You might be aware that Age UK Bedfordshire hosted a Listening Event ‘Later Life in Rural England’ on the 5th December 2013.
The event was arranged for older people, Councillors and MPs to discuss the challenges faced, by our local residents, of living in a rural community.
In conjunction with Age UK national, this campaign is designed to define problems faced by older people and bring them to the attention of the public and people responsible for the areas they live in. This article contains the wide and varied feedback from the focus groups on the day and we are sure you will find it interesting and thought provoking.
• Many older people are reliant on public transport as they do not or no longer drive. The public transport system is poor in rural areas or on routes to hospitals in neighbouring counties (Milton Keynes, Lister).
• In general the bus companies seem to be reducing services.
• Bus drivers don’t appear to have any courtesy or empathy for older people endeavouring to get on/off buses, moving off before they are seated. On some occasions buses are early and then do not wait at the stops until the allotted times.
• Hospital transport is a problem especially for older carers or families endeavouring to visit loved ones. Some conditions now are not treated locally causing issues with trying to get to out-of-county hospitals and visiting. Information on hospital transport is scarce.
• Information is a general issue. Signposting and information is lacking in some areas. Parish Councils could help by working in partnership with voluntary providers to keep information networks open and up to date.
• Community transport organisations appear to be ceasing which adds to transport problems. Low platform buses are still in short supply meaning boarding and disembarking issues for older people in particular.
• Some NHS services are now based outside towns too, in Clapham for example, and these are not easily accessible on public transport.
Social Activities, Clubs & Socialising:
• Access to exercise is important to keep healthy and active and older people should be encouraged to take these up, but transport needs to be available.
• Some churches have good social access and networks. These could be used more.
• Isolation for older people is still key. There is little communication and time for anyone to spend with older people (District nurses for example) and this has an impact on wellbeing. Communities are now less cohesive and many neighbours work all day therefore the social contact is less than it used to be.
• There needs to be a telephone befriending service within local communities and villages so we can better support people locally. (Age UK Bedfordshire is setting this up in 2014)
• Carers are commonly isolated and lonely but as they are in a household this is not perceived as isolation.
• Many people would appear outwardly to be coping but in fact need help and access to information to assist them.
• Bowls Club needs financial support to keep going.
• A key to socialising and inclusion is up to date access and information about what is available.
Internet & Connectivity:
• Access to internet is still not readily available in all areas. This should be taken into account with services.
• IT is still not available to all people especially older people who may not be able to afford the cost of hardware or the ongoing internet provider charges.
• There appears to be little basic IT training available that would help those older people who wish to take up IT.
• Changing communities mean that many families are more distant and therefore the children do not have regular contact with older people. This results in younger people having less understanding of older people and vice versa. Schools could help to minimise this within the curriculum.
• Could there be potential schemes to recycle IT to older people? There are difficulties as hard drives can’t be completely cleaned.
• Older people who have no internet access are suffering discrimination as many companies now rely on IT and online services for billing etc which are cheaper in comparison to paper bills.
• The increase of companies using online forms and registration facilities mean that some people cannot access them or struggle to get access to forms.
• Shopping is available on the internet but people have limited access. There has been a death of the village shop.
• Toilets should be available in towns and rural areas.
• The challenge is getting out of your house. Transport is a big thing but you also need a footpath. These might not exist or be covered in parked cars. The speed limit in many areas in Bedfordshire is 60mph.
• Health and Social care need more home visits and wheelchair access. Lack of support from district nurses and cut backs means it is a fight to get people home. Carers from Social Services are lacking and they need to look at peoples’ needs.
• There has been a change as Twinwoods (Clapham) SEPT, have moved their clinics to where bus services are not present; this is being changed so access can be improved.
• Some NHS services are now based outside towns too, in Clapham for example, and these are hard to get to. Transport is an issue for many accessing healthcare (see points under Transport).
• There are surgeries within GP surgeries which are being able to provide access to advice. People need to know what they are and how to access them and they need to be clearly advertised to them.
• There needs to be a strategy to assist people to downsize which would benefit the whole community.
• Older people are a growing population and therefore plans for the future need to be made now.
• There is a problem with poverty for older people and the concept that the younger generation are less well off. Expectations in society are vastly different for younger people now than years ago. For example eating out was a luxury but now it is an expectation.
• The pension age is getting higher and higher, are there going to be jobs out there? Will this take jobs away from younger people?
• On paper publications older people with sight problems find that black text on a white background is easier to read and many designs are subtle colours making it hard for older people to read.