Countrymen UK offers a lifeline to men from rural backgrounds living with conditions like dementia. Contributing to farm life gives them fulfilling days, and the chance to beat social isolation by getting outside, while carers get a well-earned rest. Find out how a partnership between Hunt’s Food Group and Somerset and Dorset Community Foundations helped support their vital work now and for the future.
Liz Rose, manager of Countrymen UK in Sherborne, explains how they help men beat social isolation by reconnecting to the rural environment.
“We provide support on our farm for gentlemen from rural backgrounds who live with conditions like dementia, Parkinson’s or a stroke. They’ve often worked outside, in farming, horticulture or agriculture – and we build on their strengths. When you become unwell, so many people focus on what you can’t do any more. We’re the absolute opposite of that.
So, this afternoon we’ve got a gentleman on a tramper [an all-terrain vehicle] who’s feeding the goats. There’s another who’s feeding the pigs and one more who’s building a bird box. It’s amazing to me that once men become physically or mentally frail they have to spend so much time indoors – when being outside helps them so much.
Working here they get a real sense of camaraderie because they can get together, have a good old natter and share their stories. There’s a lot of reminiscence – they talk about the days when they were working the land or their experiences in the armed services. This doesn’t just help them feel less socially isolated, it’s a respite for carers too. On the farm you often see the more physically able helping those less able.
We have a bunch of amazing volunteers to help run things. They include retired gentlemen who want to give something back and who could be feeling quite isolated themselves.
We’ve used the first year of our grant from the Hunt’s Food Group Community Fund to develop our gardening project. Now we have a polytunnel where the gentlemen have grown vegetables and flowers. We’ve been able to share these with the community and carers. We also developed new art projects in the barn when the weather was colder.
Countrymen UK really struggled during the coronavirus pandemic and we’re just starting to build ourselves back up again. We have lots of plans for the future. Volunteers are important to us so we’d love to set up a dedicated volunteers’ group. We’re also working with care homes looking at ways to give people ‘fresh air time’ because it’s significantly lacking.
We’re not just for farmers – gentlemen of any age or ability can come to the farm. We know there are so many more gentlemen out there who would benefit from what we do.”