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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

A helping hand from online neighbours

This opinion piece is about 7 years old

​Ann Connor from Outside the Box on Over the Fence, a new website is helping people make choices about the support they get as they grow older. This article was written to coincide with the International Day of Older Persons on October 1.

Some people realise slowly that they need a bit more support. They notice they don’t feel able to manage so well at home when simple things like cooking and washing get difficult. Or sometimes its that their world has started to contract as they go out less to meet friends and join in activities. It can also happen suddenly: a fall can leave someone with less mobility, but can also eat away at their confidence. What if it happens again?

Either way, the result is the same: they need a bit of extra help to get through daily life. And even if they think they are doing OK, other people may be worrying.
Those of us who work in this area know that good-quality support is available but many others don’t. At Outside the Box we work with lots of community groups and realise many people think there is only health care available to help them as they got older. They don’t know they could also access social care, or think it is only for those who need care homes. They often hear about examples of poor quality services and are fearful that most would be like that.

So, as one of the projects funded by the Scottish Government to support the implementation of the new self-directed support (SDS) arrangements, implemented in April this year, we developed a resource for people in these circumstances.

We have created a place to get online information, based on the experiences of people who have already been down this road with the facts and good practice to underpin it. We call it Over the Fence because that’s the type of advice we know people want – the practical suggestions and encouragement that you’d hope to get while chatting to a friend or neighbour.

The stories that we have recorded show how it can be the simple things that make the difference to people’s quality of life. The right support can help you stay independent, be safe and well and, crucially, remain part of your community.

Visit Over the Fence to discover something worth celebrating this International Older Person’s Day.

Anne Connor, Outside the Box
Anne Connor, Outside the Box

If you can’t carry heavy shopping home any more, you can order it online but that means missing out on gossip with people you meet at your local shop and choosing exactly what you want for yourself and you also don’t have someone to remind you about cooking and eating. Many people do this with a mix of support from family or friends, community services, and care services when they need extra input. The starting point is working out what you want to achieve. The examples we’ve used show how real people worked that out.

The site explains how to find out what funding you might be eligible for from your local authority and it also shows how people who are organising and paying for support themselves can get good independent advice. There are tools to help people plan what they really want, and links to the organisations in each area who will help make it happen.

The aim of the new SDS arrangements, and of thousands of voluntary organisations across the country, is to give older people – and others who need extra help – the support they need to have a good life. But the message also needs to reach those who currently have no contact with services yet and reassure them that they too can get help, if and when that time comes.

So, visit Over the Fence to discover something worth celebrating this International Older Person’s Day.

Anne Connor is chief executive of Outside the Box. Over the Fence is available at There is more information about Outside the Box at



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