I’m not one for a lot of words really, but, here I go… Today I’m on one of my soap boxes, and one which I feel I can never resolve.
I have a sense that there is an underground movement, swelling, slowly but surely, to create a community renaissance. It’s being drawn up to the surface, like a delicious fruit smoothie through a long, thin straw. The smoothie is filled with good things that make life better – togetherness, understanding, compassion, companionship – but still there are some frozen bits, partially thawed, causing a blockage and keeping it just out of reach.
It amazes me that in this day and age – and perhaps because of it – from some or even many perspectives we have a society that seems cold and uncaring. There are vulnerable groups, and ordinary people really, who for a whole range of reasons find themselves lonely and isolated. Isn’t it awful? Can’t it be helped?
What does strike me is that there are huge groups of people wanting to make society better. They want all the things the smoothie contains; they want the renaissance.
There is a growing awareness about ‘loneliness and isolation’ that is going right back to individuals, and groups of individuals, as a starter for 10. There is the sense that individuals can do something to recreate the bonds of community that reduce isolation and help us all get along together better. There are great efforts beginning to be made and new approaches being explored.
But, there are blockages and challenges, things that are stopping us reaching the smoothie. Some, such as apathy or lack of awareness, we already know and are tackling, others, we still need to identify. Some just need to thaw – to warm up to a new way of thinking about (and re-creating) communities.
So, really we are just beginning, we are leading the charge. And as care providers we’re still trying to work out exactly where that charge is leading to. From time to time I wonder, “Are we the smoothie, or are we the straw?”. But whether we are creating the community renaissance, or simply getting others there, at least we’re inspiring change.
Hopefully the beginnings of answers will emerge from the VHS Annual conference on 24 November. In the meantime, here is an animation from one of our projects, Vintage Vibes, in partnership with The Broomhouse Centre, created by a student from Edinburgh College: We hope this inspires you on your journey to make the world a better place.
Su Millar has been Chief Executive of LifeCare Edinburgh for 13 years.