Future Roots began thinking about a project for older people over two years’ ago. It came from the realisation that older people, particularly men, who had lived all their lives in the countryside would not want to be cooped up inside just because they are taken ill. Taking away the sky from above someone’s head can really make life a tough slog and we knew something needed to be done. It has taken a long time to turn that ‘something’ into a reality and we continue to tinker with the delivery model as we go along.
We knew that reaching out to people who are used to being fiercely independent was going to be a challenge. These are folks that others call ‘hard to reach’, although that just means that nobody is offering them what they really want. But we also knew that independence can turn into involuntary loneliness, which recent research reported in the Guardian suggests is worse for you that obesity.
In Dorset, we’re lucky to have networks like the Partnership for Older People Programme (POPP) that have been set up to address some of the challenges of ageing in a rural county. There are also great organisations like the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) that help farmers. We’ve been working hard to link our new care farming service into these and are starting to receive referrals regularly now. But it has become clear that there remains a significant group of older farmers who we will never reach if we only work through other professional agencies.
Off to the show
The solution is to go where farmers go and to recruit other countrymen to broker our service with those who have become very isolated. So we’re going to start contacting farm auctioneers and to try to book a stall at some of the many agricultural shows that take place in this part of the world. There’s the obvious ones like the big Bath & West Show and the Shaftesbury & Gillingham Show, but also the not so well-known like the one held by the Three Okefords Preservation Society near Shillingstone. We hope that auctioneers like Symons and Sampson will support our efforts, as we know that a farm sale is one of the few occasions when old friends meet up.
Volunteering is a big part of the Big Lottery Fund’s Silver Dream Fund and this was the other area that we are hoping to reach out through. Our idea was to work with ‘parish agents’: older people who are well known in their local area who were able to talk to those who were isolated. One or two of the countrymen who already come to the Club are taking on more voluntary activities and we hope that as winter recedes they will start to point us in new directions.