Changing face of north Norfolk demands compassion from younger residents
- Credit: Archant
The make up of north Norfolk's demographics has always leaned towards an older population.
For the past five years, for every child in the district there are three pensioners, and more than half the population is now made up of over 55s. The district is also seeing an increase in people who are in the age bracket leading up to retirement, prompting concerns about a north Norfolk retirement wave, as well as increasing pressures on social and health services.
Age Concern North Norfolk said the most prevalent issue faced by residents was isolation.
Angela Reith, manager of Age Concern North Norfolk, said: 'We have determined that many individuals feel particularly isolated, and have little opportunity to participate in social events or activities.
'This is having a negative impact on their wellbeing, and if often cited as a factor towards poor mental health.'
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North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: 'We've seen the government has taken on a Minister for Loneliness and I absolutely think there's a place for that in north Norfolk.
'That's not limited to elderly people, because there are a lot of young people struggling with isolation, but because of rurality this problem is more noticeable.'
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Mr Lamb added: 'I think it's time for the community to start coming together and taking responsibility for their neighbours. It's not feasible for the NHS to send a health care professional to every older person in the district to help with their shopping, so communities need to come together not to administer care but to help them with smaller jobs.'
He added: 'I visited one such group in Mundesley last week, and I've seen lots of different ones cropping up all over the constituency.'
Mr Lamb also discussed how an ageing population can cause issues for NHS services.
He said: 'There is no doubt that this has a huge effect on the health services in our area, the hospitals and GPs for example.
'However we also know of the strains on the ambulance service, and these are more acute in a rural, expansive area, because of longer travel times.
'Something we're particularly struggling with in east north Norfolk is recruiting the care staff to look after these people.'
The North Norfolk CCG has responded to the increase in demand by encouraging patients' independence.
A spokesperson said: 'There is a move to encourage more people to take greater responsibility for their own health and to manage their existing long-term conditions better.
'This involves using NHS services wisely, self-care and making use of local community pharmacies.'
They continued: 'No-one wants to go to hospital; bed-based care is necessary for some people but is by no means always the best or only way to treat illnesses. The NHS across the country and locally is continually developing more out of hospital care to reduce reliance on 'beds' which are expensive and not always appropriate.
'Examples of this work include the North Norfolk supported care service, and GPs working in A&E and the NHS 111 service.
'Ninety per cent of NHS care is provided in primary care, so much is also being done to build in greater capacity and resilience for primary care, such as encouraging practices to work closer together making greater use of their highly skilled nurses and pharmacists.'
Age Concern North Norfolk also discussed the impact of growing demand on their services, one of which is the need for financial support.
Miss Reith said: 'We are seeking funds to upgrade our toilet facilities which are now outdated and unable to meet the full personal needs of the older people we help.
She added: 'People pay for some of our services but so much of what we do is funded by grants and bursaries. Without which we wouldn't be able to survive. Any grants and donations are always appreciated.'
She added that volunteers' time is just as valuable to them.
She said: 'If you feel you have time to spare or skills that can help us, we can also use more volunteers in the North Norfolk area.'
Age Concern North Norfolk can be contacted on 01263 823126 or via the e mail address email@example.com
What are the council doing?
Councillor Tom FitzPatrick, leader of North Norfolk District Council, said: 'North Norfolk District Council is very much aware of the demographic within the district which sees an increasing percentage of the population in the older age brackets.
'We work hard to address this fact using a range of strategies.
'For instance, we support residents and communities by continuing to operate the Big Society Fund to meet local needs and aspirations.
'In addition, NNDC works to address issues leading to ill health and to improve the quality of life for all residents by encouraging more community involvement and volunteering.
'We provide support and advice to people who are vulnerable and/or struggling with issues which are negatively impacting on their lives.
'There are also a range of projects which promote health and fitness for all ages, abilities and ambition.
'In terms of housing, there are a range of strategies to address the varied populations we have.
'For instance, the majority of new housing developments involving five or more dwellings have to have least 20pc of units suitable or easily adaptable for occupation by the elderly, infirm or disabled.
'We also support the provision of purpose built and/or specialist accommodation for the elderly, in appropriate locations within selected settlements.'
What can you do?
If you're a younger person in north Norfolk and would like to get involved with supporting the elderly community, here are a couple of ways to join in:
• Age Concern North Norfolk Befriending service: An extension of the Befriending Scheme. A qualified member of staff will phone or visit a client once a month. The first visit is to match a volunteer and complete paperwork, a volunteer will then visit once a week.
• Call in Time Age UK: A telephone friendship service which aims to reduce older people who are feeling isolated by scheduling regular chats.
• North Walsham's Good Neighbourhood Scheme: Become a Good Neighbour volunteer and help people in North Walsham who need a helping hand, many of which are elderly people who need help with an odd job.
• Become a Dementia Friendly Community volunteer: Age UK runs steering groups for towns which are trying to become more dementia friendly, including training and awareness workshops.