Eaglesham and Waterfoot
Eaglesham is a village in East Renfrewshire with a population of just over 3,100 people. Eaglesham was specifically chosen to be part of Rural Wisdom as they represented a different type of rural community. We wanted to include a rural community that was close to major towns and cities to see if this made any difference to the issues that they experienced. As we began getting to know the area local people told us that we should include the village of Waterfoot. There is only a mile between the two villages and are connected by sharing provisions like community council, library, school, and shops. Some of the topics we heard about were common to all Rural Wisdom areas and others were more specific to the more urban location. The villages featured in stage one of the Rural Wisdom project from 2017 to 2019.
How it all began
There was much collaboration in this area with local community group organisers and their members, people of all ages who lived locally, people who worked/owned local businesses, Community Council, representatives from local authority and other third sector organisations. We wanted to work together to understand the scope of what was working across all areas in the community, then identify and address the gaps that presented challenges for those in the area.
Feedback from the community highlighted that the villages were great places to live and people wanted to strengthen the community spirit that is already there. Local people sought more intergenerational activities and more opportunities for all members of the community to connect socially. Older people wanted to be involved and take a more active role in community life while challenging the stigma attached to being thought of as an older person. Furthermore, improving communication across the village and surrounding areas was vital because it helped connect those feeling geographically isolated, particularly in the winter months due to the steep, hilly streets, with activities and events that could help alleviate these feelings of disconnection.
In response to the challenges experienced by sheltered housing tenants in relation to access to facilities, the local school was used as an alternative space that older people could access without transport or support from volunteers. This started weekly activity sessions and developed into a successful ongoing relationship providing intergenerational contact within the community. Strengthening the relationship between the school and sheltered housing resulted in less segregation of community spaces made available to those who need them.
Sporting Memories Pilot & Community Memories Sessions
As part of our work in developing more connections, we partnered with Sporting Memories to run a series of taster sessions accessible to all older people, especially those who were living with dementia. This was the first rural group Sporting Memories had worked with, all other groups were previously in large towns or cities, so this was a positive milestone in encouraging others to ‘think rural’. The success of this pilot sparked an idea with the local history society who ran sessions for older people that were more than just reminiscence. The society had gaps in their records and many of the local older people were able to fill in these gaps in a way that was enjoyable and fulfilling for everyone involved. Reciprocity and shared interests are threads that runs through all our Rural Wisdom activity.
Connecting people with local solutions
Part of the work we did in the area was to connect people with local organisations that offered solutions to the challenges we were hearing about. For example, we explored local fruit and vegetable delivery services as an alternative to a long bus journey to visit the supermarket in the next town, after the village greengrocers closed. We introduced Driving Miss Daisy to local people; an innovative transport and companion service that provided practical support. We worked alongside East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure to connect local people with more opportunities in the arts, leisure, and technology.
What we achieved
In addition to these important initiatives, workshops were delivered that enabled local older people to raise and discuss important issues, and feed into strategies and policy areas such as human rights, social isolation and transport. The project also provided dementia sensory training for all East Renfrewshire sheltered housing wardens.
We used our learning from Rural Wisdom to develop our follow-up project Community Connections which focussed on improving social connections, communication and information. The project ran from 2019 until 2021, working with local people to develop a new community group forum, a community newsletter and installation of two new outdoor noticeboards. You can read more about Community Connections on the Outside the Box website https://otbds.org/projects/community-connections/
Local people were excited to be part of a national project whose impact extended far beyond the village. They have continued to stay involved in the project contributing to our shared learning events, national gatherings and developing friendships right across Scotland and Wales.
If you would like to find our more about our work in Eaglesham and Waterfoot, or other areas, you can read our Rural Wisdom Blog or get in touch with Kate Robertson and Ruth Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org