We’re delighted to announce that Future Roots has been awarded £290,814 from the Big Lottery Fund to expand our work with older people and adults!
Over the last three years we have been developing our care farming approach to older people’s day services. Care farming, or the therapeutic use of agricultural landscapes and farming practices, has been growing rapidly across the UK in recent years, but older people rarely seem to benefit from the new services.
And yet farms are located in rural areas, which tend to have much more elderly populations than towns and cities.
Back in 2012 we turned to examples from the Netherlands and Norway to show us that it was possible for farms to provide an important service to those with dementia and other conditions. With this knowledge in hand, we made the decision to establish a service for older men from farming backgrounds in particular. We knew from our own experience that older men were often very reluctant to take part in other activities and were at risk of becoming very isolated and lonely in rural areas. They needed something different.
That something different was The Countrymen’s Club.
The Countrymen’s Club has grown steadily over the years: first at our own farm near Sherborne and more recently at our second farm near Dorchester. And it provides a very different service to a traditional day centre.
To begin with we spend as much time outside in the Dorset countryside as possible, because there’s nothing like the feeling of the sun on your skin and the breeze on your face. Then it’s all about caring for the farm animals, growing plants, and making rural crafts. Men of all abilities are welcomed, supported by staff, and begin to help each other whenever they can.
With funding from the Big Lottery Fund we will now be able to offer additional sessions at both sites and begin to work with men under 50 who have limiting long term illnesses. We’ll also continue to work with Bournemouth University to evaluate the project and share our learning with others, as we believe that care farms across the country can provide valuable support to older people in rural areas.
Julie Plumley, director of Future Roots and a registered social worker, said:
Our work with older men really started when my Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He’d been a farmer all his life and he really didn’t like sitting indoors all day. What he told us was that he wanted to be outside in the farmyard.
After that we began meeting many older men, particularly retired farmers, who wanted something that didn’t seem to be available.
The Countrymen’s Club was our solution. It’s a supportive countryside environment where men of all abilities can meet likeminded people and get involved in things that they enjoy. That might be caring for the animals, growing plants, and making rural crafts.
Commenting on the award Michael Bevan, Dorset County Councillor and Champion for Mental Health Services, said:
“Projects like these are invaluable in rural areas where the most vulnerable in the community feel isolated. This initiative is worthy of all the support it can get to make the lives of many people suffering from limiting longer term illnesses that much happier. It offers opportunities and comfort for those who need it the most.”
Lottery funding will officially begin in October, but places are available in the meantime. Anyone interested in attending the project, as well as potential partners, are encouraged to contact us.