“Disability Benefits” – March’s Hot Tips

Our free calendar “Hot Tips” aims to ensure everyone in Scotland knows about the organisations and services available to them, and how to make the most of later life.

March’s theme is “Disability Benefits” and aims to give a brief overview of the main disability benefits available to older people in Scotland. In this blog, Heather Smith, Age Scotland’s Information and Advice Manager, explains why this time of year is a good time to check your benefit entitlement. 


For benefits advisers, Easter isn’t just the time to eat chocolate, it’s also time to look at changes to benefit rates and encourage people to check their entitlements, as benefit rates change a little in the new financial year. Many older people do not claim the benefits they are entitled to, perhaps because of pride, or the negative stereotypes of “benefit claimants” in some media or because they have not understood the intricacies of rules and regulations. Some media outlets also try to stir up disputes between generations by saying that older people are “well off” – some older people are, but others have had difficult lives where the idea of saving for the future had to take second place to day-to-day budgeting to pay everyday bills and expenses.

The main benefits for older people are State Retirement Pension, Pension Credit and Attendance Allowance.

State Pension

There is still some confusion about State Pension Age. This used to be 60 for a woman and 65 for a man, but the age for women is increasing fast and is now 62 ½, which can be a shock to a woman who in the context of a busy life has not kept an eye on welfare reform changes. The main change at 60 is now the “entitlement card” for concessionary travel, which in Scotland is not tied to the changes in State Pension Age.  There will be changes to State Pension in April 2016 when the rate will become “single tier” and number of qualifying years will change – this doesn’t affect anyone who is already getting their state pension.

Pension Credit

The age for anyone claiming Pension Credit is pinned to the increases in State Pension Age for a woman, so many people may be unsure about when they can claim. Our helpline Silver Line Scotland can track down the relevant date for you and help you to have a look at whether your income, capital and other circumstances mean that you are eligible to make a claim. Call them for free on 0800 4 70 80 90.

Attendance Allowance

Attendance Allowance is the benefit for people who are 65 or over who need help with care or supervision. Many older people who could be entitled do not make a claim because they want to feel independent or they are just getting by without help. Others who do claim may not explain their needs effectively. They may have made gradual adjustments to their expectations as their health has deteriorated and their need for care has increased.

Attendance Allowance is based on the care you need, not the care you actually have. It can be claimed regardless of your income and capital, and you can spend it how you choose to. For those aged under 65, there is a different benefit called Personal Independence Payment.

From the calls we have had to our helpline, Age Scotland knows that many people like to have the facts about benefits clear in their own minds before talking to an adviser or making a claim for benefit. If you think or someone close to you may be entitled to make a claim, get in touch and a Silver Line Scotland Adviser can talk you through your right, on 0800 4 70 80 90.

Download your 2015 Hot Tips Calendar here and get information and advice throughout the year. Here’s what you’ve thought about Hot Tips so far:

  • “Thank you for the calendar – useful & attractive”
  • “Thank you for caring”
  • “I do not think you could do any better. This is wonderful”

Download yours today!

What is the Help for Heating fund?

In their guest blog, RSABI tell us about the “Help for Heating Fund”, launched in December 2014, which aims to alleviate the effect of fuel poverty amongst people who have depended on land-based occupations.


 

It is widely recognised that rural fuel poverty is consistently higher than the national average with older people being particularly vulnerable. Energy efficiency improvements can help make homes more comfortably and affordably warm.  However, in many rural communities where properties are typically older, harder to treat or lie off the gas grid, they alone cannot lift people out of fuel poverty in the context of rising fuel prices and low fixed incomes. 

RSABI recognises that during the Winter months many households will be inadequately heated, with many people will be worrying about paying their energy bills.

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The Help for Heating Fund has been set up to help alleviate the effects of fuel hardship for those who have depended on the land but are now unable to work. The application is simple and the charity has made cash available specifically for this fund, with help coming in the form of a fixed grant of £300 for successful applicants.

A few points to note – the Help for Heating Fund application criteria are simple: applicant households must fall within the Scottish Government’s definition of fuel poverty – over 10% of total income (which includes all benefits, disability or otherwise, and housing benefit, if received) spent on energy bills (or this would be the case if their home was heated to generally acceptable adequate levels). Applicants must meet RSABI occupational criteria – having worked full-time on the land in Scotland for at least 10 years and being no longer able to work owing to age, illness and/or disability.

