For many people, rural sights, sounds and communities are preferable to an urban lifestyle. Some people love it so much that when they retire they move out into the countryside not entirely aware of what may be ahead of them.
Rural isolation and lack of services are a real problem throughout the UK with post offices, village shops and pubs closing at an alarming rate. These closures tend to hit groups such as the elderly particularly hard and combined with the decline of local transport it is a major issue.
So for the elderly – rural living can prove difficult, whether shopping for food, socialising or getting services such as the GP and can mean social isolation, leading to poor health, loss of independence and lower quality of life.
Becky Bracey, Leeds Community Connect Project Co-ordinator tells us more about her experiences of setting up Swillington and Elmete Elderberries and the difference it has made to older people in the area.
This initiative is part of the Leeds Older People’s Forum (LOPF) Time to Shine project. It aims to reduce loneliness and social isolation among older people living in rural communities in Leeds. Both of these communities on the outskirts of Leeds have higher than average older populations and were lacking in services for older people. We hope that these ‘hubs’ for older people now offer a sustainable solution which will benefit the older population for years to come.
Nearly a year ago, I started setting up the ‘hubs’ for older people in rural communities in Leeds. I had no idea what response I would get to this idea, and knew it would only work if local older people took ownership of the hubs and wanted to do it for themselves.
We were fortunate for two partners (Swillington Parish Council and St. Philips Church in Scholes) to come forward who shared our idea and were able to connect with local people, places and organisations to make things happen.
There are now two thriving hubs for older people running at St. Philips Church in Scholes and the Village Hall in Swillington, offering free drop in sessions for the over 50s on a weekly basis.
Local older people steer each hub and decide what activities to offer, how to promote the sessions and what the budget should be spent on.
I have been amazed by the response we have had from local older people in these two communities. The volunteers bring energy and enthusiasm and are full of ideas for activities we can offer which encourage older people to learn new things, improve their health and wellbeing and, most importantly make new friends.
About Swillington Hub
Activities include regular guest speakers, easy-exercise classes, music performances, computer lessons, local history sessions and art and craft workshops. The group has a variety of board games, including dominoes and jigsaw puzzles, along with carpet bowls and ping pong for the more energetic. There is free tea, coffee and a toasted teacake available throughout the sessions. More recently, the steering group (made up of local older people) organised a trip to Tong Garden Centre, and more outings are planned.
Jacqui Smith, Chair of Swillington Parish Council, said: “Older people in Swillington have demonstrated an amazing appetite and enthusiasm for the new experiences on offer.”
Elmete Elderberries meets at St Philip’s Church in Scholes every Monday between 1pm and 3pm. The steering group held a taster event to ask local older people what they would like to have a go at, the result is a range of opportunities including tracing your family history, card making, gentle exercise, computer skills and a brass group.
From September, plans are in place to deliver an art class and there are also special events and talks – all for free. New participants are always welcome; you can just pop in for a cup of tea, biscuit and a natter. Or read our blog https://raytimetoshine.wordpress.com/
To find out more contact: Becky Bracey, Leeds Community Connect Project Co-ordinator, on firstname.lastname@example.org tel. 07722 127503