Fellow Since 2009
Third Age Foundation, Failte Isteach
This profile was prepared when Mary Nally was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Mary is tapping into an underutilized demographic bounty by creating active contributors among the aging. She is combating loneliness and isolation by bridging gaps between generations and disparate populations, and engaging older people in programs to help other people in need. Her approach is three-pronged: activities at the local level; national support services by phone, and links to the broader world through matching programs with new immigrants. These activities are a basis for knowledge gathering that is channeled into a more articulate and insistent voice for older people in national policy-making. Mary equips older people to be service providers in social initiatives, including a national helpline for lonely and depressed older people that systematically gathers information on the population. She has established complementary programs that bridge two growing demographic groups, employing senior citizens to teach conversational English to new immigrants, another frequently isolated group. She is channeling the learning and experience gathered from these elements into plans for national and international expansion of her work. She is building structures that keep older people engaged in their communities and place them as advocates for other isolated people, tapping an underutilized population group to build communities of healthier older people who are a willing and able part of society, and serving as an unusually effective advocate for the concerns and needs.