Escaping to the country is a lifetime dream for many. Swapping the sound of busy traffic for the romantic peace and quiet of the countryside can sound idyllic but what's the reality?
The English countryside is home to a large number of residents who are middle-aged or older, which can pose a number of problems to our aging population.
Loneliness is a significant issue for people as they age. As people stop working, they can lose contact with friends or even have them and partners pass away. This means that their social network slowly disappears, which can isolate individuals. Age UK estimates that 1.9 million people feel invisible, and around 35% of those living in rural areas have no access to a vehicle.
Many older people rely on public transport but this is also a problem in some rural areas, with bus services running far less frequently in the countryside than they do in major cities. In addition, the elderly may not have the ability to walk to their nearest bus or coach stop.
All these factors mean people living in the countryside are at risk of becoming isolated as they age. However, that doesn't have to be the case.
Older people may put off calling their family to plan a visit because they don't want to feel like a burden, but both parties will benefit from intergenerational socialisation. This doesn't just extend to family either, as planning visits with friends is just as important, especially if they are closer. People get busy and afraid to leave their comfort zone - no matter what age they are - so being proactive and setting dates helps everyone involved. A good tip is to plan your next visit before they leave, even if it's months in the future. This will help give both sides a date that's pencilled in, and something for both sides to look forward to.
Although no replacement for face-to-face contact, technology can be a brilliant way to keep in touch with people in between visits. From video calls with your family to messaging friends on Facebook, there are lots of ways that technology allows people to stay in touch no matter where they live. Not being able to get online can feel particularly isolating in the modern age so reaching out to people or services that can help you feel comfortable with this is important. It's never too late to learn a new skill and there's few more useful than becoming digitally savvy.
Taking part in activities that involve others is a great way to prevent loneliness, whilst doing something enjoyable. It may take a little more organisation but the payoff is worth it. The internet is a fantastic place to find nearby events or groups in the community. Local libraries can help older people get online and access this information for those who aren't confident in their digital skills. Care homes, including Barchester homes throughout the UK often host regular events open to the community, which can be a brilliant opportunity to meet like-minded people.
To find out what your nearest Barchester care home is up to, or to organise a visit, click through here.