It all began in 1999 with Sr.Eva from St. Patrick’s Hospital, who set about getting older people together with “something for the retired” in mind. Inspired by the dedication that year to ‘International Year for Older People’, Sr.Eva decided to set up a meeting to put things in motion. On a visit to another sister in Tubbercurry she was impressed with the activities organised for a group of older people there and was further motivated to get something similar going in Carrick-on-Shannon which had even “a bigger population.” So, along with two public health nurses, Mary O’Rourke and Patricia O’Hara, they called the first meeting in the Vocational School and initiated, what was to eventually become the Carrick-on-Shannon Active Age Group.
A committee was set up with the few that attended this meeting. Things moved slowly but the same ‘few’ continued to attend. Paddy Doyle and Kathleen McGarry were co-chairpersons of this new committee. Some of these people formed the core of what was to become a very active age group in Carrick-on-Shannon. New members were slow to come along even though the meetings were continually advertised in the paper.
Finding a place to meet regularly was an issue for a considerable time and the venue moved again and again from St. Patrick’s Hospital to the Vocational School to the Market Yard. The then Adult Education Officer, Donal Scully, proved to be a great support to this emerging group. He gave advice and guidance on potential courses and how to untangle access to various grants and monetary support for the group.
Finding the right title for the group was also important. The name a group calls itself can influence whether people join or not. The title ‘Active Age’ was agreed on as the most embracing and it was felt this name would not deter the very people the group aimed to support.
The new ‘Active Age’ Group still had no place to call home and it made for a restless start. Around 2003, this all changed. Permission was received from Fr. Baxter to use St. Mary’s Hall as a regular meeting place.
Also around the same time, Michael and Rose O’Brien and Padraig Griffin joined the committee and with the additional assistance, St. Mary’s Hall was established as the permanent location for Carrick Active Age. It provided a place to have meetings, it was big enough to carry out activities, had facilities for storage of equipment and also had a kitchen to make the very important ‘cup of tea’. Renovations were also made to the kitchen and so with a warm place to meet and being able to offer refreshments to all, the business of the day could be got on with.
Acquiring the use of St. Mary’s Hall was critical to establishing and expanding the Carrick Active Age Group and allowed the committee to focus on increasing membership, organising outings and activities and educational talks. Grants from different bodies provided the basis for much of the development of the group. However, it is important here to acknowledge the monetary contributions made by the regular members. They financed the cost of bus trips and subsidized meals on day trips.
Also, mention needs to be made of the tremendous personal contribution made by members of the committee to carry out the administrative, financial and organisational requirements needed to make the Active Age Group a success. It required commitment and a belief in the support such a group could bring to the older citizens of Carrick-on-Shannon and its environs.