AI Services join with Rural Support to sponsor support for older farmers
Rural Support has been at the forefront of conducting research and raising awareness of supporting older people from the farming community in Northern Ireland and delivering support to NI farmers. Their research has showed that farmers are at high risk of suffering from poor mental health.
9% of farmers engaged with the organisation who are suffering stress are aged over 65 years. Rural Support recognise that many who ‘slow down’ in farming or retire are then faced with additional challenges of being disengaged from the normality of farming life and their networks e.g. marts, feed stores, auctions etc.
To help combat this critical issue, Rural Support launched their Plough On Project back in September 2022 funded by The National Lottery Community Fund. This project aims to tackle rural isolation and increase social opportunities for older farmers by offering participants the chance to join a local group which meets to connect on areas of shared interest such as farming, rural heritage and history. During its first year the project has proven very successful with huge demand across the first seven groups.
AI Services Northern Ireland have generously offered to donate a total of £15,000 to Rural Support over the next 3 years as the Lead Donor of Rural Support’s Older Persons’ Fund which has been set up to support the Plough On project and will support 17 groups over the five- year period.
The sponsorship by AI Services will go a significant way to contributing to group costs for activities that include; visits to machinery sales, marts, agricultural shows, factories, farm walks, talks on matters relating to agriculture, monthly hot meals together and meeting as a group. It will also ensure that Rural Support are able to support the groups beyond the initial 18-month period which is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.
This project seeks to redress challenges of being disengaged from the normality of farming life and their networks by providing opportunities for those social networks to continue whilst at same time building capacity and resilience of older men to improve their own health and wellbeing. Through the development of a new network of men not connected to existing provision, the project will help improve mental well-being and increase feelings of confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem in participants.
Dr Sam Campbell, Chief Executive of AI Services and previous Chair of Rural Support commented, “I am delighted that AI Services has the opportunity to contribute to Rural Support’s services for older farmers. The retiring generation have contributed significantly to the sector throughout their entire working lives and it is important that provision is made to reduce loneliness and isolation in their retirement.”
Rural Support are currently accepting expressions of interest for cohort two of their Plough On project with groups commencing in Derrynoose, Ederney, Coagh, Glack, Ballymacbrennan and Corkey in April 2023.
If you would like to find out more about this project and other services and programmes available at Rural Support, go to the NI Farm Support hub at www.ruralsupport.org.uk or telephone the Support Line on Freephone 0800 138 1678 available Mon-Fri 9am-9pm.