In this issue, we celebrate some of the initiatives, projects, events and ideas set up with older people in rural communities.

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In October, community members and workers from Scotland and Wales came together to discuss Rural Wisdom. It was a chance to take stock and reflect on all the successes the project has had so far – to celebrate the difference it has made – both at a community level, and at a policy level. And to look forward, with great excitement, at what comes next.

Because while Rural Wisdom is: a singing club in Brechin; an intergenerational lunch club in a school in Leeswood; a ‘What’s On’ community newsletter in Milford Haven; a dementia-friendly training workshop in Aberfeldy, it is also so much more. It’s both the sum of its part.. and then some.

Rural Wisdom has contributed to numerous government consultations on a whole host of issues and influenced policy developments in Scotland and Wales. It is is a way for older people to get their voice heard and make sure their contributions count.

More than anything, Rural Wisdom is an approach. An approach which includes: using local areas to create a wider view point; really listening to people in rural areas; linking in to policy; sharing examples; being inclusive, reaching out; and not dwelling on problems, but being solutions-focussed. It’s a positive space, always looking forward, and asking: ‘what can we do to help fix it?’

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 five communities across Scotland and Wales in 2017, and in 2019 expanded into four new communities, now stretching all the way from the Dale Peninsula in south-west Wales to the Moray Firth in the north of Scotland.

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.

An intergenerational lunch club… in a school!

An intergenerational lunch club, has been set up in the village primary school, with an aim to reduce loneliness and isolation.

The Lunch Club takes place on the first Wednesday of the Month in Ysgol Derwnefa. We promote the lunch in the Leeswood News, Coop, surgery, community groups and Sunshine Cafe.

It currently costs £4.50 for two courses, including tea and coffee. This cost covers the food and an assistant for the school cook. It is much more than lunch in a school hall; the children are very much involved, they prepare the hall, greet guests, wait on tables and chat with the guests.

Community members have described the event as wonderful, and something to look forward to. They rightly give credit to the children for making it so special.


Transport Events in the Scottish Borders

Transport is an issue for many people living in the Scottish Borders. We are working with communities to find out the issues and look for possible solutions.

“Unless you have a car or can get a lift from someone you can’t go to the meetings in the other village as there is no bus service.”

Whenever I speak to groups or individuals about what would make help make the community work better, transport is always at the top if the list. So we held two events on this topic. The first was showing what solutions other areas have come up with and the second was more specific about the transport issues people are facing in the Duns area. Several themes came out around: pavements & bus stops; getting to/from hospital appointments; timetabling & connections; lack of direct services to places people want/need to go. Currently we are pulling all this together and working out our next steps.

Talking about Transport in Angus 

People in Angus told us about many problems around transport – both public transport and community options. Over the past year, a group of local people has continued to look at ways to keep the issue alive. We supported them to get to the Scottish Rural Transport conference, where they found out what is happening in other places.

We then applied for Awards for All funding to support a feasibility project, to begin next steps and find more partners and allies. In December we heard that we have been successful and look forward to developments in 2020.

Promoting Community Transport in Highland Perthshire

We have continued to support local people and groups to improve transport opportunities in the area.

Rural Wisdom did lots of work with local people on transport issues over the first two years. In 2019 we have continued:

  • Supported the new community transport project based on Timebanking
  • Invited people from Pembrokeshire Association of Community Transport Organisations (PACTO) in Wales, to share what they are doing in with groups in Scotland.
  • Helped disseminate ‘Having Fun on the Number 91’ – the result of people’s ideas on ways to keep a local bus service busy and encourage people to benefit from it.

Improving access to social care

Rural Wisdom is working with other groups to keep raising awareness about social care and helping older people get the support they need.

Support Choices is a major new project, giving free independent information to people in rural parts of Perthshire on how to get access to social care. It came out of Rural Wisdom – we heard about the need and made the case for funding to get the new service underway. We are still working with our sister project and together we ran events to show people what is available.

People and families got information on community support near to them and 1:1 advice from the Social Work team and many other services – we had lots of good feedback on the advice as well as on the soup for the free lunch and cakes.

These events also bring together services and community groups who do valuable networking and come up with ideas for new ways to benefit people in the area.

‘What’s On’ event listings in Milford Haven

When Rural Wisdom first got together with the people of Milford, a major theme that emerged from our conversations was communication. It seemed that there were lots of folk in the town missing out on information about things to do, places to go and people to meet. So we started a monthly events listing newsletter, detailing all the low-cost or no-cost activities available in the town, which sustain the community members throughout the year.

This has now been taken over by Youth Matters, providing a suite of opportunities for young people in its monthly production. An email newsgroup exists to raise awareness and introduce people to What’s On, which they can receive electronically, as well as in hard copy at local outlets.

Many people have asked if something similar can be made available in the other county towns, as it has made a difference to local people who may not be online, may not take a paper, visit the leisure centre or library.


Raising awareness about fuel costs

We heard that fuel costs are a concern for many older people in the area. We made connections with people working on related uses including energy efficiency and help with fuel costs. We are spreading information on what is available and are also planning future work to make this part of Moray more fuel-efficient.

Rural Wisdom is working with communities on the Moray coast – Burghead, Hopeman, Cummingston and Duffus. A lot of the housing is not energy efficient and this area has no gas supply, so people rely more on electricity for heating and the costs can be high. We are working with Burghead and Cummingston Community Council to see how big the problem is through surveys, events and talking to people.