Those in need of help, or others who may know someone who is sitting at home in the cold, are being encouraged to contact RSABI. Please call the RSABI office in confidence for more information (0131 472 4166), or visit the website www.rsabi.org.uk


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Age Scotland at The Gathering 2015!

Members of the Age Scotland team attended The Gathering in Glasgow last week. Rebecca Dickson from our Information and Advice department summarises the day.


gathering
ˈɡað(ə)rɪŋ/
noun
noun: gathering; plural noun: gatherings
1. An assembly or meeting, especially one held for a specific purpose.
2. A group of leaves taken together, one inside another, in binding a book.

The Gathering is an annual event run by the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) bringing together representatives of the third sector with a view to share ideas, network and show of the work we do.

The Gathering 2015 ran over two days, and welcomed stall holders, as well as delegates to attend a variety of workshops. From Children in Scotland, to Keep Scotland Beautiful, to Citizens Advice Scotland, the third sector was very well represented.

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And we were there! Age Scotland was also very well represented, with staff members from a range of departments either answering questions at our information stall, or attending workshops. Attending were colleagues from Community Development, Fundraising, Human Resources, and Communications, as well as both the Volunteer Development Worker and myself, the Power of Attorney Project Officer, from Information and Advice.

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Given Age Scotland has not attended The Gathering in a good many years, we were unsure what to expect and how best to prepare. So, we went along, armed with a selection of our many publications, promotional posters for Silver Line Scotland, information for enquiring volunteers, and chocolates.

Feedback from our colleagues who attended the workshops and talks was positive and they came back with ideas and the enthusiasm to implement them.

A common question from delegates attending the stalls was “What does Age Scotland do?”. This gave us a perfect platform from which we could take individuals through the range of services we provide: from our work in local communities, to the Silver Line Scotland, to our campaign work. These two days proved to be somewhat of an awareness-raising exercise. However, it was also a valuable opportunity to liaise with representatives from other third sector organisations and talk about ways that we can collaborate, prevent the duplication of resources and generally help each other out.

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Looking ahead, we will be reflecting on our learning from the Gathering 2015 and see how best we can maximise our time if we decide to attend The Gathering 2016. Perhaps we could involve our volunteers, have a wider selection of publications and promotional materials, or we could even promote the event with Age Scotland member groups. Indeed, it was an absolute joy to see three gentlemen from one of our groups, to whom I had delivered a talk the week prior, attend the event.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please do get in touch. We would love to hear from you!

“Looking After You” – February’s Hot Tips

Our free calendar “Hot Tips” aims to ensure everyone in Scotland knows about the organisations and services available to them, and how to make the most of later life.

February’s theme is “Keeping mentally well” and offers tips on dealing with stressful events and challenges. In this blog, Age Scotland’s Karyn Davie looks in more detail at some of the things people should be aware of with their own mental health and wellbeing.


Your mental health is like an escalator, you can go up or down depending on life’s events. When things are going well you might move up, but if something comes along to upset the balance, like changes to physical health, relationships problems or worries about family or money, you might find yourself sliding down.

Sometimes, there’s no clear reason why we feel like this. Changes in our mental health can happen to anyone at any age and, sometimes, regaining the balance can prove difficult.

The stigma around mental health means people don’t always talk about it.  Many older people find it particularly hard to talk about their feelings, perhaps due to a sense of shame or embarrassment, not knowing why they feel the way they do, or simply not wanting to admit they’re aren’t coping.

Men, and older men in particular, typically hide or deny mental health problems, preferring to keep feelings to themselves or not to reveal perceived signs of personal weakness.

We often find it easier to talk about physical health problems than the way we feel.  Anyone can experience a mental health problem, so talking about it really is important.

If you notice a friend or family member withdrawing, try understanding what they’re going through. Their difficulties may be only temporary. If you’re concerned, you could ask (in your own words):

  • How are you feeling?
  • I’ve been worried about you, how are you?
  • You seem down, is there anything I can do to help?
  • Avoid cliché phrases like ‘Cheer up!’ or ‘I’m sure it’ll pass’.

Give them time and space until they’re ready to talk and ensure they know they can contact you when they’re ready. Just knowing they don’t have to avoid the issue with you is helpful.

Remember that the person hasn’t changed, they’re just going through a bad patch with their mental health, so keep talking about the things you always talked about. Just spending time with the person lets them know you care.

Further information can be found from the following organisations:

If you don’t have access to the internet, or if you experience feelings of loneliness and don’t have the social contact you feel you need, contact Silver Line Scotland for help on 0800 4 70 80 90.

