Council Want To Tackle Isolation In Elderly

Park House could be used as drop-in centre

Older people in Scilly can suffer isolation from the community, especially in view of our remote island location.

Council Officer Aisling Hick said the distance and cost in accessing services, particularly for off-islanders, can make feelings of loneliness even worse.

Aisling was speaking on the day the government issued the findings of the ‘Ageing Well’ survey that showed over two thirds of people in the South West would like to help reduce the isolation of elderly people in their community, but only a third have the confidence to do so.

She said here in Scilly, they’re looking to provide training for people who want to befriend older members of the community. That could include awareness about dementia and ways to stimulate memory in older friends through normal conversations.

People could also look for signs of health and wellbeing, like identifying trip hazards in the home, while having a cup of tea with their neighbours.

Aisling said older men in rural communities often have the biggest difficulties, particularly as they may have led very active lives previously and are less likely to have a large circle of friends to fall back on.

The volunteer agency Island Response, which was relaunched last year, run a befriending service which can provide both companionship for older members of the community as well as practical help with things like shopping and gardening.

Aisling says they also want to encourage people to get out and about with groups such as the Memory Café, the Wednesday Club and Lifelong Learning. The Council is currently recruiting an ‘Active Living’ coordinator, co-funded with the NHS, to encourage elder members of the community to get out and about through a programme of activities.

And the Council are keen to provide a dedicated drop-in centre, possibly at Park House or using the new shelter being built at Porthcressa.

Plans are already in place to locate the Memory Café permanently to the former primary school site at Carn Gwaval. With the school close by and with Lifelong Learning also moving there, Aisling says it could create a nice, multigenerational site.

She says the last thing they want to do is create an ‘older persons’ ghetto’ adding that one of the great things about the community in Scilly is how different age groups interact and support each other.

Aisling says anyone in the community who has concerns about a neighbour can contact Social Services for advice although she added that members of the local churches and Island Response can also be a good source of help initially, particularly as some older people are wary of dealing with agencies.