Rural Wisdom: How older people in rural communities are responding to the pandemic

Rural Wisdom is a joint project between Outside the Box, Volunteering Matters Cymru and the National Development Team for inclusion. It is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund. It began in 2017 now operates in nine different communities across Scotland and Wales.

We work with older people in rural communities to support community action led by older people that leaders to older people having a voice and areas working well for all the residents – young and old.

In this round-up from across the communities we work in, we celebrate some of the initiatives and projects set up with older people in rural communities during Covid-19. We also take a look at the important roles older people have been taking on in response to the pandemic, as volunteers and in their communities.

 

‘We don’t want to just take!’ 

by Christine, Scottish Borders

Some of the older people currently being shielded in rural villages in the Borders are adamant that they do not want to just take, but also give to their communities during this time. They may not be able to go shopping for people in their communities but they still have a vital role to play with many have taking on the role to ‘chat’.  They are keeping in regular contact with other people in their village through regular catch up telephone calls. 

People got in touch with the local groups asking how they could help from their own home.  The benefits are felt on both sides with the people receiving the call enjoying the company and chatting to people and the people making the call not only feeling as though they are contributing to their community but they are also enjoying the company and the social aspect of calling people for a chat. 

Volunteering Support in Wales

by Rachel Evans, Pembrokeshire, Wales

With the arrival of the pandemic, the Rural Wisdom project has joined forces with all the Volunteering Matters projects to deliver a structured volunteering response. At the same time we’ve been working with our Rural Wisdom communities to keep them connected with local developments and help them with their own support initiatives.

Many of our contacts have to self-isolate or shield due to age or underlying health conditions but this does not mean they cannot be active in the community! Some of our new formal volunteering roles involve being out and about but telephone befriending is a key role. We are keen to offer this activity to local people over-50 so they can help to reduce the cabin-fever and loneliness those in isolation are experiencing. We hope the volunteers will also benefit from being able to use their strengths to support others.

The phone is indispensable and for those who do not currently have a digital life, we want to welcome them to formal volunteering. We want to welcome people who do not currently have a digital life to organised volunteering. The phone is indispensable for this! However, the over-50s we know are making great use of WhatsApp, FaceTime and Zoom, showing that many older people have taken to using video technology.

Keeping local people connected

Shereen Devine, Flintshire, Wales

I share the daily bulletin with the community by email, along with other information people have been finding helpful. Instead of meeting face-to-face, we have been using telephone, email and Zoom to keep in touch with community volunteers and beneficiaries. We are also looking into ways to get free tablets with 4G and useful apps, and using our local connections to identify who needs a device. 

Some of the café volunteers who belong to the chapel have applied for voluntary roles with Volunteering Matters, in order to support their community in a more official capacity. They are happy to be working with an organisation that they have a relationship with. 

Links Lockdown

By Christine, Scottish Borders

We are supporting the LINKS Eyemouth group to move virtual!  They are providing members of the group with recipe bags full of healthy ingredients and the recipes so families and members of all generations can cook together virtually and share a meal and experience.  

They are just in the process of putting together the first recipe bag so it’s too early to say how it went or the difference it has made. But they have received a lot of interest and requests for bags!

Screenshot of a LINK online cooking session, showing an adult and a child preparing food

Community Connections – Eaglesham and Waterfoot

By Liz Highet, Eaglesham and Waterfoot

Building community on Facebook


Local Facebook pages are making a massive difference in helping connect people to each other in Eaglesham and Waterfoot, but also to third sector, local council, local businesses, Government and other useful sites.  The Village People – a great name-is one of the most widely viewed pages.  Other really helpful pages include the Community Council, the Church, the Bowling Club and so on.  The village organised themselves really swiftly in response to the current pandemic by setting up “Eaglesham and Waterfoot Self-Isolation Helping Hands” Facebook page to encourage local people to volunteer to help people shielding and self-isolating obtain essentials. 

Local newsletter

Community Connections are working to contribute to the fantastic kindness and commitment to the safety, health and well-being of their fellow villagers by taking some of these good news stories and committing them to an online newsletter.  People will be asked, if they have the capacity and resources to be able to, to print the newsletter out into paper format and post through the door of anyone they know who isn’t online to ensure they also have access to what’s happening in their area.

