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Community Development

Community Development

Men’s Health Week: GAA Clubs have the tools for successful ageing

*Men's Health Week: GAA Clubs the tools for successful ageing. *

The GAA’s mission statement states: “The GAA is a community based volunteer organisation promoting Gaelic Games, culture and lifelong participation”. For many age-groups, our games can meet their participation needs, however, as an adult gets older their needs increase while participation opportunities diminish. The reality is that many fall away from their GAA club and the connection with what once was an integral part of their lives dwindles. This can in turn lead to less engagement with their community as a whole. The GAA is committed to reversing this trend through the Social Initiative.

The mission of the GAA Social Initiative is to make clubs more age-friendly, by increasing the participation of older members of society, with a focus on older men, through events specifically designed to enrich their lives and respect the important contribution they have made and can continue to make to community life.

From its genesis in the observations of then President Mary McAleese of a dearth of older men at events she attended across the island of Ireland, it has grown from a small pilot project involving GAA clubs across four counties to one of the Association’s flagship community outreach projects.

Successful ageing is about the choices you are making to stay healthy, contribute to the world around you, and develop your own skills and abilities – at every age. Successful ageing for an individual can be broken down into 3 core areas; manage your health, stay involved in your community, develop your personal skills, talents or abilities.Our behaviours are the single-most important factor in how we age. The diversity of ageing experiences is largely due to the choices we make, along with the physical and social environments we find ourselves in.

Maintaining good physical health into older age is important to ensure we stay active and remain involved in all the things we love to do. Taking care of your overall health is also a must. Screening can help detect disease before symptoms tell us there is a problem. BowelScreen – the HSE National Screening Service offers free bowel screening to all men (and women) aged 60 to 69. The test can be carried out in the privacy of your own home and takes just a minute to complete. Once the home test is returned results are issued within four weeks. 95% of results will be normal. The remaining 5% will be referred for further testing. Some of which will have abnormal pre-cancerous growths or cancer detected. Figures show that men are almost twice as likely to get bowel cancer compared to women which should be encouragement enough for men to take up the opportunity for free screening. The majority of cancers detected through BowelScreen are caught early, meaning they are easier to treat, leading to better outcomes.
To request your free home test kit  (register for screening) or to find out more information, visit www.bowelscreen.ie or call Freephone 1800 45 45 55.

Being actively involved in your GAA club throughout your lifespan will improve your quality of life and provide these opportunities to age successfully. If you have lost that engagement with your GAA Club or you feel a brother, father, grandfather, friend or neighbour has done so, then invite them over to watch a match, bring them down to a local game or even invite them over to the park for a leisurely walk around the field.

Rosemount GAA in Westmeath, The Spa Club in Kerry and St. Josephs in Roscommon are just some of the really active GAA clubs in the social initiative. While one of our GAA Healthy Clubs, St. Colmcilles GAA Club in Meath recently had a visit from RTÉ Today where they showcased how they opened their doors to Men’s Shed as a way of reaching out to the community, making their club hubs for health. You can see a video below of Anna Geary’s visit.

The Community and Health Department is seeking to increase awareness of and engagement with the GAA Social Initiative. The aim is to re-engage these members back into their GAA club and community through the growing network of County Health and Wellbeing Committees and Club Health and Wellbeing Officers. 

We want to have a Social Initiative in every club, for older members who have dedicated years of service to their GAA club and community can age successfully.

Consider your own community, particularly the men in your community. What could you do in your GAA club to ignite the social initiative and get these men back to active involvement in community life. Visit our website www.gaa.ie/community to discover what the GAA is doing in this space to support its clubs and members and even some case studies of what clubs are doing. This article is part of a series for Men's Health Week. To find out more about #MHW2017 and how you can support it, visit: www.mhfi.org/mhw/mhw-2017.html *

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