20th Anniversary Celebrations 25-3-2022
As it was in the beginning
By Chris O'Flynn
Nice to see so many people here to celebrate this great occasion.
To quote Michael Martin, our Taoiseach, “Today is a good day.” After twenty enjoyable years, I am grateful to be here in view of the fact we have lost so many of our friends especially during the Pandemic
We are always encouraged to live in the present but I think on this happy occasion we are allowed some playback time both to congratulate ourselves on our achievements and to look forward to the future.
For most people retirement creates a huge void in our lives. You lose your identity, your sense of belonging, and often lose touch with the friends you’ve made throughout your working life.
Retirement often coincides with the death of a partner and the “empty nest syndrome” when children leave home to lead their own lives. It was this situation which prompted me to set-up the Ballinasloe A.R.A.
Having worked in a busy office in Dublin, I got married to a Ballinasloe man and was soon serving pints in a very busy pub. Then followed a very busy life as a mother to four children. My life was happy and fulfilled.
Then my world fell apart. My husband, at the young age of fifty-five, died after a long illness. I felt lost, alone and isolated. As a lone parent and provider, life was hard. You could not go to pubs, restaurants, concerts, cinema or holidays on your own. The phone and doorbell stopped ringing .My social life had come to an end.
Gradually I began to realize that there must be a whole lot more elderly people in town in the same situation. I listened in the supermarket to many stories of loneliness and isolation – people who never met a soul from one Sunday Mass to the next.
Something needed to be done.
The answer came in the form of Ann Goodwin, development officer for the west. I am glad now I had the courage to pick up the phone and give her a call. She told me about the success of the A.R.A’s in the other parts of the country and I thought, that’s exactly what we need in Ballinasloe.
With the help of Ann and two others, Nancy Ward and the late Mary Grealy. We advertised and set up our first public meeting in Hayden’s Hotel on the 26th of March 2002 and then we waited with bated breath. Much to our relief, 45 people from all walks of life showed up. We selected our first committee and had our first brief meeting. Baby Bara was born !
It was a new beginning for us all. To-day.20 years later, we have a very vibrant and forward looking movement .Our membership has now risen to over 200.
Our success is due in no small way to the dedication and wonderful work of all the hard-working committee members down through the years. A sincere thank-you to all the members who played any part – big or small – in making the Association the success it is to-day. A special mention must go to our excellent longest serving Treasurer, Bridie Whelan, who has been Chancellor of the Exchequer since 2007.
I’m sure I will be forgiven if I mention also our 1st Chairman, the late Jimmy Crehan. He was a very enthusiastic Chairman who played a big part in steering the Association from a very uncertain beginning into the large thriving group it is to-day. During the group’s formative months Jimmy and myself, as 1st Secretary, planned and plotted around my kitchen table at 11 o’c every morning while his late wife Maureen waited patiently for the vegetables for the dinner.!!
With Jimmy’s vast knowledge and experience gained in a lifetime career in St. Brigid’s Hospital, he was passionate about health issues relating to older people. He was instrumental in organizing many informative talks on subjects such as heart problems, strokes, blood pressure, Diabetes, depression and the Psychology of aging. Huge numbers attended all these talks. In Jimmy’s own words our members lived in the “era of the Parafin oil lamp” so we were encouraged to take that big leap forward into the era of technology. We became the original “Silver Surfers”
On a personal level, over the last 20 years, I have made many new friends, visited many new places, done many courses, battled with computers, mobile phones, struggled with passwords and codes, “on Line” and www.everything. A new “me” had emerged. Our group has enjoyed 45 day trips, 10 City Breaks, and 21 sun holidays including 5 memorable Cruises.
Looking to the future, I think the Role of the A.R.A. will become more important than ever especially in the field of communication. The closing of the local post office, small town banking facilities, the corner grocery store not to mention ,the demise of the local pubs, the personal touch and friendly chat over the counter has long gone. The sound of the human voice has been drowned out by “Google”,We will be living in a world of drones and robots, codes and passwords.
I would encourage our next generation to become a member of our Active Retirement Association. It would be a place where one can escape from this “press button” world. In a group situation you can avail of a wide range of activities, holidays, outings and socials, creative and learning programmes, sports and community work. It would be a place to chat, share anxieties and enjoy a friendly “cuppa”in the company of new found friends.
I hope our Association will continue to grow from strength to strength and I hope you will get as much benefit and enjoyment from it as I have for the last 20 years.
Happy Mothers Day to all the Mothers and Grandmothers here to-day