Battle launched to end isolation of rural elderly

Facing the problem of social isolation among the elderly in parts of rural North Yorkshire

Steps being taken to try to tackle the problem of social isolation among the elderly in parts of rural North Yorkshire are to be discussed by health chiefs at a meeting this week.

The county has a large number of older people living in the county with an estimated 20.3 per cent of the population of the county aged 65 or over in 2010, compared with a national average of 16.5 per cent.

In Harrogate and its surrounding rural district, health bosses say 27 per cent of the population is aged 60 and over compared to the national average of 22.4 per cent. With figures for the over-65s in this part of the county set to rise by 19 per cent by 2021, health chiefs will meet this week to discuss a project that aims to tackle the issue.

Members of the Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group will meet on Thursday to discuss a twelve-month £40,000 project in the Pateley Bridge, Masham and Boroughbridge areas which aims to ensure the over-65s are able to access services.

A report to be considered by committee members says: “In rural areas, loneliness and social isolation tend to be more acute as friends, family and service providers are often more distant.”

It is hoped that a scheme, due to run for 12 months from November, backed by the commissioning group and Harrogate District Council with support from North Yorkshire County Council, can help to tackle the problem by putting people in touch with community services and building up a better support network.

The report adds: “… older people living alone are those most likely to experience social isolation. However, it is worth noting that those older people who live in residential care are also at risk, especially if they lack opportunities to participate in the community outside the residential home.

“Social connections need to be encouraged to all those likely to experience social isolation and loneliness, such as contact with local community centres, schools and volunteer organisations. A person-centred approach to activity planning should help to ensure that older people feel that they are valued members of their local communities.

“The increasing number of people who will be older will impact on a number of conditions which are associated with increasing age, in particular dementia, long- term conditions and disabilities. These impacts will be on a range of services including health, social care, housing and transport.”

Health bosses hope the project will improve the numbers attending activity classes, community cafés, luncheon clubs and other activities and services and aims to make contact with those over-65s not already in touch with GPs, district nurses or other provision. A report will be prepared at the end of the project evaluating its success.

Council bosses have said the growing problem of dementia is one of the greatest challenges in the care of the elderly. In North Yorkshire alone, it is estimated that almost 11,500 people are living with dementia, with 60 per cent of cases going undiagnosed. That figure is expected to rise by 39 per cent to nearly 16,000 sufferers by 2021.

Recent studies have also shown how isolation can be compounded by living in rural communities.

A report by the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) outlined how the under-funding of councils in rural areas, appropriate housing shortages and the difficulties caused by a lack of public transport and high fuel costs are leaving many elderly people isolated at the time when they most need support.

joanne.ginley@ypn.co.uk

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news

 

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