

They started with a weekly fitness training session 'Go for Life' - a physical activity for older people. Before the lockdown, they had 3 members of the Mitchelstown Social Club trained as Personal Activity Leaders (PAL). Go for Life is the national programme for sport and physical activity for older people in Ireland.  The aim of the Go For Life programme is to train older adults who are members of a local group, i.e. Active Retirement Group, to become Physical Activity. The classes were as interactive as possible and encouraged conversation.

They also had guest speakers talking on how to manage your physical and mental health during the lockdown and some good advice from local Chefs on home food preparation.

The also had Healing with Art classes with Tutor Niamh Touhy where they supplied the material for the art. Both those activities have been very successful on Zoom.

Next came the Singing for the Brain for their members. Organised and ran by Kathleen Griffin. Recently Kathleen has started Bingo sessions. The Zoom Bingo was complimentary from Muintir Na Tira.

In April just at the start of lockdown, they were able to supply 4 of their members with Complimentary Smartphones through a collaboration between Vodafone and Ballyhoura Development. That proved very successful following on from that they were able to get 5 more free smartphones for 5 of the members who didn’t own one, and as restrictions were lifted they now have started the Digital Skills Training. 15 other members are also currently getting training on Digital Skills and they have 11 more older people on a waiting list for training.

"The word spread quickly that Zoom was manageable at any age and training was available."

Positive ageing Week 2020 was very different from 2019 but has been very successful.

They had activities daily as well as their regular Zoom meeting activities, Go for Life Physical Activities, Bingo, singing for the Brain and Healing through the Art they had Gerry Rarftery, Mindfulness teacher exploring habits and practices that can help to manage the stress and anxiety associated with Covid 19.

Ruth Bray, Emotional Freedom Techniques therapist who demonstrated the basic principles of the E.F.T.Techniques. The fast track modern version of getting energy flow in the body letting all the negative go and thus being able to firstly relax and then to become powerfully energised so that they can flow rather than stumble through life.

And finally, after a very busy week, they had Dr Ed. Bates of Kilworth Chiropractic Clinic who spoke on healthy lifestyle and to get our bodies to function better.

In the future The Mitchelstown Social Club hopes that all their members will have the choice of joining them and will be connected to one another by Social Media.

History of The Mitchelstown Social Club

The Social Club came about after Mitchelstown became an Age-Friendly town in 2017.  The Social Club was set up at that time following a meeting with the members of the Wed active group who were looking for more activities to take place for the older people in Mitchelstown and surrounding areas.

They started with the Social Hub on Monday mornings. As part of Mitchelstown being an age-friendly town, they featured on a video that was showcasing the town which was shown in Nationwide.

As part of our celebrations for Positive Ageing week in 2019  Councillor, Kay Dawson invited Minister Daly, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People to Mitchelstown, and all the members were invited. It was such a privilege for all of them to be invited as guests.

They had 2 activities per week, the original Wed active group and the Monday Social Hub.  They were getting bigger and had plenty of helpers but didn’t have a proper structure.

Ballyhoura Development organised a Committee Skills Training where we set up their own constitution, elected officers and a committee of 9 from the members. They have their own Insurance, have registered with Revenue and now they have 115 members.  

The aims of the Social Club are as follows:

  • To prevent Rural Social Isolation by offering socially inclusive events and activities.
  • To develop volunteering and community-based initiatives to improve the social integration of older people in Mitchelstown and surrounding areas.
  • To collaborate with organisations public or private in order to provide training, activities and information sessions that benefit the community.

The older people in the town wanted to have a say on what they wanted in the town. They have 4 of their members on the Mitchelstown Age-Friendly steering group. 

The activities up to Covid-19 were mainly social outings where they all met up with one another, weekly get-togethers, creative art and crafts activities, physical fitness classes, Singing for the Brain, fundraisers and celebrating Positive ageing.