Sedentary Behaviour – What “sit” all about?

There has been a lot in the news lately about sedentary behaviour and the effect this can have on our health.

Jenny Ackland, one of Age Scotland’s Allied Health Professionals, talks us through the research and why, even with a background in health, she was surprised by just how much of an impact sedentary behaviour can have on our physical and mental wellbeing.

So what is sedentary behaviour?

Sedentary behaviour describes periods of time where you’re not very physically active, this could include watching TV, sitting reading a book or sitting working at a computer.


What the evidence shows:

The research to date shows specific differences in the way sedentary behaviour can impact on our metabolism, physiology, health and wellbeing. It is now recognised that long periods of prolonged sitting is an independent risk factor for poor health outcomes.

The British Heart Foundation National Centre evidence briefing on sedentary behaviour highlights the following:

  • The adverse effects of sedentary behaviours apply even if you meet the physical activity guidelines
  • Public health guidance indicates that prolonged periods of sitting should be avoided
  • Sedentary behaviours have a negative impact on mental wellbeing
  • Sedentary behaviours are associated with increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Sedentary behaviours are associated with lower femoral bone mineral density in post-menopausal women
  • Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide
  • Patterns and behaviours established in childhood persist with age
  • Sedentary behaviours are more prevalent and sustained in older people

The point about meeting the physical activity guidelines is key. We’re all used to hearing that we should be doing 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, but the research tells us that even if you went for a 30 minute run, if you then sit on the sofa for the rest of the day, you are just as susceptible to the adverse effects!

What’s clear is that more research is needed to identify simple, effective ways people can reduce their sedentary time, and Age Scotland is involved in a major new study aiming to do just that.

The Seniors Understanding Sedentary Patterns Study

This three year study is being led by a team of high profile researchers from a number of universities, including Glasgow Caledonian University. It is funded by the Medical Research Council.

They plan to recruit 750 people from two major long-term Scottish studies from which they already have some clinical measurements and data. This data will be reviewed against new objective measurements on their current activity patterns. The researchers will also interview some participants to capture their views about sedentary behaviour and identify what might encourage people to become more active. Using this information, the aim is to design an intervention that will help to reduce sedentary behaviours.

Age Scotland is part of the Dissemination Advisory Group and we’ll be helping to share information about its work. We will also be raising awareness of the health risks associated with sedentary behaviours, not only with older people but with our own teams at work which has started already in our Edinburgh office!

What can we do at work to reduce sedentary behaviour?

The first step is just to take notice of the amount of sitting that you do in a working day and think about how you can be more active. Have a bit of fun with your team suggesting ways to reduce the amount of sitting you do and what would work for everyone.

Why not make a point of standing up when you answer the phone or have standing or walking meetings? The more active you are the better, but even just standing up for a few minutes in each hour can make a difference.

I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions to reduce the amount of sitting that we all do, so drop me an email at:

Volunteering at the Commonwealth Games

John Stewart, 69, shares his experience of volunteering at the Commonwealth Games and why he would encourage others to volunteer.

When I was young, men slightly older than me who had enjoyed or endured National Service would offer the advice “never volunteer”. Perhaps that stuck with me, because up until the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, I had never volunteered.

Because I was retired and widowed and looking for things to do, and not least because it was in Glasgow where I live, I decided to put my name forward. When I heard that 50,000 had done the same and 25,000 were to be interviewed for 15,000 places I assumed that being 69 would rule me out.

However I was called to interview in early 2013. The process was very slick at the Commonwealth offices in Glasgow.  My passport was scanned, my picture taken and I responded to a standard set of questions. After that, I received a number of newsletters but heard nothing back so assumed that was that. Then in May of 2014, I found out I had been selected as a driver which had been my first choice. So I became a Clyde-sider.

Me and my grandson Ryan

Me and my grandson Ryan, who loved the mascot Clyde!

I attended two training days in June at the place that was to be the transport depot.  I was amazed to learn that there was to be over 1,100 cars available and 1,500 drivers, some of whom would be on shift and all of whom would be doing 10 hour shifts.  My rota extended over sixteen days with two days off.  At first that sounded a lot but they explained that during the ten hours would be broken up while we waited for clients that were attending meetings or events.

