VOLUNTEERS who help older people stay independent are today celebrating a near £450,000 Lottery bonanza to expand a project which had been struggling on a shoestring.

The Big Lottery Fund has awarded £444,143 to the Kirkgate Centre in Shipley to continue and develop its Older and Bolder scheme which targets people in their 70s, 80s and 90s living alone or with multiple and complex conditions.

"We're really, really delighted," said development manager Paul Barrett.

The centre runs four different groups for older people, such as film sessions, but now plans to extend that to eight.

Older and Bolder also involves outreach workers visiting particularly isolated people in their homes - targetting those with poor mobility or sight, early dementia and deteriorating health - referred by GPs or other organisations.

"It helps older people remain independent so they're not ending up in care homes, if that's not what they want." said Mr Barrett.

"A big problem is loneliness and isolation, so the aim is to help older people stay in their homes and to encourage people into our centre to take part in activities, which they have said they want to happen.

"We've piloted that over the last 18 months or so just to make sure it worked before asking for any money.

"We very much wanted it to be the sort of things they wanted to do - rather than 'come along because you're old', we wanted it to be 'come along because it's what you want to do.'"

But despite its success, Older and Bolder has had to survive with no budget in recent months.

Mr Barrett said: "We've been running them (the sessions) with no funding at all so they have been struggling a bit and this puts them on a firm footing.

"It's a credit to all the volunteers that they have kept it going for so long without any financial support. We had been planning for cuts and things like that and it's great news that actually we've got some real investment."

The five year grant will benefit about 260 elderly people and 93 volunteers, who will all help decided how it develops.

The project is one of five receiving a share of £1.1 million from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme which aims to help people and communities most in need.

Big Lottery Fund deputy director, England, Tim Davies-Pugh, said: "Today’s Reaching Communities grants are a great example of how projects across the region are helping people and communities most in need."