A 90-year-old man who spends most of his days alone has thanked a community group for making the Covid-19 crisis easier to get through.

John Lee from Navan said his life has changed since contacting AgeWell, a programme which supports older people living in Co Meath.

The pensioner sought help from the care co-ordination programme in 2018 after the death of his wife and then his sister.

"After my wife passed away, my sister then died, I had no one really. I had to get help. Because I felt my life was pointless at this stage. I felt there was nobody there and when you get to that point you have to talk to someone," he explained.

Mr Lee is one of over 250 people who have made contact with AgeWell project, which is a model of integrated care, supporting older people to remain safer and healthier in their homes.

It was first set up in March 2018 by Third Age, an organisation for older people in Co Meath. It is supported by the Sláintecare Integration Fund.

"Look for help. Get out and exercise, try and not think about your situation. It's a fight and you have to be able to overcome it. Don't be moping, get out and try and meet people"

The programme sees AgeWell Companions visit or call older people. The manager of AgeWell, Avril Hevey, said clients can be lonely for many reasons.

"Some are isolated in very rural areas. Some are in more populated areas, but may have moved there relatively recently, or frailty may keep them housebound and not in touch with neighbours. Many clients are bereaved after long and loving marriages, and they can be very lonely," she said.

Latest results by the care co-ordination programme show a 75% reduction in loneliness after 18 months of participation.

Of the 25% deemed to be at risk in March 2018, today they are no longer regarded as such.

Mr Lee said this service has been even more important during the Covid crisis.

"I have received more help in recent months. They were always on the phone. They would ring me every day. And I kept up my exercise. I was out the back and I was walking up and down the garden for at least an hour to help my mind," he said.

He is urging anyone out there who feels down to seek help.

"Look for help. Get out and exercise, try and not think about your situation. It's a fight and you have to be able to overcome it. Don’t be moping, get out and try and meet people," he said.

"I felt like there was nothing there for me. I might look like I’m top of the world - but up there, I’m not. It’s a fight from the word go but I’m improving every day," he added.

He praised AgeWell and the companions for all they has done, particularly during the Covid-19 crisis.

"Without them during Covid, I had no one. When I couldn’t go anywhere, my life was taken away really. It is thanks to AgeWell that I’m still here with a smile on my face," he said.