Outsize Pipers

Outsize Pipers in George Square in Glasgow

My role was to be what was called a T1 driver.  This involved being assigned to a specific car and a specific client who would be part of what was called the Games Family.  For the most part these were representatives of the Commonwealth Federations of the 71 countries competing.  Before the Games started I had most of three days driving between the various locations in Glasgow where events were to be held until the routes were well known.

HRH Prince Tunku Imran, his wife and I

HRH Prince Tunku Imran, his wife and I

Clients were arriving at different times so I had some days at the beginning of the Games where I was a support driver, waiting for my clients to sign on.  During that time I chauffeured for the Bahamas, Swaziland and Australia until my client from Guyana arrived.  As well as driving there was time for me to chat to the other drivers at the depot and everyone had a story to tell.  Many had volunteered at the Olympics in London and had travelled from many parts of England and stayed at their own expense, simply because they had enjoyed the experience so much.  Meeting other drivers and sharing their experiences all added to the enjoyment.

Most of the driving was taking the clients from their hotel to a Games venue, moving between venues or to the Athlete’s Village.  A massive bonus was that with my type of car pass I could park close to the venue and my personal pass allowed me into the events to watch from the back.  I saw Rugby at Ibrox, Boxing, Netball and Gymnastics at the Scottish Conference Centre and the icing on the cake was three evenings watching Athletics at Hampden.


Panoramic view of Hampden on 28th July 2014

So what have I taken away from the experience? I found I could speak easily to complete strangers and I intend to keep that going.  I now find I will engage people in conversation in queues and in cafes.  During the games the uniform gave that licence but I realised people are often happy to chat. I found that I was still able to do a full 10 hours without getting weary and I am now avoiding daytime telly in favour of doing things. I golf twice week and my son and daughter have found lots of D.I.Y. to keep me amused!

I found volunteering gave me a great sense of worth. One of the Glasgow clients I had in the car works for a local hospice and invited me to get in touch about doing something for them so I did.  I have a set of forms to fill in and hopefully they will find a role for me which may well involve driving or perhaps administration or IT which was my work pre-retirement. I would thoroughly recommend volunteering. Although there is a commitment, it is on your own terms and, as I have found, there is something for everyone – whatever
your age and capability.

To find out about volunteering opportunities in your area, visit

Step up for Age Scotland

Are you a runner, jogger or general challenge-setter whose looking for a new target to aim for? Then Alisdair Caulfield, Age Scotland’s fundraising manager, may have just the ticket for you – and you’d be helping us at the same time.

It’s the time of the year again that thousands of serious athletes, running enthusiasts and superstar fundraisers have been waiting for. Entries for Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2015, Scotland’s largest running festival, are now open!

Now in its 13th year, this popular and ever-growing marathon festival takes place in Scotland’s capital city on 30/31 May and continues through East Lothian offering stunning views and an unforgettable running experience. With its fast and flat route, this marathon is one of the fastest in the UK so can deliver that elusive personal best for runners! Edinburgh Marathon joined the world’s elite road races in 2012 by becoming the first marathon in Scotland to be officially recognised by the IAAF, the athletics governing body. The IAAF bronze label puts the race among the top 75 in the world, making it a pivotal part of the sporting calendar for runners.

The Edinburgh Marathon Festival is Scotland’s largest running festival of its kind with more than 30,000 runners expected to take part in 2015. There are seven races on offer over two days including the marathon, half marathon, team relay, 10k, 5k and junior races. So there really is something for everyone.

thinkstock photo_running family 14_07_14 (2)

Have you ever dreamt of completing a marathon? Do you and friends fancy taking part as a team? Do you want to make a difference to the lives of older people in Scotland? Do you think you have what it takes to tackle the Edinburgh Marathon Festival?

If you answered yes then why not join team Age Scotland and make a real difference to the lives of older people in Scotland today and take part in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 2015! Entries are now open and to register your interest in joining Team Age Scotland you can sign up now or you can speak to our fundraising team on 0845 833 0200 or email

Day out in the Scottish Borders

Morag Halliday, Development Officer, and Martin Munro, Legacy Officer, recently visited two very different groups in the Borders, where change has recently been a major factor

Hawick Senior Citizens Association

Hawick Senior Citizens Association’s Evergreen Hall is tucked away on Dovecote Street overlooking the River Teviot – but you will have no trouble finding the group with the clear shiny new sign that the group has just put up.  This is just one of the many recent changes that the group has undertaken – which together with larger structural changes for warmth and weatherproof – have created an inviting flexible space that is in constant use by the local community.

