Why this is important

Changing demographics
People are living longer and as a result the UK has an ageing population. For the first time in history there are more people over 65 than under 16 years (DWP 2009). The number of older people will increase rapidly in the next twenty years (Audit Commission 2008)

People aged 50 plus have a lot of skills, experience and often time that they can contribute to community life. It is not surprising that research by WRVS found that ‘ in 2010 over 65 year olds made a net contribution of ¬£40 billion to the UK economy through taxes, spending power, providing social care and volunteering.’ (WRVS2011)

The younger generation have less opportunities than previous generations as there is more competition for work, it is harder to get a loan to buy a house than it was for their parents and university education has become unaffordable for the majority. They could feel disenfranchised from their communities and resent or mistrust the older generation. They too have valuable skills to share and must be given the opportunity to use these.

A dependency upon the state
As a society we have become dependent upon the state to provide for us. This dependence is not healthy as to qualify for services, we often have to accentuate our needs and there is little incentive to live a different way (Participle Sept 2008). We have stopped taking responsibility as individuals and collectively for the things that make for a full and connected life (Mcknight and Block 2010). We are experiencing a recession with reduced public spending which is unlikely to improve significantly in the coming years. We can no longer depend upon the state to meet all of our needs, neither should we as taking responsibility for those things that we can do for ourselves and each other is empowering, it gives us more control¬† and brings us together as we care for each other. Our care services in the UK employ many committed and caring people but caring for others is not a commodity that can be bought, it is ‘the freely given commitment from the heart of one to another’ (Mcknight and Block 2010). Vintage Communities is about nurturing the care that we have for one another and sharing our skills, experience and personal attributes to build a caring and connected community.

Isolation and loneliness
Isolation and loneliness in older age is a significant social problem and is likely to become more so as a result of demographic ageing (Age UK Oxfordshire 2011).  Connecting people through shared activities and purpose can reduce social isolation and help to build a sense of community. Those on the outskirts of society need to be welcomed and included. Ideally, in a caring and connected community nobody should feel isolated although this does provide a significant challenge. Feeling connected to others and cared for improves physical and mental health. Robert Putnam (2000) claims that if you belong to no local groups and then join one, you cut your risk of dying the next year in half.

Levers for change
There are therefore three powerful levers or incentives for change:

  1. With a changing demographic we need the valuable contribution of older people and young to help build sustainable communities for all ages.
  2. We are facing a financial crisis and a reduction in public spending; we need to take collective responsibility for the things that are important to us. This can improve our health and wellbeing and as a result reduce the costs of care as we stay independent for longer.
  3. Nobody should experience loneliness and isolation and yet many older people do as they feel unable to participate in community life. We need to build social networks that are inclusive and reach those people who are the most isolated.

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