Promotion of Active Ageing through Activities in Rural Settings: Innovative Initiatives of a Regional Programme.
Methods. Six farms were selected to carry out horticultural activities as well as training and workshops on rural-related topics with older persons. To measure the impact of these initiatives on participants, both qualitative (i.e. focus-groups) and quantitative (i.e. questionnaires) tools were administered at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the programme. Qualitative data were analyzed through (software assisted) content analysis techniques, quantitative findings through mono- and bivariate analyses.
Results. Findings show that the performed activities improved participants’ self-esteem and perceived self-efficacy, enhanced some competencies and promoted a healthier lifestyle, participation in community life and prevention of social isolation. A considerable result was obtained among some of the over 80 older participants, who reported to feel sort of “awakened” by the experienced activities. Environmental context, direct involvement in the activities, a pivotal role plaid by farmers as motivators and the small dimension of groups arose as key success factors.
Conclusion. The project provided a set of innovative suggestions to develop new models of welfare policies for active ageing in rural contexts. It showed that natural, non institutionalized farm environments can represent valuable alternative solutions to respond to the needs of seniors, especially when initiatives are developed on a smaller, personalised scale and carried out by attentive and motivated staff. The project might represent a valuable example of social innovation in this field, but further research is needed to achieve a structured model and inform future public policies in this respect.