Placing Older People at the Centre of Rural Communities – A Review

Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund ‘Accelerating Ideas’ fund, Rural Wisdom works with older people in rural areas in both Scotland and Wales.

Partners Outside The Box (Scotland) and Volunteering Matters Cymru (Wales) have been working with rural communities on how to make them work for well for older people.

This means supporting community action led by older people and raising their experiences and contributions to all aspects of life, as well as starting new activities and groups and expanding existing ones.

By linking up rural communities across the country, Rural Wisdom has been able to identify common themes and issues and has been able to feed into policy making in the Welsh Assembly Government, Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament, UK Government and House of Lords, as well as local plans.

Older people having their voices heard

One of the key things that Rural Wisdom heard is many feel that the contribution made by older people is not recognised or appreciated, and that this is closely linked to stigma and to people not being respected.

One older person commented:

“Older people should be recognised as contributors to society, but we are usually portrayed as ‘taking from’ other people.”

 While another said:

“We look after grandchildren, run community groups, help out our neighbours of all ages, look after the environment, do fundraising and volunteering for other charities and so much more. But somehow we are invisible.”  

Rural Wisdom helps to raise the voices of older people and have told people who provide services and make decisions what works for older people living here and in other rural areas in Scotland and Wales.

Just recently, Outside The Box was asked to contribute to the Scottish Government’s Older People’s Framework and was able to draw on everything they’d heard from Rural Wisdom to produce a report covering everything from transport to the arts, planning to volunteering to write this report.

Something else that Rural Wisdom heard across all the communities was about the importance of volunteering – both for individuals and communities. However, there are many challenges with recruiting and keeping older volunteers in rural communities. So Rural Wisdom produced this handy guide: Tips for Getting People Involved.

What Rural Wisdom has achieved so far

  • Over 3,200 people have been involved in some way.
  • We’ve helped new groups get started and existing ones keep going – benefitting thousands of people.
  • We’ve brought in an additional £370,000 for local activities in the first areas, plus a lot of help-in-kind resources from people, groups and businesses.
  • We’ve given older people in rural areas another way to have a voice.
  • We’re working on reducing social isolation, access to care and support, keeping shops and local services, and developing the rural economy.
  • Other organisations are beginning to do more for people in rural areas now they hear how people want the services and see how it can be done.

What’s next for Rural Wisdom

As the first two years come to an end, Rural Wisdom is moving into new areas. In Scotland it had previously been focused on North Angus, Highland Perthshire and Eaglesham. It is now moving into Moray and the Scottish Borders.

Outside The Box is hoping to build on the lessons learned in the first two years and draw in experiences of older people living in the two new communities from the far north and far south of Scotland.

Reflecting on the project so far, evaluation partners, National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) have published a report sharing the findings –  to enable people living and working in rural areas to both apply the learning and benefit from what works.

Download the report here