A New Framework

Who is the Wireless Set for?

This project has elderly islanders at its heart. In this case, five elders living on Sanday, an island of Orkney, Scotland. What’s it like to grow old on a wind- beaten island? Key services and amenities, particularly around health care, are ever-more centralised but their link to the mainland is disrupted.

Elderly islanders know vulnerability and resilience deeply and at the smallest of scales as they navigate daily life. The common feeling is that their experience is largely dictated by an authority with no embodied part in their world.

The Wireless Set seeks to understand the disruption between islands and urban spaces in the context of globalisation. How is standardisation and centralisation felt among those not spoken for?

Given this approach, this film is for the professionals at risk of becoming this disembodied voice. It is designed to support communities in articulating what is a nuanced issue, often hard to communicate without visuals. The Wireless Set offers a framework for understanding and working on widely-felt issues and demonstrates an attempt to re-tune.

So what does that recentring mean for Health Care?

Could National Health in Scotland’s rural and island communities be better understood under the Wireless Set?

Many residents of, or health care professionals working in, Scotland’s rural and Island communities may recognise a parallel. Care provision to isles under a National Health Service can sometimes feel out of place.

For example, the idea of the personal/professional dichotomy that is intrinsic to the health care service, would likely never have been designed in and for a small island community with a small population, where any two people are connected in several ways: personal and professional.

Further, the concept of anonymity that is important in many health care contexts for safeguarding purposes, is difficult to apply to these small island communities where a level of harmless gossip is often an element of community care. Knowing one another’s business and keeping an eye on each other is important to the running of a caring island community in many ways.

Island residents’ expectation for face-to-face dialogue can mean that the assertion of values from a ‘disembodied’ voice is often considered strangely out of place on the island.

This project centres the participants. What is it like for them to negotiate their space? How is it to move around the house? to walk outside? To move around the island? On a bigger scale, how is it to access health care that is off the island, in Kirkwall, or Inverness or Aberdeen. What type of experience of space is created for them when key services are moved further and further away? Not only physically, but what social dynamic is created when the decisions are made from these spaces, by those with a different experience.

At a more weighted level, the care infrastructure of the island cannot fully depend on neighbourly support, so feelings deepen when those most acutely aware of navigating their landscape become at risk under the NHS’ engrained perception of environment. Addressing this is it not only a case of imagining the island landscape, but also about embodying the barriers frail people experience in their lifeworlds. As the structure of the NHS can ultimately dictate life and death, local impressions of its inability to account for this can quickly become deeper than a raised eyebrow in face of professional ignorance.

How can I use the Wireless Set?

The film, ‘The Wireless Set’ is designed to provide an image of the experience of ageing on a Scottish Island. Though every rural or island area poses unique challenges, the framework of thinking which encompasses the film offers an approach to considering such challenges. I am in the process of developing a workshop which I hope will be disseminated among communities for training or education purposes. If you would like to be part of the development stage of this workshop, please get in touch! – esmeandrews01@outlook.com