Scottish Borders is in the South East of Scotland and is made up of small towns and large remote rural areas. Work with Rural Wisdom took place during stage two of the Rural Wisdom project from 2019 to 2021. It built upon the earlier Happiness Habits and Flourishing Borders projects which were ran by Outside the Box, the lead partner for Rural Wisdom in Scotland.
How it all began
We spoke with people across the Borders, working in partnership with local organisations, and using our existing networks and relationships. Our event at MacArts in Galashiels was supported by Borders Care Voice and created the opportunity to have more detailed conversations with local people about how the project could work to improve life for older people across the area.
We decided to take a slightly different approach to Rural Wisdom in the Borders and spent more time working across the whole area, rather than focussing on specific villages from the start. After around eight months spent talking to different individuals and groups within the communities in the Borders, it became evident that the issues experienced across the region were broadly the same.
In several areas we heard that older people wanted to improve relationships with younger people in the community so there was also demand for better access to more intergenerational activities. In many Borders villages isolation from events and services due to poor or non-existent transport links, and a lack of support for volunteers were the two main themes that arose. Over time we began to work closely with Newtown St Boswells, Eildon and Bowden – these villages have been the ongoing focus of our work in the Borders, mirroring our approach elsewhere in Scotland and Wales.
We hosted a series of events across the Borders that brought together local people and groups to discuss the issues and potential solutions. We drew upon our relationships with transport organisations across Scotland and Wales to bring their experience and knowledge to our conversations. Our friends at Pembrokeshire Association of Community Transport Organisations (PACTO) travelled up to share the approaches that are working for them. We developed our transport survey, and in partnership with Borders Buses and Scottish Borders Older Peoples Champion we developed a community film ‘Travel with Confidence’ in response to what we were hearing during covid-19.
Digital access became an increasingly important issue during 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Digital Buddies project supports older people in the Scottish Borders to digitally connect to friends, family, groups, their communities & the wider world. They are supported by a Buddy (friend, family member or another community member) as well as given the technology to get started. The buddies have allowed the project to take a very personalised approach and support older people to do what’s important to them, that’s everything from online shopping to community council meetings, to Netflix.
Seasonal Activities in Newtown St.Boswells, Eildon and Bowden
One of the most effective ways Rural Wisdom had impact across these villages was by supporting a range of seasonal activities that encouraged more effective and more regular social connections. This was at a time of increased isolation across the whole community due to the implications of Covid19.
At Halloween, guising became impossible due to government guidance, so we provided an alternative, of an outdoor pumpkin trail and children’s goody-bags donated by the community. Handmade poppy decorations were hung for Remembrance Sunday and St Andrews Day was celebrated with a virtual Highland Hustle hosted by Rural Wisdom. This replaced the cancelled community ceilidh at a time where people were needing a sense of connection more than ever. The theme of connection continued into the festive season as local people nominated neighbours and community members to receive small gifts donated by the community.
What we achieved
We developed and supported a range of different activities and events aimed at bringing people of all ages together across the various communities that make up the Scottish Borders. As well as this, our work in the area also raised important issues like transport to local authorities, community councils and other supporting organisations who are working to improve access to services. We also trialled a newsletter to be delivered to houses in Newtown and Eildon from early 2021 to improve communication and ensure everyone is aware of the activities and support available to them in these areas.
We have continued to build strong partnerships with groups and individuals such as Borders Older Peoples Forum, Eildon Housing Association, Berwickshire Housing Association, Borders Care Voice and Older Peoples Champion to ensure local support for older people leading the way.
If you would like to find out more about our work in Scottish Borders, or other areas, you can read our Rural Wisdom Blog or get in touch with our Rural Wisdom Community Worker, Christine Ryder at firstname.lastname@example.org