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Persuading older people to accept assistance

The media can play an important role in changes attitudes among older people towards accepting help.

That’s one of the recommendations of an innovative initiative for developing support for older people in rural areas, funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

The research was carried out by older volunteers within Age Concern Gwynedd & Môn under an innovative collaborative project with the University of Wales, Bangor’s Centre for Social Policy Research & Development.

The older volunteers were trained and actually conducted the research, interviewing people aged over 75 living in some of the remotest communities in Gwynedd. The volunteers had a greater rapport with those they were interviewing and were also in a position to visit older people without causing alarm or concern.

“One of the main recommendations from these interviews is that, for this generation of older people to be able to ask for assistance or support, there needs to be a shift in their attitude towards accepting help. Being too proud to ask for help implies that there is some shame involved. Some kind of media campaign, series of articles or high profile television drama on the subject would be a very useful way to change attitudes. It doesn’t take a majority to hold these attitudes, only for people to think that a majority holds these attitudes, to prevent people asking for support,” explains Vanessa Burholt, Director of the University’s Centre for Social Policy & Development.

“It would be useful for this group to think it was acceptable to ask for help- that would help older people living alone, or caring for spouses or for more aged parents,” she added.

“This project has been innovative in its use of active older volunteers in their communities. The volunteers were trained by the University to enable them to carry out this research. We now have an extensive document that voices the authentic opinions of older people and their carers with regard to the services and support that will enable them to live in their communities in rural north west Wales. We will use these recommendations in our consultations with local government and other agencies. They are valuable not only to this area but also to other rural regions”, said John Clifford Jones of Age Concern Gwynedd & Môn”.

“The recommendations cover all aspects of older people’s lives and include such practical things as a directory of ‘trustworthy’ local trades people and gardening clubs to support older people to continue to work in their own gardens, and the provision of low levels of care such as window cleaning and gardeners and issues such as subsidised rural taxi services and information on hospital transport. They also include issues such as an increase in state benefit to reduce the need for means-tested support and improved benefit information services,”

These recommendations are being presented at a Conference to mark completion of the project. The Conference takes place at the Meifod Country Hotel, Bontnewydd, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, between 10.00- 15.30 Thursday 28 September.

Elinor Elis-Williams | alfa
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