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“In the village, people know me”

In rural Aberdeenshire, one of the most remote parts of the UK, we found people who, through sharing homes and lives, are enjoying life in their beautiful surroundings and community to the full. Read on and watch their story below:

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Brian, who is 61, has been living with his Shared Lives carer Shiri for ten years in their home just outside the village of Johnshaven. At a time when loneliness has become endemic, connecting with people can be difficult, especially in rural and isolated areas. It can be doubly difficult if you have a learning disability, which Brian does.

Before coming into Shared Lives, Brian wasn’t confident when meeting or talking to people. When Shiri was matched with him by their local provider, Shared Lives Aberdeenshire, she recognised straight away that Brian didn’t just need support to lead a good life, he needed the opportunity to practice his skills, explore his interests and above all – keep active. “He likes to be busy, he likes the outdoors, he’s strong and he needs to be working – or else he will be bored!”

Brian works hard, at home, around the house, and at his part-time job. His specialism – and great passion – is wood-cutting, and he’s started up a wood-chip enterprise out of the back garden, selling wood for fuel to all the neighbours. He said: “I’m happy in my work here – I like it.”

But his social life and confidence have blossomed too. As Shiri says – “Brian is now keen to do everything that’s on offer.” He’s a member of the church, and through Shiri’s family and friends has met and forged relationships with new people, and been to places he’d never been before.

Shiri loves her house and the area she lives in, but would have had to give it up after the children flew the nest, were it not for Shared Lives. “We’ve got a nice big house and a nice big garden…Brian likes it here and we can have others to stay too.”

Doug, 65, has recently matched with Shared Lives carer Joyce, and lives nearby. He too loves his area and specifically the people that live there. Through Shared Lives support has is able to stay there:

“I like my home because it’s a great place to stay in. Everybody speaks to one another. Shared Lives has made a massive difference to my life”

Rural areas have a unique character, but because of their size and sparse populations, getting the right support can be tricky. Most people feel strongly about where they live, and want to stay in the area they consider to be home. Older people with support needs can experience a sharp decline in their physical and mental health if they’re forced to move elsewhere for support.

Shared Lives is allowing people to get the support they need and stay in the places they love. It is helping to strengthen ties to places and people. If you’d like to know more about our work to develop Shared Lives for older people in isolated rural communities, you can read about our project funded by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund.