Rural isolation and loneliness are a growing concern within Northern Ireland, especially within our farming community. Family farms were traditionally passed from one generation to the next following the death of the older farmer but as we live longer many farms are now transferred over within the current owner’s lifetime.
While this can bring benefits, it can also mean an increase in the number of older farmers facing social isolation and having a drastic effect on emotional and physical health, bringing with it a loss of independence and support.
Recent research undertaken by Rural Support within the farming community indicates that this isn’t a problem that is likely to go away with almost a third of the respondents being concerned with loneliness and isolation and over a third worried about the future.
To help address these concerns, Rural Support have developed a project called Plough On which aims to tackle rural isolation and increase social opportunities for older farmers and has just secured funding to deliver it. Its core purpose is to improve mental and physical wellbeing through socialisation and participation in rural heritage/farming-based activities and excursions.
Activities will include a range of educational, learning and reminiscence opportunities – events, projects and outings – encouraging older men to connect on areas of shared interest such as farming, rural heritage and history. Participants will be involved from the outset in the design and delivery of activities, ensuring that the programme develops in a way that meets their needs and interests.
The focus will be on improving health and wellbeing and will address social challenges encouraging individuals to get and stay well – physically and emotionally. Improved health and wellbeing for older men also positively helps other farm family members in terms of respite, provides opportunities for greater independence as well as improving mood.
We are currently inviting participants from the following areas and hope that groups will commence in April 2023:
- Corkey (between Ballymena and Ballycastle)
- Ballymacbrennan (near Saintfield)
- Derrynoose (just outside Keady)
- Ederney (near Dromore, Co Tyrone). Will replace Trillick
- Coagh (outside Cookstown). Will replace Dunnamore
- Glack (near Limavady town)
We are also interested in hearing from people who would like to volunteer (attend monthly meetings/trips to support group leader) or become a group leader (organising monthly meetings and trips) with these groups.
If you are interested in participating in this programme, or have any queries, please get in touch with Keelin on 028 8676 0040 or firstname.lastname@example.org