Guest speaker at the October meeting of the very successful Open Door Club in Glenavy Parish was Dame Joan Harbinson, Northern Ireland Older People’s Advocate.
Dean Harbinson, who was appointed to this new post almost two years ago in advance of the establishment of a Commissioner for Older People, spoke to members about her role in relation to government and to older people across the province.
The Open Door Club meets in Glenavy Parish Hall, and attracts an average 80 members each month. Members also get together between meetings for walks and outings to places of interest. Their last trip was to St Anne’s Cathedral and the nearby War Museum, and their next outing on November 9 will be to the new garden centre outside Lisburn. On November 19 the walkers will head to Moira Demesne.
Activities on offer at the Open Door Club range from card making, jigsaws, dominoes, reminiscence sessions, bowls, internet, a lending library, and good old fashioned tea and a chat. On the day of Dame Harbinson’s visit a large number of ladies were enjoying their first crochet session, tutored by Judy Magee. To close their meeting the members always enjoy a two course meal cooked by parish members.
The club was established more than five years ago and is organised by Mrs Paddi Totten and her team of 25 assistants. Its members are very productive and those ladies who knit have sent many donations of beautiful knitted clothes and blankets to charities including Fields of Life and Blythswood Care who transport then to Africa and other third world countries.
Mrs Totten said the club allows all members to express their interest or talents. “No matter what age you are you have abilities and you can use them,” she said.
The club is open to the parishioners and friends and has members from all denominations. As well as getting these older folk out to meet each other, the club also links with Glenavy’s pastoral care team. If a regular member fails to show someone will ring or visit their home and ensure they are well.
The parish hall benefits from a large storeroom for the club’s equipment which includes bowls, books and coffee tables as well as the sofas and easy chairs which give it such a homely feel.