We have already been able to help one older person get in touch with the correct department in Moray Council,as she was very cold and struggling with fuel bills.

Looking ahead, we are talking to other groups in the area about more ambitious ways to solve the issue, especially as we also need to look into renewable rather than carbon-based fuels. The feedback is that having a discussion about the climate change aspects of reducing fuel costs is a good way to open up conversations and make it ok for people to say they find this hard.

Using alternative energy to solve fuel poverty

A subcommittee has been looking into the possibility of setting up community solar energy with Teslar batteries to heat local housing and store extra energy. There are schemes available to gain batteries from energy suppliers and then pay for them by giving them the extra power gained. We are in discussion with local solar panel installers AES.

Intergenerational Crafts Afternoon – Pembrokeshire

Marloes people told Rural Wisdom that they would enjoy a fun craft session at their village hall and this was held on a Saturday in November. Twenty-three people came of all ages we spent a happy afternoon making Christmas cards and decorations, as well as painting masks.

Having done it once, the community are keen to do it again. Three local people helped to set things up and can be counted on for the next occasion. They will spread the word about how enjoyable the first session was, and it will also be advertised in the local newsletter. There is no bus going through the peninsula villages to take people to the towns on Saturdays so an activity in which everyone could be involved without travelling was really welcome.

Dog Friendly Newton

A community group is being led by a group of young people in the village who want to make the village streets cleaner by providing dog poo bag stations around the village and encouraging member’s of the community to pledge to keeping the streets clear of dog mess.

The group has only come together in the last few weeks, a committee has been formed and roles assigned. The communication team are currently designing posters for the launch at the end of January. The idea is that the group will meet once a month, where as well as monitoring the progress the group has made they will also spend some time doing a dog-related activity like making homemade dog treats, looking after your dog etc.

Free Tablet Course

A free course delivered by Coleg Cambria, this introduces people to using a tablet computer, starting with the very basics; switching on and off and charging. As the weeks progress, the class moves on to online shopping and taking a selfie. Although Rural Wisdom does not teach the course, we have facilitated by bringing the Coleg to the community, finding a venue and encouraging community members to attend.

Everyone who has attended says it has given the confidence and skills needed to use a tablet. One lady is now able to Skype, her grandchildren in Australia.

Garden Buddies

Garden Buddies is a multigenerational growing project, with a strong social element. It began as an off-shoot of our peer support dementia program Food Buddies. Over time other groups and partners were asking how they could get involved in the activities. We worked with them in different ways to adapt and evolve the project to suit them.

It started with Peebles Community Action Network, a community growing project with lots of space and, at the time, not much funding to pay workers. It is in the grounds of a facility for people living with dementia and those with learning disabilities. We spoke to all the users of the building and began to work in the garden with some of the people living with dementia and the staff. Sometimes the people with learning disabilities joined in too.

We made connections with Community Learning and Development(CLD) who were working with local school pupils – soon the pupils were joining in too, providing extra muscle power and banter with the older folk. The CLD team and OTs in the area are no looking at ways to roll garden buddies out to other day centres while we are currently writing two tips booklets to help others to do the same.

Pop Up Cinema

Two retired gentleman John & Ken, have a passion for films and bringing communities together. They travel to community groups at their own expense to show movies. To bring this service to Holywell, community members Larrie and Edna painted the back wall in the Community Centre white, so the films could be projected to look like a big screen. We ask for a donation of £2 and provide refreshments, including popcorn and ice cream. Any profit is given to the Friends of Holway group and ring-fenced for activities and events for older people.

Coffee Mornings in Flintshire

To engage with the community, we have held two coffee mornings to hear people’s thoughts and wishes. As a result, we have gained two community champions who are now actively making changes with the support of Rural Wisdom.

It has also led to informal volunteering, with a community member having their kitchen painted and another has handmade a bird feeder. It only needs a couple of people to begin making real changes

More Community Connections in North Angus

We started a spin-off project, to take on issues people raised about the difficulties in finding out about local activities, which left people socially isolated.

The new project is Community Connections. It is a partnership with Eaglesham and Waterfoot, where people had similar experiences with difficulties in finding out what is available in their area. People can find out more from the blogs and updates, Facebook. Derek, our new worker in Brechin and Edzell, is meeting lots of groups and has started an easy way for them to share information on what they do.

Partnership Work to Deliver Winter Activities in Rural Areas

Rural Wisdom is working with Pembrokeshire’s Community Connector team to deliver winter activities for the village of Dale, where the population in the winter months falls significantly – second home ownership is a factor. Rural Wisdom, the Connectors and local community members have planned these weekly sessions and promoted them in a number of ways to residents. Sessions kicked off with a community lunch in October 2019 and information has followed on health, fitness, well-being, craft, recycling and digital bus-pass applications, all fuelled by tea and cake.

Since the start, we have been thinking about how to get more local people involved and have encouraged them to help. We now have one local lady who comes every week to help make and serve the tea and snacks – she lives slightly outside the main village and is enjoying the opportunity both to help and socialise. Another lady has said she will help when she can. Other local community members have been present to assist with the setting up of presentations, wash up and sort out arrangements with access. Although the number are relatively small, this is encouraging for a small village.