We want to be there for people and connect before crisis hits

Posted on by Marianne Brennan
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It was a celebratory atmosphere in the Scottish Parliament building on Tuesday Evening. Throngs of people filing through the corridors from a whole range of cultural and organisational backgrounds with an interest or commitment to self management as the common strand linking us together.

But, actually, what do we even mean by Self Management? Is it just the best short descriptor for an incredibly complex spectrum of thoughts, feelings and motivations? What I was struck by were some of the stories which highlighted the major low points that had to be survived by winner Angela McCrimmon and speaker Jan Henderson but how these were ultimately necessary in triggering the self management journey for them, yet in wonderful 11 year old Grace Warnock’s account she was able to look at solutions not just for herself but for others – fortunately not as a result of a crisis but a lived experience she knew to be unjust and, most importantly, fixable!

The stories and journeys added to my reflections on how to channel the message of self management with older people and how can we help people want to travel along this road in later life? As someone who is ‘only’ middle aged, employed, relatively fit and with a supportive social network I am sometimes dragged down by how hard it can be for me to get out of bed some days, to eat the things I know I should rather than the thing I want……and to resist that glass of wine after another long day. So if I find it difficult how do others manage!?

I am often deeply moved and humbled by the challenges many of the people Roar works with have to live with. In the past few years we have noticed a marked increase in an aged parent out surviving middle aged children, exhausted ‘former carers’ who’s spouse and often only companion has passed away and more and more people outliving their circle of friends. How hard is it for them to keep going never mind embracing self management?  Well of course these are the most heart stopping examples but actually that’s the point. We want to be there for people and connect people before crisis hits. It is possible and even essential that we create preventative wellbeing services for older people because there is still time to make new connections, new memories and enjoy the life you do still have. And it will feel much more manageable if you are connected, supported and encouraged.

So that’s at the core of what Roar – Connections for Life does. We reach, understand and support people wherever they are in their journey and we try to help them reconnect with a reason and purpose to keep going. A key part to resilience and self management are social connections and falls prevention is inextricably linked to helping people avoid isolation, FRAILTY and decline. As Jan Henderson said in her presentation ‘ I was waiting for the NHS to fix me’, that’s what lots of people are expecting – but it’s just not the reality any more. We didn’t start our Roar Do Feet service because we REALLY like feet – but we do REALLY LIKE people and we want to help people to look after their feet so that they can have the best mobility possible to get them out and about meeting people. But it’s not free! We have to charge for this service or it won’t be sustainable.

Obviously we particularly enjoyed our evening – when we won! But we do also hope that this accolade will help open up doors to National and Local Strategic conversations about how the partnership project we have developed could be supported and replicated. If as a nation we don’t clearly communicate the value of self management in ways that really help motivate people and invest in some accessible opportunities for support on that journey – then how can we expect a tangible shift in the balance of care and associated costs? I was very excited about all the project work highlighted at the awards. Let’s keep our focus on prevention and self management as real solution to our health and social care infrastructure.


Nicola Hanssen. Roar – Connections for Life, General Manager

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