According to the last Census, there are just under 700,000 people over the age of 65 in Scotland professing membership of a faith community. This is the same number of people who visited Glasgow in 2014 for the Commonwealth Games.
It represents a significant human resource.
It is also the population group that we are focusing on through a year-long research project funded by the Tor Christian Foundation. The research grew out of two principal hunches. Firstly this is a big chunk of the Scottish population that we seem to know relatively little about. Secondly if we did know more, everyone (Scottish Government, local authorities, third sector, local voluntary organisations amongst others) could benefit.
A team from Faith in Older People (FiOP) and Simon Jaquet Consultancy Services Ltd is working on the research. We are currently running a large online survey for all of Scotland\’s faith communities. We will then move on to developing case studies over the spring and summer 2022, exploring in more depth the findings, themes, and challenges which emerge from the survey.
A key element to the research will be exploring the impact of COVID 19 on the elderly. While this often appears to have been clearly negative (especially in regard to mental health and social isolation), we want to better understand how this has affected their willingness and ability to volunteer in local projects – including with faith communities.
At a pragmatic level, the endangering of this vital community resource raises two further questions. If older people aren\’t helping to deliver the food parcels, staff the food banks, organise the children\’s activities, and staff the homeless shelters, who is? And in the future (post Coronavirus) era, how will we ensure resilient approaches to maintaining and sustaining these vital services if the older workforce is less active?
Faith communities are our core constituency, and they represent a considerable actual and potential resource. We hope that the research will help to inform how we engage older people in faith communities, seeing them as a valued community resource rather than a problem to be solved. We anticipate that it will contribute to learning for many groups and organisations in local communities and elsewhere.
- Faith communities themselves will be able to work more closely together to support older people, with closer links leading to co-production on practical projects
- The general population will have a better understanding of what older people in faith communities have to offer
- Older people in faith communities will have a more positive public profile
- Policy makers at local and national levels will have a better grasp of the implications of \’excluding\’ those over 70 from volunteering
As I write, the survey has been running for three weeks (it remains open until the end of April), and we\’re pleased with the response. We\’ve had responses from all the main faith communities including the Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, Baha\’i, and Jewish communities, as well as a broad cross-section of the Christian churches.
We would like to maximise the numbers of surveys returned, in order to provide a strong evidence base for our findings. So if your church, synagogue, temple, or gurdwara hasn\’t yet completed one, it\’ll only take a quarter of an hour to make sure your views are heard!
You can find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/M7FJM6D – open until Friday 29 April.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Simon Jaquet Consultancy Services Ltd