This scheme which is organised by the charity Age and Opportunity allows people to meet and accompany each other to different events around the country.
“Cultural Companions already has a strong network established in Dublin and we plan to set up and further develop the network in Cork and a number of other counties over the coming year,” says a spokeswoman for Age and Opportunity.
When Bridie O’Reilly retired in 2011 she was worried that she would get lonely and felt she needed to keep busy and have something to look forward to each month. So, after doing some research she decided to become a Cultural Companion in her area, Balbriggan, Co Dublin.
“It is great for people who are on their own, for people who would like to have some company to attend things and from that you do become friends, and you build up lots of friendships, which is great,” she says.
“We travel in together and go home together which is so important. I will phone people on the list and say would you like to join us. It is very enjoyable and something to look forward to each month.”
There are around 20 people in Bridie’s Cultural Companion group and they will meet up a couple of times a month and then sometimes they will split up and attend events in smaller groups.
“Sometimes there will be local events that people from the city might not want to travel into, so it is lovely to have a core group of local people who share the same interests and will want to attend,” she says.
Bridie has now become the events manager for her Cultural Companion group, which she thoroughly enjoys. She has to cater for all different tastes and organise each trip.
Last month they went to Collins Barracks, the National Museum of Ireland and they also went to see a comedy.
“It was my first time at Collins Barracks, even though I used to pass it every day on the Luas going to work. We had a guided tour there and then went to the Aisling Hotel for tea and sandwiches and we had a really lovely evening there, so much so that they gave us free tea and coffee,” she says, laughing.
This month, the group will be going to the Butler’s Chocolate factory. Once Bridie has chosen the events, she informs Age and Opportunity and the members can then sign up to attend that event. The charity organises for a person — who has been Garda vetted and has attended a training preparation course — to meet and greet the group at each event.
“This is a great idea, you will also be given a photo of the person, so you know exactly who they are and it helps people who have just joined, so they don’t feel lonely, wandering around trying to find the right group,” she explains.
Although the Cultural Companion scheme is open to men and women over the age of 50, Bridie says that men are “very slow to join” which is a shame.
“It is a great way to meet people, if you had to go to the cinema by yourself every time you wanted to see the latest film, you would certainly feel very isolated. Even having someone to talk to and say, “Oh that was a rubbish film,’ is important,’ she says.
* For more info email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 01-8057713