Ceol, caint, agus craic i Múscraí
here’s music, song, storytelling and dance; there’s company, conversation, craic and a four-course dinner served every day.
Add a selection of day trips, healthcare, exercise classes, gardening, and bingo, plus crosswords and colouring for those of a quieter disposition, and two community day centres in the Múscraí Gaeltacht would seem to have most things covered.
However, there is one important thing missing from the facilities in Baile Mhúirne and Cill na Martra, just six miles apart, and that’s clientele.
Since their customers are predominantly — though not exclusively — elderly, periodic declines in service usage are part and parcel of the operation of these and many other day centres, particularly in sparsely-populated rural areas.
Cois Cille in Cill na Martra which opened in 2006 and Ionad Lae Baile Mhúirne, in operation since 2010, are therefore extending an invitation to members of the local community to come and try out the facilities for themselves, with a view to increasing the number of clients.
Máire Uí Riordáin, day centre manager, explained some of the causes for the drop in demand: “Our clients are getting older; they’re going into homes, they’re passing away, or they’re just unable to come out anymore — these are the reasons.”
Dinner is served Monday to Friday in the two centres, at 12.30pm in Cill na Martra, and 1pm in Baile Mhúirne, and a minibus is available to collect those using the centres, while a home delivery service offers meals to elderly people in their own homes.
“We have a hot four-course meal on a daily basis, five days a week, but you can come two days, three days, one day - you’re not tied to the five days,” said Máire.
But she pointed out that while the provision of hot meals is an essential and valued service, the day centres also have far more to offer senior members of the community.
“I think people feel that because their nutritional needs are met, they don’t see that their social needs could be enhanced as well. But going out to something and meeting people — the social aspect - is a big part of it.”
Encouraging people to try out the social activities on offer sooner, rather than later in life, she said: “There’s no point in waiting until you’re not able to do stuff for yourself.
“Now is the time, like getting your glasses or your hearing aid — don’t be waiting until it’s gone too far.”
Above all, she said, what was to be gained by frequenting a day centre was companionship. “Meeting people on a regular basis. The friendships that have developed between the people that have been coming is phenomenal. You couldn’t imagine it. They visit each other and they share books, magazines, everything.”
Gardening is a popular activity as Baile Mhúirne’s Ionad Lae, where such was the success of the facility’s greenhouse last year than some of the senior citizens won horticultural prizes by exhibiting their produce at the annual Baile Mhúirne/Cúil Aodha Show.
The centres also offer light ‘chairobic’ exercises, colouring and art activities, plus a popular scoraíocht, which takes place on the second Thursday of each month in Cill na Martra, the next being on May 10, and in Baile Mhúirne on the last Thursday of the month.
“The fun and laughter that goes on is just great, as a result of the stories and jokes that are told,” said Máire.
This year’s day trips and excursions begin this month with trips to Tubrid Well near Millstreet, a garden centre, and Gougane Barra already on the agenda for the summer.
“Our outings generally end up with a scoraíocht somewhere,” said Máire. “People give recitations, sing a song and to be included is a big part of it.”
Aside from the jollity of their social activities, the day centres also offer tangible benefits for the welfare of senior citizens, providing a regular point of contact and health services such as a visiting chiropodist.
“They have the security of being able to have a chat with a staff member if they have a problem or a worry about something,” Máire said.
The delivery of meals to senior citizens at home similarly provides more than simply hot dinners, she added.
“It means that there’s somebody calling to the house on a regular basis. Our delivery people have often called to a house and found a person after falling.
“Someone would ring the next of kin, and if there’s no next of kin we’d have their doctor’s details.”
Comhlacht Tithe Sóisialta agus Forbairt an tSuláin, the voluntary group responsible for building both centres, also operates social housing units adjacent to the day centres in Baile Mhúirne and Cill na Martra, and currently has a small number of units available to new occupants — a opportunity that may be too good to miss for anyone keen to be closer to all the action in Cois Cille and Ionad Lae Baile Mhúirne.
Day centre clients enjoy a day trip to The Farm at Grenagh.
Dancing at the scoraíocht in Cois Cille day centre, Cill na Martra.
Dancing at the scoraíocht in Cill na Martra.
A quiz in progress at the Ionad Lae in Baile Mhúirne.