Tackling social isolation in the region

Social isolation in rural areas was the topic of a recent discussion hosted by Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton.
Social isolation in rural areas was the topic of a recent discussion hosted by Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton.

Borders MSP Rachael Hamilton has chaired a discussion to look at tackling social isolation in rural area.

Representatives of national and local older persons’ charities and organisations were among the 30 people present: Out of the Box, Life Changes Trust, The Bridge, Veterans First Point, Age Scotland, the Community Transport Association, the Royal Voluntary Service, Men’s Sheds, Befriending Networks, Support in Mind Scotland, Borders Talking Newspapers, Live Borders, Borders’ Older People’s Forum, Borders Care Voice, Berwickshire Wheels, Alzheimer’s Scotland and various housing associations.

The lack of digital connectivity, the lack of information on social activities and a disjointed approach to community transport were all raised as key issues affecting and exacerbating social isolation.

The roundtable concluded with broad agreement that there needs to be better signposting, a comprehensive directory of services for older people, a Borders Social Isolation Awareness Day to encourage greater collaboration between stakeholders and further engagement and understanding of ‘social prescribing’.

Ms Hamilton will write to Border Buses about the possible introduction of ‘chatty buses’, an initiative which allows older people to socialise whilst using the bus service and similarly to ScotRail to enquire about the introduction of ‘chatty carriages’.

Ms Hamilton said: “The roundtable was a fantastic opportunity to get all those involved in tackling social isolation together.

“Many of the charities and organisations do a tremendous job in helping older people, and I want to thank their volunteers who work tirelessly and are a credit to our local area.

“There was no shortage of ideas being banded around the table, and it was a very productive session.

“By raising awareness of social isolation amongst older people in the Borders, through a dedicated Social Isolation Awareness Day and a Social Isolation Champion, we can help to encourage local people to assist those who may be socially isolated.

“It’s important that older people have the right information to ensure they know there are social gatherings, activities and support out there in the community.