Activities are tailored to the preferences of the group & needs, which can be very broad ranging and include working with animals and spending time touring the farm and discussing changes, through to picking fruit or vegetables and then cooking a meal to be shared. Other activities include art therapy, traditional songs and poems, general woodwork or small building projects. Building projects are driven by the needs of each site so usually relate to agriculture or horticulture. Workshops are available on both sites. Many sessions include an element of reminiscence through involvement in current issues.
As the session content is led by the Countrymen it is a varied programme but it always involves time outside in the fresh air – come rain or shine! The project is open to all, but is designed to address rural isolation and meet the needs of those with lifelong conditions who find it difficult to socialise & access the countryside or work activity.
Our work with older people has developed out of a pilot project that tackled the specific challenges faced by older men from rural communities. It aimed to help older men in Dorset become more resilient to the life-changes they experience as a result of rural isolation and ageing & was funded by the Lottery.
Bert, an ex-fisherman, was suffering from depression and isolation. His reluctance to go to a club was overcome as he realised that there was good banter between the men and he could spend time using his skills making or fixing things. When Bert joined he was very low and a risk to himself; he was using a lot of NHS services. That was two years ago and Bert is a transformed man – he has purpose and energy. He is involved in our Country Club at our Whitfield site where he helps with the planning and delivery of sessions and makes lots of bird boxes to raise funds for the club. He also mentors two of the members who have dementia.
The Countrymen’s Club is funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s (BIG) Silver Dreams Programme, in association with the Daily Mail. BIG is a non-departmental public body responsible for distributing funds raised by the National Lottery. The Silver Dreams Fund is the first of BIG’s dedicated investments in older people in England. BIG has commissioned Ecorys, an independent research company, to evaluate the Silver Dreams programme.
The Countrymen’s Club received seed money of £1,650 from the Dorset Partnership for Older People Programme (POPP) / Dementia Innovation Fund in early 2012 to begin piloting the project. A further £500 was received through Dorset Community Foundation’s Keep Warm, Keep Well, Keep Safe Social Inclusion Fund.
picture credits on this page: Gavin Parsons