Of a total 159,900 people living in Harrogate 27 per cent are aged 60 and over compared to 22.4 per cent nationally, and the proportion of older people in the district is set to increase by 6,000 (19 per cent) by 2021.
Of that ever increasing section of the district’s population, a large percentage live in areas defined as ‘super sparse’, where there are less than 50 people per square kilometre, and 16.4 per cent struggle through every day without access to a car.
The part of Knaresborough where Janette and Dave Tarpey live is one such isolated area, and a condition affecting Mrs Tarpey’s feet means she can get out even less than the average person in the region.
She said: “I am on crutches and they are my legs. I very rarely go upstairs. I have also got aggressive osteoarthritis. I have broken my back twice and it now looks like the disease has gone into the other foot.”
This disease meant that she need help while showering, and Mrs Tarpey felt her independence had disappeared.
Mrs Tarpey has, however, benefited from Harrogate Home Improvement Agency - a district-wide service that located funding for a replacement bathroom, linking up disabled facilities grants and other monetary opportunities that take in exactly what a person can afford.
This, she says, has made all the difference.
“For two years I have had to have Dave with me, within more than earshot 99 per cent of the time,” she said.
“I have got a bit more independence back. They have done us a fantastic job. I can get in the shower and I have got freedom.
“Whatever happens now at least I have got my bathroom. It is not just for now it is for my future, which I think isn’t looking brilliant. It is one less problem.
“We never knew that we would be entitled to any help and we didn’t know where to turn to. Nobody tells you, and if you’re disabled you are limited to the internet.
“It is a toilet and a shower but when you are disabled people are consistently wanting to grab you to help you and it is like they are wanting to take your independence away. But it is finally getting my independence back in my own home.”
Technical officer Phil Jordan and needs advice and support officer Maggie Partridge have been intimately involved in the small home improvements they have meant the difference between isolation and independence.
Mr Jordan said: “95 per cent of the time they are just very grateful for the fact that they can get washed. For the majority of people you don’t really think about it because it is just something that you do.
“If they have lived somewhere for a long time they are grateful to be able to stay in that property and not be moved to a little flat somewhere that has the appropriate facilities. All their memories are in that home.”
Ms Partridge said: “It makes a huge difference and in some instances family members are extremely grateful because they have moved away and there is no-one else around. We see that a lot. We also liaise with family members to keep them involved as well.
“It is dignity. Particularly because when they were younger they have been able to get in the shower every day and all of a sudden they can’t.”
And isolated people in Nidderdale will also benefit from a project dedicated specifically to alleviating the most affected communities as the British Red Cross and Land Rover UK launch a five year partnership to deliver essential services to a thousand older people in crisis.
From next month volunteers will begin venturing out into the remote corners of the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors to provide emotional and practical support to people made vulnerable by dint of their isolated position in the agricultural and farming areas of the county.
Focusing specifically on those in need of help to reconnect with society, this scheme will reach many people in the Harrogate district.
British Red Cross senior service manager in Yorkshire Rachel Souter said, after working closely with groups like the Farming Community Network and Yorkshire Agricultural Society to find out what problems people face in these particular parts of Yorkshire, the Red Cross have found out how they could support those in crisis.
From home visits, telephone support, help with shopping and food, assistance with paper work, and various other aids, these may provide the only contact many people have.
“Our volunteers will help these people to access services that are already established in the community, such as social groups, fitness classes, community transport, and local community groups which they can accompany them to,” she said.
“Through companionship and conversation, we will also help to build people’s confidence, reduce social isolation and loneliness which helps to improve overall health and wellbeing.
“We can also teach people some basic first aid skills, which can be life-saving in rurally isolated places.
“GPs, health professionals and other members of the community can refer people to this service, and people can also get in touch themselves if they, or someone they know, could benefit from our support.”
As research shows, almost a quarter of older people live in rural areas, so the charity’s work, made possible through funding from Land Rover UK, will allow them to reach the most vulnerable, especially during periods of severe weather.