The Senior Help Line USA will be launched on Thursday, May 7 by Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin at the New York Irish Center in Long Island City, Queens.
The project, a collaboration between the New York Irish Center, the Aisling Irish Community Center and the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, received $15,000 from the Irish government.
The first senior help line was launched in Ireland in February 1998, providing opportunities for older people to talk to someone of their own age group for the price of a local call from anywhere in Ireland, in the strictest of confidence. The New York project is build on the success of that endeavor, for which President Mary McAleese is patron.
Like the Irish original the New York help line, which is staffed by volunteers from the Aisling and Emerald Isle centers, will also be charged at the price of a local call. At the other end of the line a caller will have the opportunity to share their fears and worries of everyday life, or just have a general chat with a compassionate listener.
The project aims to help the centers find a way of reaching that more dispersed community.
Martin stated, “The senior help line aims to help our older people who have become isolated as their social networks splinter and sometimes disappear altogether. These are the very people who over the years would have sent substantial amounts in financial remittances back to Ireland, and it is important that their contribution not be forgotten.”
Irish Consul General in New York Niall Burgess added, “One of the greatest challenges facing the Irish community in the U.S. is the issue of aging. Many senior people are isolated and have no one to turn to when they are lonely or need advice.”
Burgess added, “This project aims to build on the expertise available to address this emerging social issue; foster closer collaboration between Irish centers in the U.S. and centers of best practice in Ireland; empower the older generation of immigrants as a resource to address issues such as loneliness and isolation in the community and reach beyond the existing catchment areas of the main centers to identify and begin addressing needs in the wider Irish community.”
Irish help line officials are providing training to senior volunteers in New York. Over 20 volunteers have received training and another 30 will receive training in the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in the Bronx from this week.
The toll free number to reach the line is 1-877-997-5777connects tothe Emerald Isle’s Bronx office and the New York Irish Center where the volunteers will operate the service.
Fianna Fail leader Micheál MartinPhotocall Ireland