In 2017, we launched Highland Compassionate Communities in partnership with NHS Public Health and Age Scotland. As of July 2018, Connecting Communities and NHS Public Health are continuing this work. This project was initially made possible thanks to the financial support of the Life Changes Trust.
On the assumption that dementia friendly is people friendly, the aim of Highland Compassionate Communities is to use our Helmsdale Circle of Support as a rural model to roll out a socially inclusive model to 4 other rural communities across the Highlands with the ultimate aim of taking the learning across Scotland.
A loose framework – reflecting the needs, aspirations and individuality of each local community – has been defined, together with a ‘how-to’ toolkit of appropriate programmes to make each rural socially inclusive community not only commercially viable but also providing a circle of support for families living in that community.
The four communities are Appin in Argyll, Milton in Ross-shire, Assynt Centre in Lochinver and North Coast Connections in Tongue. The Partnership is working with each of these communities to:
- set up a rural socially inclusive community organisation
- institute appropriate programmes to fulfil the needs of their particular community
- ensure both qualitative and quantitative evaluation processes are in place to feed data, learning, case studies etc into a six monthly monitoring system
- learn using the Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) method to fine tune the toolkit
- Support/mentoring from Connecting Communities in Helmsdale
Older members of the community are – in keeping with our key values – involved in every step of the process in setting up and running the new rural socially inclusive communities.
By setting up and mentoring rural socially inclusive communities based on our model across Highlands, the project will highlight not only good practice, but is also expected to provide evidence to better support age friendly communities to combat isolation and loneliness, particularly in rural areas, in the future.
Statistics say 1 in 3 people will be affected by dementia and if up to a third of our rural population comprises elderly people (some diagnosed but with many more showing as ‘forgetful’ elders) we need to be throwing out a wider net to support older people in general so that if/when they are diagnosed, they already have a support network around them.
As we originally began as a dementia friendly community initiative, we have considering in recent years how this work can be applied to a community based approach to develop socially inclusive age friendly communities. We are conscious of areas where progress for people for dementia benefits older people more broadly. In developing, for example, dementia friendly transport initiatives, community design, businesses, housing and health services, older people with a range of different conditions are better supported. A community which is more conscious of the need to tackle loneliness will better support all older people including those with dementia. While the project initially had a clear focus on better support for people affected by dementia, it is hoped this work will inform an approach through which people with dementia are better supported as older people and not only as people with dementia.