Evergreen HallWe were welcomed by the large friendly group into the newly insulated and plastered hall, to see phase two of the renovations which included new colour co-ordinated chairs, window and stage curtains that Age Scotland has helped fund.  We were fortunate to visit just before lunchtime on a Thursday – which is when  the Social Group meet for a nourishing and enjoyable lunch followed by a cup of tea and a blether.

Evergreen Group, HawickThe enthusiasm and energy which we witnessed over our meal – as we heard of the dances, indoor skittles and various events and activities the committees and volunteers run – was infectious; as were the inventive ideas for the usage and hiring of the hall and other fundraising ideas that have kept the group running since the 1960’s.

With commitment and enthusiasm like this it’s clear this group will continue to run and run…

If you would like to find out more about the group’s activities or get involved contact George Brown,  Tel No: 01450 373829 email:

Find out more about Age Scotland’s work in the community

Galashiels Men’s Shed

Galashiels Men’s Shed has been set up in record time by a hopeful bunch of people who sat together last November with the enthusiasm and commitment to create a place where men could come together share skills and interests, pursue hobbies and pastimes and have time for coffee and a chat.    Gala Mens ShedIn January this year they started operating from just one small room – making bird boxes and planters for a new sensory garden for people who are blind or partially sighted.  But it soon became apparent interest in the group meant this room was too small and they persuaded the local council to give them a local premises which had been earmarked for demolition.  Gala Mens shedThe group then took ownership of the premises in May this year and the Shedders have been working tirelessly to create a working space and socialising area, when we visited there were over a dozen men, some painting the building and some busy making their workshop benches.  Already they have a range of products that they have produced including garden chairs, bird tables, bird and bat boxes, and are also repairing bicycles  – and the local council has commissioned them to create planters for a common area in the Town Centre.

Its early days but this band of men – with ages ranging from 18 to 82 – with support from the Volunteer Centre Borders – have proven they have the drive to take things forward with an official launch event planned soon.

If you would like to find out more about the group or get involved contact: Nigel Sargent at Volunteer Centre Borders, Tel No: 0845 602 3921 email:

Find out more about Men’s Sheds on the Age Scotland website.

Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival, is back this October…

After a hugely successful year in 2013, with 400 arts and creative events taking place from the Scottish Borders to Shetland, plans are now well underway for Luminate 2014.

The festival showcases projects and events run by communities and arts organisations nationwide – including theatre, dance, music, visual arts and community projects – and offers a chance to celebrate creativity, share stories, and to explore what ageing means to all of us.

Old Skool Graffiti Projec

Old Skool Graffiti Project, Luminate 2013

The 2013 programme included a wonderfully diverse range of performances, screenings, exhibitions, workshops and events, all capturing the spirit of the festival. From an art installation at Royal Observer Corps bunkers on Shetland, to a design label created by an over-60s art group in Banchory to an intergenerational graffiti project in West Lothian.

This will be Luminate’s third festival, and, working closely with Age Scotland, the team are gearing up for another programme of exciting and inspiring events and activities that will embrace the length and breadth of the country from 1 – 31 October 2014.

As in previous years, Luminate includes an independently run programme from artists, cultural organisations and community groups, and there is still time to submit a proposal to be part of this year’s celebrations.

If you are planning arts events or creative activities anywhere in Scotland this October that are aimed at older people or have a theme relating to ageing, Luminate would love to hear from you. You can submit your proposal online where you’ll also find guidance notes and frequently asked questions to help guide you through the process.

And if you’re looking for some inspiration, the 2013 programme is still available to browse online here  or on the website at

The 2014 programme will be available by early September.

Leith at War: Memories make History

Last year’s Age Scotland Award winners; Citadel Arts Group are proud to promote their latest inter-generational project. Author Laure C. Patterson tells us more about the project, from the script through to performance week! Thanks too to Director Liz Hare for the pictures and background.

Leith at War Flyer

Yesterday I was in Leith’s Hermitage Court sheltered housing complex with a class of Primary 6 children mixing with residents old enough to be their grandparents. The children were performing scenes from a play based on the living memories of these and other residents. The laughs and tears and shouts of appreciation were for real. Many were mine!

