The Harvest Project

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The Harvest Project is funded by the Big Lottery through their Reaching out – Connecting Older People fund.

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Background to the project

In the early 20th century, individuals with Down’s syndrome had an average life expectancy of 9 years. Now, people with Down’s syndrome have an average life expectancy of 50-60 years, with some individuals still living past their 70’s.

An older generation, of adults with Down’s syndrome, make up a large proportion of our overall population of people with Down’s syndrome but there are few specific services for those over 40 years.

The Harvest Project was set up by the Down’s Syndrome Association in 2012. Our aims were to:

  • Reduce isolation and loneliness in older adults (40+) with Down’s syndrome and their parents and carers.
  • Encourage older adults with Down’s syndrome to engage with their local communities.

Since the Harvest Project began, we have set up social groups in each county, with weekly and fortnightly groups in:

  • Armagh
  • Belfast
  • Derry/Londonderry
  • Enniskillen
  • Magherafelt
  • Omagh.

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What do the social groups do?

With the help of our dedicated volunteers,our groups do a wide variety of activities on a weekly basis. In the last year, these activities have included:

  • Zumba
  • Yoga
  • Line dancing
  • Quiz nights
  • Arts and crafts
  • Karaoke
  • African drums
  • Cookery nights
  • Monthly outings in their local communities.

Befriending service

As part of the Harvest Project, we run a befriending service.

Older adults with Down’s syndrome are matched with a local befriending volunteer and go out on a variety of activities on a regular basis. As a result of the befriending scheme, 21 older adults with Down’s syndrome across Northern Ireland are being taken out on a regular basis by their befriender and are able to engage with their local community.

Residential holidays

Over the last year, members of the Harvest Project have gone on six residential holidays and numerous big days out. We have been to concerts, gone shopping, on boat trips, had a go at outdoor pursuits, visited the zoo, and the list goes on!

These residential breaks give our members the opportunity to go on an holiday away from their family, which many have not done before, as well as giving their carers much-needed respite.

If you are an adult with Down’s syndrome or know someone who could use this service, please contact the office on 028 90 665 260.