Support Choices 

Nicky Bolland, Highland Perthshire, Scotland

Developing peer support has always been part of our Support Choices plan, but identifying the best way to take it forward has been tricky, as our community members are spread across a wide area. However we thought now was the time to try out online peer support, given that much of what we do is now taking place online and people will need opportunities to come together, connect and share solutions around accessing care and support locally now more than ever.   

We’re using zoom for our sessions with 2 taking place last week and more to come in May.  It was great to facilitate a safe space for participants to share their frustrations and concerns, as well as their achievements around getting the right care in place.  If you’re in Perth & Kinross and are interested in participating get in touch with us at supportchoices@otbds.org to find out more. Our website is www.supportchoices.co.uk.

Ongoing 1-1 support delivered in new ways at Support Choices  

The impact of covid-19 will be particularly felt by those who access care and support, especially with changes to the way care needs are being assessed and responded to by the local authority/care-providers at this time.  On this basis Support Choices has a vital role to play in providing information and advice right now.  Like everyone else Support Choices has had to adapt our work to the new landscape which means delivering support differently and getting the word out in new ways.  

Support Choices is continuing to deliver 1-1 support to people over the phone and online.  If you’re based in Rural Perthshire and would like to chat about your care and support get in touch at supportchoices@otbds.org or on 01350 729 130.  If you’d like help to connect with a similar project in your area get in touch and we can help.   

We are actively using our social media and online community noticeboards to share what we can do to support people as well as publicising updates & news of other support.  We also know that it’s important to reach those who aren’t online, so we’ve been putting sharing information via local print publications and our local radio station.  We’ve also been proactive in connecting with local covid19 support groups emerging across the region to ensure they know about our project and can spread the word to those they are supporting.

Huntly Community Bus

Fi Thomson, Huntly/Moray, Scotland

The Huntly Community Bus had been quite quiet during the pandemic, as it was unable to provide transport for its usual groups of shoppers. Then word got round, and people have started using the bus for deliveries and to keep community members safe and supported.

There was a man in Lumsden using the bus to travel to Huntly to do a community shop for him and other neighbours. A lady from Rhynie has done the same, and they have both booked the bus again for next week. We’ve done a few pickups in Huntly, all healthy elderly folk, going to the supermarket. The bus only takes 1 person (or 2 if they live together) at a time, to comply with social distancing. Currently the bus is away to Alford dropping something off at someone’s doorstep. 

Norman our driver has been great, he thoroughly cleans the bus after each use and wouldn’t refuse anyone a lift any time of day or night. They are only taking donations for these trips but it is really helping the outlying communities keep themselves going. They are hoping as the story spreads so will the use of the bus! 

As with many community buses, it has been difficult to keep going at points, as the organising work is time-consuming. It’s also been hard in the past to make sure everyone in the community knows about the bus and how to use it. The bus is now supported by HDDT, so managing bookings is easier.

People weren’t using the bus during the Covid-19 lockdown until it became a way for smaller local communities to use it to get the messages for those who couldn’t travel. It’s another great example of older people supporting their communities.  

Stepping Up to Offer Practical Support

Derek Harper, North Angus, Community Connections

As the coronavirus pandemic continues we’re all thinking about how to stay connected and support the people in our communities who are most vulnerable at the moment. Local businesses and community groups have been going above and beyond to support people in need.

The Edzell Village Improvement Society has become even more of a hub of information and ideas in the community. On the Village Improvement Society’s Facebook page they have been sharing official advice and giving locals ways to get in touch to ask for support. 

There’s also a Brechin/Ezdell Corona support group where folk are offering help to those who need it, and the Brechin Community Pantry is ramping up its efforts. 

Local shops in Brechin and Edzell have been offering a delivery service at no charge, so people more at risk don’t need to go outside to get their groceries. A local barber is offering to travel to people’s homes to give haircuts, and over 50 litres of fresh soup have been cooked to distribute to those who need it. 

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