Countrymen UK, winner of the 2018 Markel 3rd Sector Care Award for Contribution to Sector Development, has launched a nationwide initiative supporting isolated men.
The project is designed to support the increasing number of men who find themselves isolated and unable to access the outdoors. This may be because of their deteriorating physical or mental health or changing social conditions.
The country-wide launch of Countrymen Clubs aims to help men become more resilient to the life changes they experience as a result of rural isolation and ageing. The Clubs are particularly keen to recruit men who have long-term health conditions including dementia, Parkinson's or other limiting long-term illnesses, but are open to men of all ages. Typically the men will have an affinity with the outdoors and may have worked in farming or horticulture, but equally may be ex-servicemen or outdoor sportsmen.
The idea behind Countrymen UK is for all men, regardless of their mobility or cognitive levels, to have the opportunity to participate in healthy, active and social activities in a safe and supported countryside or farm environment to the benefit of their physical and mental wellbeing.
Thanks to funding from the National Lottery, more than a dozen Care Farms and Gardens across the UK have signed up to become Countrymen UK Social Franchises and are aiming to recruit members, together with volunteers, to their newly formed Countrymen UK Clubs.
The Countrymen UK Clubs were developed as a result of an initiative by Future Roots, an organisation which runs programmes in Dorset for both young people and adults. It is part of the 'care farming' movement, which aims to harness the therapeutic potential of farming practices.
Future Roots and Countrymen UK Founder, Julie Plumley explains, 'The unique combination of activities taking place outdoors reflects our belief, underpinned by recent research*, that getting back to farm and countryside environments and green spaces, overcomes isolation and has a positive impact on physical health and mental wellbeing.'
The founding Countrymen's Club is based at Rylands Farm in the Dorset countryside and has been running since 2011 when it became apparent that few opportunities existed for men who loved the outdoors and traditional day-care centres weren't attractive to them. The Club also helps the wives and carers of the members, providing an opportunity for respite as well as the chance to socialise and gain mutual support from one another.