Thousands of elderly people are finding themselves increasingly isolated in dwindling rural areas of Denmark as more and more people move to the cities.
According to the latest government regional and national report, almost 800,000 people reside in rural areas far from cities. One in five people, a total of 167,077, is over 65 years old.
“It’s a terrible development and it’s getting worse and worse,” Karsten Gram, the deputy head of the district interest organisation Landdistrikternes Fællesråd, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
“The elderly are left behind and those who are unable to drive themselves and are dependent on buses are particularly isolated.”
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Helle Nørgaard, a senior researcher with the state building research institute, Statens Byggeforskningsinstitut, said that the phenomenon is taking place throughout the western world and that innovative thinking is required to tackle the issue.
“It’s actually possible to create some facilities such as multi-houses, where the grocer can deliver goods to and where residents can send mail and pick up their medicine from,” Nørgaard said. “Perhaps a meeting place can be established, in the form of a café.”
The minister for housing, urban and rural affairs, Carsten Hansen, agreed that rural areas needed a helping hand, but said that ideas and help also needed to come from within.
“It is essential that there are volunteers in the villages who have good ideas,” Hansen said.