Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA) has endorsed a recent report by a national charity which highlights the isolation and loneliness felt by many elderly people living in rural areas across England because of the lack of public transport.
This isolation can be felt particularly by those who are deaf, who without the means to get out and about, can become entirely deprived of communication with others: they can’t hear to use the telephone with family, friends and to access services, including contacting their GP; they will miss a knock at the door from the postman, milkman or neighbours; often they can’t even enjoy the companionship of TV or radio. It is all too easy for deafness to be a short step away from depression and mental illness, especially if you live in a village miles out of town.
Which is why Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA), the county’s only frontline charity supporting Deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind adults and children, puts such emphasis on providing activities which bring deaf people into social contact with each other, through hard of hearing clubs and lip reading classes, as well as deaf children’s clubs. We do everything we can to re-connect deaf people who, as a consequence of their hearing loss, have withdrawn completely in on themselves.
But transport difficulties prevents some of our most ‘in need’ members from being able to attend social activities and services which GDA provides in Cirencester and elsewhere across the county.
GDA’s Chief Executive, Jenny Hopkins, said: “I can think of several adults and children immediately who would benefit from GDA having a pot of money that could pay the petrol cost for volunteer drivers, or a taxi service for the most vulnerable in need of specialist support to enable us to bring them to our events. Two are deaf-blind ladies who have no social contact outside of GDA. There is also a young girl who has multiple disabilities including being profoundly deaf, and another is a young lad who thrives at our deaf youth club but has problems at home that often means transport is not available to get him to us.”
GDA’s clubs in Cirencester include a weekly lip-reading class and hard of hearing club as well as a deaf children’s club (CDCC) which meets the first Saturday of each month.
Gloucestershire’s proportion of 65 plus year-olds, which is above the national average, has increased from 17.4 percent to 18.6 percent over the past decade with rural Cotswolds hosting the highest percentage at 22.3 percent over 65s. One in three of these will have at least some level of hearing loss.
Jenny Hopkins added, “We have estimated that £5,000 would enable us to provide transport for a year for up to 60 adults and children who without this support would not be able to access GDA’s services and as a result would be at serious risk of extreme isolation and communication deprivation.’
Across the county, GDA provides six lip-reading classes, supports five hard of hearing clubs, runs deaf children’s and youth clubs; a Saturday evening social club for sign language users; a monthly lunch club for older sign language users; as well as a communications support unit (providing BSL interpreters for hospital appointments etc); provision of listening aid and visual alerter equipment; and a hearing aid maintenance service.