Key to ageing gracefully is to be prepared

Prepare to enjoy retirement. Allow family to help get information for you by directing them to Age NI for advice

ONE of the most complex and confusing areas of modern life is that of benefits. What we are entitled to depends on so many things – age, health, wealth or lack of it, single, married, children or dependents and, top of the pops – mobility.

It goes on and goes on – more of a maze than a minefield and often incomprehensible. So, welcome, Age NI.

This charity is dedicated to ‘older people’. There are 350.000 of us in Northern Ireland and, according to Linda Robinson, chief executive of Age NI, the number of people over 50 will increase over the next 20 years by more than 30 per cent.

Now that is a staggering figure – but is 50 considered to be old? No, but it means you’re getting to a time in life when little things begin to happen – it usually takes longer to get over a cold or flu, longer to recover from a fall or a bump, more frightening when waiting for a diagnosis.

Age is just a figure and many over 80s are as fit as a flea and full of energy and fun. But it does make sense to examine the pros and cons of maturing – then it can be done gracefully in the knowledge that you and, importantly, your family know where to turn for the help you need.

“Age NI advice service deals with thousands of calls every year from older people, their families and carers. Money is one of the most common reasons that people contact us,” Linda says.

“Thousands of older people here live in poverty yet millions of pounds in financial support goes unclaimed.”

Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, Universal Credit, the Social Fund – a few of the allowances in the government purse and some of them could belong to you. There is even funeral payments for burial or cremation costs and up to £700 for other expenses such as the funeral director’s fees. But obviously you should not make arrangement for your funeral without checking if you qualify.

State pension

Currently the state pension age is 65 for men and 60 for women, although this will increase to 65 – well after all, we have campaigned for equality...

If you’re not sure about your situation, someone at the Age NI Freephone number will work it out for you. It's well worth investigating as the full basic state pension is £115.95 a week if you have a full National Insurance record. If you haven’t been contacted three months before you reach pension age you should contact the Pension Service and make your claim.

Not everyone is aware that if you are divorced or widowed you may be able to use your former spouse’s record to get a pension or increased pension and this applies to civil partnerships in the same way.

If you receive the Guarantee Credit part of the Pension Credit you automatically qualify for help towards NHS health costs such as free dental treatment, annual eye tests, travel costs to receive NHS treatment and free NHS wigs and fabric supports.

This is not charity – these are payments you are entitled to so – it would be a mistake to be too proud to apply and accept. Difficult, I know, and that’s why Age NI is so important. They will take the burden off your shoulders; they will represent you and fight for your rights.

This year Danske Bank have joined forces with Age NI not only to fund raise but to give advice and ken care of day-to-day finances.

So there's a lot of help on offer. Why not investigate or get someone you trust to do it for you? The main point of contact for literature, especially the recently published ‘More Money In Your Pocket’, or to arrange a face-to-face chat is the Age NI Advice Service on free phone 0808 808 7575. The website is

Something completely different

NOW here’s something new and free. The inventive actor Michael Patrick of Pan Narrans Theatre Company and I Banquo is taking not to the stage this time for his production during Culture Night Belfast but to the pavement outside the Premier Inn on Waring Street when he joins forces with fellow actor and schoolmate Owen McCavana. (After Rathmore Grammar School both boys trained at the prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London.)

How These Desperate Men Talk, by Enda Walsh, presents a conversation that just goes on and on. "How long have they been talking?" I ask Michael. “Hours? Days? Weeks? Years?” We have to work it out.

Each show is only 10 minutes long but keeps repeating for a total of two and a half hours. A test for the actors and intriguing for the audience. You can join or leave at any point during this unique experience on Friday September 18 from 7pm to 9.30pm

A message in a bottle

Dear Anne,

As an avid reader of your column in The Irish News I would like to ask

your advice. I have grown a Bramley apple in a bottle. What I need to know is,

what I would need to add to the apple to preserve it? The bottle has a spring-loaded cap on it. I would appreciate your advice.

Kind Regards,


I turned to Steven Pattison at Belfast cider makers Drinksology to get the answer, Francie.

“Alcohol!” he said, then elaborated. “A spirit 40 per cent ABV – vodka would be suitable. In France pears in a bottle are preserved in brandy but it is dark in colour so a clear spirit would be better. Fill the bottle up to the top and close the stopper, making it as airtight as possible. If it’s not opened it should keep for 10 years at least.” Then you can have a grand opening, Francie.


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