Ageing International

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 475-491

First online:

How Local Interventions Can Build Capacity to Address Social Isolation in Dispersed Rural Communities: A Case Study from Northern Ireland

  • Deirdre HeenanAffiliated withSocial Policy, University of Ulster Email author 

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The focus of this paper is on ageing and well-being in rural areas. Existing research has demonstrated the significance of social networks in relation to physical and emotional well-being. A lack of social interaction and erosion of social contacts have been identified as serious issues. In the United Kingdom, recent years have witnessed a plethora of strategies, initiatives and policy documents addressing the well-being of older people. This work has however been largely focused in urban areas with the needs, expectations and attitudes of older people living in rural areas the subject of relatively little research attention. The enduring image of the rural idyll conceals the reality of ageing in the countryside. This paper identifies the issues pertinent to these dispersed communities and reviews a locally-based active ageing group, which aims to build capacity and encourage community cohesion. The research highlights the importance of initiatives which build on and enhance the sense of community, while simultaneously challenging the assumption that older people are needy, dependant, avaricious users of services with little or nothing to contribute.


Rural Wellbeing Capacity-building Active-ageing Community