Dress Rehersals

Mark Kydd as Grampa, Angus Skakle as young Eck at Dress Rehersals

As a kid I loved listening to stories. The best were true, told by my dad and my great-aunt, who talked of their adventures in earthquakes, train wrecks and perilous sea journeys. My mum created fairytales full of magic and dreams. Now, in my sixties, I’m listening to stories again: stories of excitement, daring and courage. And they’re all real! They were told to me by Leithers who lived through blitzes, blackouts and bombs in the Second World War, right here on the Leith Home Front.

Pupils from St Mary's Primary and residents of Hermitage Court

Back in March, children from St Mary’s Primary came along to Hermitage Court to enjoy the reading, socialise together and give us their thoughts about the play.

When I joined Citadel Arts Group some years ago I learned a great deal about courage, patience and humour from helping run living memory sessions with Leithers up to 91 years of age. Citadel Arts, with a history of producing community dramas from living memory, kindly offered me the chance to write. So I wrote ‘Leith At War’. Three classes of primary and secondary children have come together to share these stories with their tellers, and one of the pupils stars in ‘Leith At War’. So I was really proud when Age Scotland honoured Citadel last year by voting us Member Group of the Year in a Parliamentary presentation!

Living Memory Group

First read through with our script advisers whose ages ranged from 70s to 90s.l They advised us closely about the events of the play, the way people spoke, details of dress and RAF uniform, to achieve authenticity.

Thank you to all the lovely people who shared their stories with me, to Citadel for taking these stories onto the stage, and to Age Scotland for the great work they do with the older generations who enrich us every day. I hope you can all come and see the play.


‘Leith At War’ is being performed in the Leith Hub (foot of Leith Walk) on 19, 20 June at 7.30pm and 21 June at 2pm. Tickets £7/£5. Click on to reserve tickets.



Hospital to Home

Supporting the transition from hospital to home for older people across Scotland

This latest Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) project is concerned with the design of a positive pathway to improve the transition of older people from hospital to home. The project is exploring the process of achieving a smooth transition for older people and how this can be improved using a person-centred approach that focuses upon improving older people’s journeys back home following a hospital admission.

Hospital to HomeThis involves taking a co-production approach, ensuring older people and their families are engaged with health and social care practitioners through on-going group discussion and input. This will enable all key stakeholders’ voices to be heard throughout the process.

The project is taking place over the course of 20 months (July 2013 – March 2015). Stage 1 has recently finished and you can see the outputs here:

1. Connect: providing creative, open spaces for people to come together from diverse backgrounds to look differently at challenges facing the sector.

  • An Advisory Group was established to include expert practitioners and professionals across Scotland.
  • A working group of older people (and their families or carers) has also been established. We are running eight Workshops with them to share their personal perspectives and experiences of the current pathway in their area (Stage 2). In addition, this group contains practitioners and professionals working on the ground in Tayside.

2. Inspire: finding, sharing and encouraging possible responses to issues facing social services by drawing on ideas and knowledge about what works elsewhere and testing new ideas ourselves.

  • The information generated through experts working on the ground and discussion within the Advisory Group has been extrapolated to generate a visual map of what pathways already look like in Scotland (see link above).

3. Inform: building evidence about innovation and creativity to improve the understanding and confidence of people in this sector.

  • The Advisory Group and Workshop discussions have been guided by design methodology in order to establish a creative, co-produced and person-centred approach that everyone can engage with comfortably.

4. Support: developing projects to test ideas practically and to contribute to our understanding about how innovation and improvement can be sustained and scaled.

  • Guided by the Advisory Group’s expertise, and the Stage 2 Workshops, an existing and proven service identified during the Connect and Inspire phases will be developed as a pilot study. The pilot study will be tested and evaluated within a Scottish health board over a two-month time frame.

Read the Hospital to Home blog to see find out more about the research process so far and find out more about whats next.. .

IRISS is currently seeking people who can help build an understanding of what is happening already in Scotland to improve older people’s experience, care and service provisions during their pathway from hospital to home.

If you are working in an existing pathway or helping to develop a new pathway and would like share your stories and experiences please get in touch for an opportunity to write a guest blog post or to have your story recorded for an IRISS FM show.