Over our first six months working in North Angus, we have been out and about chatting to as many local residents as possible, along with community group co-ordinators and volunteers to gather a sense of the issues that older people feel are important to them, what support will help them live independently to continue to enjoy their neighbourhoods and support networks.

We’ve used a creative approach to engage with people called “The Potting Shed”. This encouraged local people to “imagine your community is a garden” and asking specific questions using the following framework, using pictures and sticky notes to gather the responses;

Blooming – what is working well?
Nurturing – what exists but needs a bit of support or development?
Sown – what do we need to add/make happen?
Challenges – what do we need to watch out for?

This method proved popular with many enthusiastic about the approach and willing to offer their views, below we’ve collated the key things that we heard:

• Older people in rural areas are proud of where they live. They want to be part of making this a great place for them and for other people in that community, both now and for the future.

• People are weary of formal consultations, especially when they don’t hear what the outcome was and nothing seems to happen as a result. But they are happy to have tea and a blether when they can talk about what is good about their area, what works well, what could be better and how they can contribute to making it happen.

• Communication of what’s available and where is more prevalent in Brechin. People don’t know where to go to access this.

• Enthusiasm and commitment from local volunteers coupled with fatigue on continuing their activities until they cannot do it anymore.

• Access to local halls and other spaces for community groups to meet and run activities is becoming an increasing problem in some places. The charges for publicly-owned halls are going up and many groups cannot afford that. The result is no or fewer community-led activities, which leaves older people and others more socially isolated. We are working alongside local people to find ways to solve this – finding more income for community groups and looking for ways to talk to the organisations that manage halls about their charging polices.

• A priority for many older people in rural areas is being part of creating more activities that bring together the whole community, where people get to know each other and enjoy doing something together.

• There are some great new approaches getting going in rural areas for people who need care and support. There are also people who are struggling to get support when traditional ways of organising services are not working in rural areas. This includes people not being able to get the information and advice they need to even get started talking about the support they need.

We’re working alongside people to follow up on these thoughts and more, keep up with what’s happening in North Angus on the North Angus page of this website.

You can also find out more about what’s going on in this area by contacting our local development worker, Shona: shona@otbds.org07855 210113