A service providing support for people aged 65 and over who may be lonely, isolated or need extra help has been launched.
Shared Lives NI day scheme offers older people a safe, welcoming, family environment supported by carefully-chosen host carers.
The support provided - based on the shared interests of the Shared Lives carer and older person - can include, but is not limited to, going for walks, having meals at the Host Carer's home, eating out together, and/or other social activities within the community.
Brendan Whittle, Director of Community Care, Department of Health said: "Imagine if, instead of relying on limited outside care services for help, an older person could be supported by a caring family, couple or individual living locally. This is Shared Lives.
"The scheme matches a person in need of support with a Shared Lives Carer who understands their needs and has similar interests and hobbies.
"This is an exciting opportunity to provide early intervention and support to older people, in order to ensure they stay as independent for as long as possible and remain well connected to their communities, which in turn will help to take the pressure off our health and social care system," Mr Whittle added.
"This type of care is about taking support back to family homes and ordinary, everyday activities. It is based around Shared Lives Carers sharing their home, family and community life with an older person who needs support. It encourages new friendships between the older person and their Shared Lives carer and it will give families and carers a much-needed break."
The regional service is funded by the Department of Health and will be delivered by Age NI.
Linda Robinson, Age NI Chief Executive, said: "Age NI is passionate about improving the lives of older people. We know that the ability to remain as independent as possible, to stay well, and to keep connected to others, really matters to older people.
"As a model of care, Shared Lives offers older people more choice in how support is provided. It provides real opportunities to develop friendships and community connections, reducing loneliness and isolation.
"We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Department of Health and local Health and Social Care Trusts to deliver this new, regional Shared Lives service for older people."
Anyone over the age of 21 years can become a host carer. All you need is the right attitude and a willingness to share your life with another person.