How long can you haul yer wheesht? (stop talking!) – May McFettridge to stay silent for charity

Calling all chatterboxes, gossipers and nonsense-talkers!  The challenge is on to stop talking and raise some money by zipping it!

They say silence is golden, and in today’s busy, multi-tasking, always-on world, many of us would give anything for a moment’s peace and quiet.

But for older people living alone, silence and loneliness, sadly, go hand in hand every day. During the COVID pandemic lockdown, this has been one of the hardest things to cope with.

Throughout October, Age NI is inviting supporters to choose any day in the month to take part in The Big Wheesht to bring attention to the prolonged silence experienced by some of the 80,000 older people in Northern Ireland who live on their own.

One of Belfast’s best-known gabblers, May McFettridge, has backed the campaign.  May said, “Yousuns might think I have the gift of the gab, and it’s true, I’ve been told to shut my bake more times than I care to remember, but if you don’t have anyone to listen to you, it’s not much craic talking to yourself, is it? I’ll be doing my bit to to raise a few quid for Age NI in October and I hope lots of you will give it a go too – it’s a lot harder than you’d think!”

Nadine Campbell, Head Of Fundraising at Age NI is inviting individuals and companies to get involved. She said, “On any day in October, you can take the challenge, find out what it’s like not to speak to anyone even for just a few hours and, with the help of family, friends or work colleagues, raise a sponsorship target to eventually allow you to speak again.

“During the first lockdown, we launched a new Check in and Chat service. In the last few months, with the help of 170 new volunteers, we have delivered support and calls to over 2,500 older people, many of whom weren’t seeing or speaking to anyone else from one day to the next. The response was overwhelming and the feedback was really emotional – it became obvious that, for some, these calls were the only human contact they had all week.

“Older people are prepared to do what it takes to keep themselves safe from the coronavirus, but losing your normal social interactions can be exceedingly tough for a person’s mental health and wellbeing.  As we head towards the winter, with less hours of daylight and harsher weather,  the Age NI team is getting geared up to support more older people.  The funds raised from the Big Wheesht will help us to provide this lifeline of a weekly chat to more older people, who are facing the prospect of an anxious and lonely winter lockdown.”

Bronagh Luke, Head of Corporate Marketing at the Henderson Group, owners of the VIVO brand in Northern Ireland which partners with Age NI to raise funds throughout the year, is also participating in The Big Wheesht. She said, “This is a fantastic initiative from Age NI, and as someone who spends their days chatting to colleagues, friends and family, I realise how lucky I am to have those small conversations throughout the day to keep me connected. We have 100 stores fundraising for Age NI to enable services like Check in and Chat to continue, as this has been a life line for so many when lockdown caused even further isolation.

“Our ViVO stores are in the heart of communities across Northern Ireland, and sometimes popping to the shops is the only interaction older people get in their day, so I’d encourage as many people as possible to sign up for this challenge and do their bit to help Age NI connect with even more older people in our local communities.”

To sign up for the challenge, or alternatively, if you wish to temporarily silence a particularly chatty family member or work colleague for a good cause, visit: or call 02890 245729 or email

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