Download your 2015 Hot Tips Calendar here and get information and advice throughout the year. Here’s what you’ve thought about Hot Tips so far:

  • “Thank you for the calendar – useful & attractive”
  • “I do not think you could do any better. This is wonderful”
  • “Thank you for caring”

Download yours today!

Silver City Surfers – “The Internet is for everyone”

In our guest blog from Silver City Surfers, we find out about their work to get older people computer using computers and going online in Aberdeen & the North East of Scotland.


The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, tweeted at the 2012 London Olympics, “This is for everyone.” Well, we at Silver City Surfers believe the Internet is for everyone too. We do our best to help older people in Aberdeen & the North East of Scotland to get online and gain basic computer skills. Our philosophy aims to help and support older people to use modern technologies that can be used by them to connect to their loved ones and the World Wide Web, thus combating loneliness and isolation. These new skills can help keep older people stimulated and independent in today’s digital world.

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Beginning in 2005, the charity, Silver City Surfers, has moved forward teaching computing and internet skills from desktops to laptops to tablets. The core strength of The Surfers is our dedicated and talented volunteers, both hospitality and tutors. Without these special people sharing their knowledge and expertise with others in a couthy manner, so many would still be excluded from the freedom of the Internet and valuable online interactions.

Silver City Surfers run five weekly internet cafes across the city where older people can drop in and receive one-to-one tuition on whatever aspect of technology they wish. These are free sessions. Teaching is driven by the learner, at the learner’s pace. Making their visit a social affair is equally as important as teaching and so, we serve some great refreshments after their training session where they can sit round the table, natter away and make new friends. We are very lucky that our hospitality volunteers are not only sociable but incredible bakers; everyone enjoys their bakes. We can report, the Great British Bake Off is alive and well and in full swing at Silver City Surfers in Aberdeen.

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Two of our weekly sessions are outreach sessions in Seaton and Northfield. It is always heartening to see how well these sessions are appreciated by the learners in these communities. Once a month we hold a very popular motivational talk at Satrosphere Science Centre in Aberdeen. The coffee and cakes are worth going for alone! Thank you Satrosphere for your generosity! These talks cover the basics on different aspects of computing and the Internet. It is a perfect introduction to technology for many older people.

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Attendees are often inspired to go further with their learning, which is exactly what we want them to do. How inspiring these talks are was beautifully demonstrated by the story of one reluctant learner, Pam. Pam happened to accompany her friend to one of these talks. At the end, she asked if she could learn how to use an iPad with us. She had firmly rejected an iPad from her family, living in the States, a few months earlier, insisting that she had no need for it. Things certainly changed quickly for Pam – she went from ‘zero to hero’ on an iPad in a very short space of time and now loves it! She has entered the world of Facebook recently and still comes to us for iPad tips and tricks. We are also one year in to a very successful two-year intergenerational project wherein we facilitate technology and Internet learning between younger and older people within local primary and secondary schools.

Being a charity, fundraising is obviously very important to us, and Silver City Surfers has to strive to ensure we can support our activities. Funding comes from a variety of sources including local government organisations, individuals, and local businesses to our volunteers running a charity shop for a week every year. The majority of our funding currently comes from the Aberdeen Change Fund.

The term ‘digital inclusion’ is bandied about a lot these days and everyone at Silver City Surfers is proud that we are doing something positive about that. Berners-Lee still works hard ensuring that the web is accessible to all and so do we.

Website http://www.silvercitysurfers.co.uk
Facebook http://on.fb.me/1B9wwCg
Twitter https://twitter.com/silvercitysurf

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Now hear me: it’s my right to speak

Helen McFarlane, Programme Director of Allied Health Professions at NHS Education for Scotland, explains how a new campaign is aiming to improve the quality of life for people of all ages who have problems speaking.


The ability to communicate is a fundamental human right. But, for many, being heard can be hard to achieve, creating a barrier to education, work, relationships and independence. It can also affect their opportunities to help themselves and work with others to bring about social change.

As a speech and language therapist myself, this is something I’ve seen many times. But there are solutions available. Augmentative and alternative communication, as it’s known, comes in various forms. There are simple approaches such as picture communication books and gestures, and hi-tech software such as text or other input-to-speech programmes (with Professor Stephen Hawking probably the best known user of such equipment).

It’s estimated that there are 26,500 people in Scotland who require AAC, resulting from lifelong conditions such as cerebral palsy or autism or as a result of an acquired condition such as dementia, motor neurone disease, stroke or head injury.

