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Commissioner supports Age NI Good Vibrations project

29 January, 2024
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Age NI has launched a major new programme aimed at supporting the mental health and wellbeing of men in Northern Ireland aged over 50.

Age NI’s Good Vibrations programme has been funded by Movember and is one of only 16 projects selected across the world for its ‘Scaling What Works’ Mental Health Grant funding.

Age NI identified a gap in mental health provision for men age 50+ as the charity’s Director of Marketing & Business Development, Siobhan Casey, explained:

“We recognised a gap in the provision of dedicated health and mental health support for older men. There are almost 326,000 men aged over 50 in Northern Ireland, and in this demographic, suicide, alcoholism and the use of anti-depressants are alarmingly high. The latest Northern Ireland suicide statistics* revealed that 168 men aged over 50 took their own life last year. This accounted for 44% of male suicides of all ages in 2022, and the number was a staggering four and a half times that of females in the same age group.

“Our research with over 300 older men revealed that they don’t know where to turn for advice and information on the new challenges of life beyond 50. This could be financial worries like pension and retirement planning in the later stage of working life, or the transition into retirement; it might be the stress of taking on caring responsibilities, managing a chronic illness or facing bereavement; or it may be a wake-up call triggering a re-evaluation of how to take better care of their health. Of course, all of these critical life challenges can have a massive impact on an individual’s stress, mental health, and overall health and wellbeing. And yet, there isn’t a single source of information or advice for this specific stage of life.

“Thanks to the generous funding support from Movember, Good Vibrations aims to fill this information gap with tailor-made support, information and advice on all the topics men of this age group have told us they want to know more about. This programme has been co-designed and developed with input from older men, and tapping into a wealth of expert health and wellbeing advice, on everything from stress, sleep, physical activity, relationships and healthy eating. We have also compiled a wide range of information on men’s health symptoms and screening checks on cancer, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease.

“With huge thanks to Movember, we are delighted to be launching a brand new, comprehensive men’s health information booklet for men over 50, a new website platform (www.ageni.org/iconnect); a new podcast series, “How’s the Form”, hosted by Joe Lindsay and featuring some of Northern Ireland’s best known older men; men aged 50+ can also sign up for a six week group programme.”

Age NI’s Good Vibrations is the result of a unique partnership including Business in the Community, mental health charity Inspire, and grassroots community organisations Northern Ireland-wide including Groundwork NI’s network of Men’s Sheds.  Other partners include Action Mental Health, Counselling for all Nations, NICSSA, Public Health Agency, CANS, Relate NI, Men’s Health Forum Ireland and Ulster University.”

The Movember-funded project has gained the support of the Northern Ireland Mental Health Champion, Professor Siobhan O’Neill, who said,

“The Department of Health’s 10-year Mental Health Strategy recognises the need to prioritise early intervention. I welcome the focus of this project on males aged 50+, particularly those who are experiencing life transitions in work, relationships, as carers, or who are experiencing the effects of loneliness or social isolation. This project will provide a much-needed pathway for education, intervention and support for older men.”

The Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch, also commended the project, saying,

“Supporting the mental health of the older generation is something which needs more focus and Good Vibrations is a fantastic programme which bridges a gap in services and support for older males, in order to help them meet specific challenges of later life.  Planning for the third age is very important, but it can be a daunting and difficult transition for many people. I’m supportive of any programme that seeks to support people through the various challenges that this transitional time can bring.  I congratulate Age NI and all the partners involved in getting this comprehensive programme up and running.”

Movember’s Programs Manager, Community and Workplace, Rhiannon Watt said,

“In order to make real and long-lasting change, it’s a no brainer for us to fund programs which strengthen the impact of prevention models that are already operating in a real-world environment and enable them to scale successfully.

“With middle aged men and those in their older years feeling left behind, it’s important that they receive access to support that is tailored to their circumstances and unique challenges they face as they move through these phases in their lives.

“Here at Movember, we know that healthier men means a healthier world. That’s why we’re delighted to partner with AGE NI on their Good Vibrations programme in our ongoing endeavour to help change the face of men’s health.”

For more information on the Good Vibrations programme, or to request a copy of the Good Vibrations Men’s Health Guide, visit www.ageni.org/goodvibrations.