The EU-funded mPower team based within the Southern Trust has adapted its working practices in order to continue helping the elderly during the coronavirus outbreak. 

mPower uses digital interventions to enable elderly people in remote areas to live safely and independently in their own homes by introducing them to various health and wellbeing technologies.

Aidan McCabe, mPower Implementation Lead, has been working as part of the EU INTERREG VA-funded project, mPower, since March 2019. Based in Newry, Aidan leads the team which until recently covered Newry and South Armagh, helping the elderly and those who have long-term health conditions and chronic illnesses to create wellbeing plans, in a bid to improve their day to day lives. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 the team have expanded to cover The Mournes area after it became clear through the regional Covid-19 Community Helpline that there was a need for the service in these areas. 

Over the past two months, the team has had to adapt its ways of working to continue helping older and more vulnerable people throughout the current crisis. 

Aidan said “We’ve experienced a significant increase in people being referred to us over the past 8 weeks. Before we would have done a face to face visit to meet people in their homes, but we are supporting them over the phone instead now.  Initially in response to the crisis, we got involved with working on the Covid-19 Community Helpline and through that, we’ve made contact with so many new people who we can help through the project.

“One of the main issues we deal with is loneliness, and this is definitely more prevalent now, especially for those who are self-isolating and we know that loneliness can have a really negative effect on mental health. We are currently working with the Promoting Wellbeing team in the Southern Trust and Southern Age Well Network to distribute wellbeing packs to all of our beneficiaries, These packs consist of puzzles, poetry, mindfulness colouring, exercises and other information to help people who are in isolation through this difficult time. 

“Before Covid, we would help people who felt socially isolated by introducing them to different social activities and events going on in their local area to help them feel more connected.  However, this isn’t an option at the moment, so we’re looking at how to use technology to combat loneliness. 

“For some people, that can mean teaching them how to keep in touch with their family over email or video calls, but it’s important to remember not everyone has access to this kind of technology.  Sometimes, we just need to keep in touch with people over the phone and check in regularly to make sure they’re OK.  For some, that might be the only contact they get all week, so it’s vital that we’re there for them to find out how they’re getting on. 

“We’ve also been helping people use technology to organise online food deliveries.  We talk them through the process of setting up an account and using the internet or an app to order their groceries. 

“Physical health has also been an important focus area.  With so many people unable to leave their homes now,  we’ve been encouraging them to use technology that can help them keep active.  For example, we recently helped someone use their tablet to access online videos of ‘snack movements’ for them to do at home” 

Ingrid Stewart, Older Persons Lead, Promoting wellbeing Division, spoke about the next steps for the project and said “We’re currently planning to provide connected tablets into Care Homes. The tablets will be pre-loaded with apps and digital services to support residents to connect with family and friends, to look after their physical and mental wellbeing, and potentially to have access to health professionals through virtual appointments. We will also be encouraging Care Home staff to use this technology for their own wellbeing as we recognise these are challenging times for everyone.  We feel strongly that facilitating and supporting these digital interventions in partnership will make an immense difference to both residents and staff of Care Homes at this time enhancing resilience and hope”. 

Underlining the importance of the project at this time, Gina McIntyre CEO of the SEUPB said: “The empathy and understanding displayed through the work of the mPower team is helping many of our elderly and vulnerable citizens in so many ways.  They are creating a vital lifeline between these groups and the rest of the world. A lifeline that will keep many safe until this crisis is over.’’

Gerard Rocks, Assistant Director of Promoting Wellbeing Division SHSCT added ’’I am very proud of the work the mPower  team are doing, their flexibility and adaptability and the tremendous impact that this is making for older people at this time. This is enabled by the creativity and innovation so evident from this collective partnership approach.’’

For more information on how mPower can help you, visit MPOWERHEALTH.EU

To self-refer to the project or to find out more for a family member please contact the mPower Newry and South Armagh team, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone Aidan on 028 3083 4207.

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