By Robert Somerville
One of the more recent additions to the range of services offered by the Irish Pastoral Centre, and perhaps one of the most significant, is the organization’s Senior Outreach Program, which celebrated its own tenth anniversary earlier this year. The IPC’s Senior Outreach Program was initiated in 2006, as a response to two tragic events which occurred within the elder Irish community. In 2006, two Irish community members died at home alone, with their bodies sadly not being found for a number of days as a result of their being so isolated. This, alongside hearing accounts from community based Nurses and Caretakers about how lonely and vulnerable many elderly members of the Irish community were, prompted Sr. Marguerite, then executive director, and Cora Flood, outreach coordinator, to take action to ensure that no elderly member of the Irish community experienced this isolation and loneliness again.
Beginning in mid-2006, the staff, supporters and volunteers of the IPC came up with various strategies to improve the resources available locally to seniors in need, especially to those seeking a culturally sensitive support system. The staff and volunteers consulted older members of the community, to see what sort of programs and services were most important from their perspective. From these beginnings, the IPC Senior Outreach Program was born. Central to the early success of the Senior Program were weekly coffee ‘drop-in’ mornings at the IPC office in Quincy, which were organized by Cora Flood alongside the support of a strong volunteer base. The coffee mornings offered a space for elderly members of the community to have the opportunity to renew acquaintances, make new friends, and participate in educational and social activities.
From the outset, the program drew vulnerable members of the community together to form a stronger peer support network which went a great distance in reducing some of the isolation being experienced. The coffee mornings are still at the heart of the IPC’s senior program today, and now include weekly meetings in Dorchester, at the IPC office, in Brighton, at the Veronica B. Smith Senior Center, and, since 2016, in West Roxbury at St. John’s Chrysostom Church. The IPC’s coffee mornings are, without doubt, our busiest regular program, and they add a great amount of energy and entertainment to the weekly schedule at the Irish Pastoral Centre.
Alongside the weekly senior meetings, the IPC organized monthly health checks with the assistance of Maria Burke of ‘Celtic Angels’, monthly day trips to sites in the Boston area such as Foxwoods Casino or the La Salette Shrine, and a monthly Mass and Irish breakfast or luncheon at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton. Each of these elements of the Senior Program helped to re-establish links with participants’ Irish heritage, history and culture, while also promoting the growth of great friendships and supportive relationships. In terms of formal supports offered by the IPC, Sr. Marguerite, Fr. John McCarthy and Cora Flood led the development of a home-visiting service to isolated and home-bound seniors that continues to this day. These visits are so valuable to those that receive them, whether the visit is for conversation, company, assistance with grocery shopping or simply to drop of the week’s edition of the Irish Emigrant newspaper.
In China, where elderly members of the community are valued for their life’s experience, knowledge and wisdom, the word for crisis contains characters that can be interpreted as both ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. This is demonstrative of the Oriental insight that in crisis, opportunity for progress can be found. The birth of the IPC’s Senior Program, while resulting from great crisis and tragedy, made significant progress within the elderly Irish community in the Greater Boston area. The development of this program as a response to a need within the community has made it one of the IPC’s most successful services, which impacts some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
Our senior program continues in strength today, with weekly meetings, regular health checks, monthly Masses, a check-in phone line (which we will hear more about in an upcoming article) and weekly home and hospital visits. If you know someone who might like to participate in any of our senior programming, please call us at 617-265-5300
Irish Pastoral Centre
15 Rita Road
Dorchester, MA 02124
Hours: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
General Email: Info@ipcboston.org