For many of these people, AAC has incredible potential to improve their quality of life, allowing them to express themselves, be more independent and, importantly, enabling them to communicate with the people who love them.  But there are no magic fixes. Different systems will work best for different people.  What matters most is the support of the wider community and taking time to listen.

Eddie Gasowski (65) from Dundee is one of many users of AAC that I have had the pleasure of working with as part of my role. Like many elderly users of AAC, Eddie has aphasia caused by a stroke.

At the time of his stroke 16 years ago, Eddie was a principal teacher in a secondary school, and for a number of years after his stroke he continued his profession as a volunteer teaching Home Economics for which he received a volunteer award. He enjoys many roles in life: husband, father, gardener, runner, fundraiser, furniture maker, baker, photographer, befriender, research participant and campaigner to break down barriers for people with communication disabilities.

Eddie (right) says using an iPad to communicate has made a big difference.

Eddie (right) says using an iPad to communicate has made a huge difference.

Speaking of his experience of AAC he said: “For many years I used a low-tech communication book along with little bits of speech, gestures and other non-verbal signals to get my message across. Three years ago I was introduced to an iPad and it has transformed my ability to communicate. I still live a very active life and my device makes it easier for me to do everything from ordering a coffee to raising money for charity.”

Communication extends to all aspects of our lives.  Civic participation and being able to contribute to political discussions – such as the debates during, and now after, the referendum across Scotland – are part of all our human rights.  Our aim is that people who use AAC can be as active in that debate as all other participants and will have their right to speak supported by others.

We want everyone to be confident in speaking to people who use AAC, addressing them directly (not just their carer) and being patient.  Anyone could face losing their speech and all most people in that situation want is to be treated as others themselves would want to be treated.

That’s why we’ve launched a new website and campaign at www.nowhearme.co.uk. It aims to raise awareness among health, education and care professionals and direct them to resources that will help them. But we also want to reach others, including community and private organisations and businesses, to let them know help exists if they need it in how they can best support people who use AAC to get the most from these organisations too.

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“Looking After You” – January’s Hot Tips

Our free calendar “Hot Tips” aims to ensure everyone in Scotland knows about the organisations and services available to them, and how to make the most of later life.

January’s theme is “Looking After You” and offers tips on keeping active, healthy and happy. Age Scotland Allied Health Professionals Yolanda Strachan and Jenny Ackland expand on these themes in their guest blog.


A new year can give us a bit of encouragement to break the habits of the old one. So 2015 could be the perfect time to look at what you can do to improve your health and well-being.

Research is increasingly showing that too much sitting is having a significant negative impact on health.  It is linked to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Inactivity can also impact on our mental health; lowering our mood and increasing the risk of depression.

Keeping active, keeping warm

Sitting too much is also a risk factor in contributing to falls.  New research shows that older women sitting in a cold room (at a temperature of 15 degrees C) for 45 minutes can have a remarkable loss in muscle power. This means it is more difficult to get out of a chair and will reduce walking speed.

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It is so important to keep warm and moving about, especially at this time of year, as it will help to warm up your muscles. Sue Lavery, an Occupational Therapist, has shared some useful hints that may help you keep warm in the cold weather.

  • Warm clothes – wear lots of layers that are easy to put on. If you need any help getting dressed, you can consider purchasing dressing aids, which are available here.
  • Warm feet – your feet are particularly difficult to warm up, so keep moving about and don’t let them get cold. Try wearing socks with high wool content and well-fitting shoes. Only wear slippers for short periods.
  • Warm room – if you can, programme your heating to come on before you get up in the morning. A remote control timer may help. Contact your energy supplier for information, or visit the Age Scotland website for more information.
  • Warm drinks and meals – establish a routine of making hot drinks, soup, porridge etc. The activity of making these will help keep you warm too. Visit our Spread the Warmth page for hints and tips.

Telehealthcare

Telecare also has an increasing role to play in helping people to keep warm.  A mobile phone controlled power sensor socket with temperature sensor contains a temperature probe to monitor room temperature. This also alerts carers by text message if for example a heater socket is switched off inadvertently. Click here for more information.


Download your 2015 Hot Tips Calendar here and get information and advice throughout the year. Here’s what you’ve thought about Hot Tips so far:

  • “Invaluable, great help – used daily, all year”
  • “I do not think you could do any better. This is wonderful”
  • “Brilliant information that I will pass onto family and friends”

Download yours today!