Learning from Japan about supporting workers who live with dementia

On 30 September trade unionists from across Scotland gathered in Glasgow to learn how to support workers affected by dementia; directly or as carers

A highlight of the conference, which was organized by Age Scotland in partnership with Scottish TUC and Alzheimer Scotland, was a video of an interview with Tomo; a visitor from Japan who is living and working with dementia, undertaken by Agnes Houston; a campaigner who herself has the condition.

At the conference Age Scotland launched a new free guide on Dementia and the Workplace.  While employers in Scotland are the main audience for this guide, it also proposes actions that everyone in a workplace can take to become more dementia aware, from occupational health professionals to customer facing staff.

You can download the guide at www.yourbrainyourjob.scot.

Dementia: “I wasn’t offered help – I was castigated.

James McKillop’s long career in the civil service came to an abrupt and unpleasant end after he developed the symptoms of early stage dementia. Here he tells his story, and calls for employers to show workers with dementia compassion and fairness, not the door.


I joined the Civil Service in 1959. I went where I was sent, and after a few years in England, found myself in Glasgow in 1971. Where I worked, females outnumbered the males, by at least ten to one. It was a great place for a single man to meet a possible wife, and so I did; marrying in 1973. Four children followed. Life went on, and then it changed. I was taking longer and longer to do my work. It wasn’t rocket science or brain surgery, just clerical work. The work was routine and you did the same work on the first of January, as you did a year later on the 31 December. And the same again the next year.

I ran a small team and I checked their work. It had to be correct when it left me otherwise the customer would suffer another day’s delay. I was doing my work correctly but frequently had to consult my work’s manual to get it right. This meant staying behind unpaid, to keep up with my workload. I did not mind this, as being correct was so important to me.

My supervisor noticed I was not coping but instead of being asked if all was well and being helped, I was castigated. If I had had a drug or alcohol problem, all sorts of help and counselling were available, but there was nothing for an employee, who had given his all since leaving school. And now at age 55, was now experiencing some sort of problem. There was no mention of being referred to anyone, who could look into the situation. Note, I did not have a diagnosis of dementia at that time. But I was struggling.

The pressure mounted on me and took toll on my health with absences for high blood pressure. I ended up off for some months. The day I went back I had such a harrowing interview with my supervisor I had to go to the work’s nurse. My blood pressure was so high she said I would die if it stayed at that level. She sent me home in a taxi, and I never worked another day there. I took a retirement package, before I was pushed out or died from the high blood pressure. What a way to end your lifelong career! Normally at retirement there is a ‘do’, presents and speeches. No one in my group knew I had retired, until a month later and that was by accident. If I had been offered a job at the level below me, my work would have been checked, with no disadvantage to the customer.

At work I was in charge of people and one time I noticed a very good worker, a widow, was not coping. I spoke to her gently, pointing out she was not up to her usual standard, and was there anything I could help with. She had problems with a lodger that were affecting her sleep and her finances. She refused to show him the door, as she could not do that to somebody’s son. She took my advice to buy him a one way ticket back to the islands. Her work rate immediately improved and she looked and sounded better. I looked after my staff – but I wasn’t looked after by my employer when it was me who needed help.

Some years later I was at Alzheimer’s Scotland, making a video for them with ten others, who had been diagnosed with some form of dementia. During a break in filming we got chatting, and found every single one of us, had left work under a cloud, as our performance had slipped. We were got rid of. Employers need to be aware that dementia is a disability, and people should be treated under any Disability or Human Rights acts around. Sadly, there are people reading this article that will go on to develop dementia. Make sure your rights are in place before that happens.

This article is taken from James’ presentation today to a Dementia and the Workplace conference for trade union reps, organised by Age Scotland, STUC and Alzheimer Scotland.

Scottish Government consultation about new benefit powers

The Scottish Government is consulting about how best to use its new benefit powers, the consultation is open until 28th October 2016. You can find full information here.

The new benefit powers most likely to affect older people relate to

  • Disability related benefits including Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance
  • Cold Weather Payments
  • Winter Fuel Payments
  • Funeral Payments

The Scottish Government is interested in your opinions on a wide range of issues including:

  • Are there any particular words or phrases that should not be used when delivering social security in Scotland?
  • Should social security in Scotland make some provision for face to face contact?
  • What are your views on what is right and wrong with current disability benefits?
  • Are there changes that could be made to disability benefits that would significantly improve equality?
  • What do you think should be paid for by a Funeral Payment?

How to get involved

1. You can respond to the full consultation on the Scottish Government’s website here

2. Alternatively we have summarised the questions most likely to affect older people which you can respond to these here. Your comments will inform Age Scotland’s response to the Scottish Government.

3. We are also running a series of consultation events in partnership with Age Scotland member groups across Scotland – see details below.

  • Orkney – Age Concern Orkney, Kirkwall – Monday 3rd October (Exact time TBC)
  • Bellshill – Orbiston Neighbourhood Centre – Tuesday 4th October 10:00am – 12:15pm
  • New Cumnock – Lochside House Hotel – Tuesday 4th October 1pm – 3pm
  • Inverness – Merkinch Community Centre – Thursday 6th October 2pm – 3pm (EVENT FULL)
  • Glasgow – The Senior Centre, Castlemilk – Thursday 6th Octoiber 10:30am – 12:30pm (EVENT FULL)
  • Elgin – Elgin Youth Cafe – Friday 7th October 10am – 2pm
  • Grangemouth – Venue TBC – Thursday 13th October – 11:00am – 1:30pm
  • Edinburgh – Pilmeny Resource Centre – Thursday 20th October 1:30pm – 3:30pm (EVENT FULL)
  • Dundee – Full details TBC

If you would like to attend an event, please contact Helen Simpson at helen.simpson@agescotland.org.uk or call 0333 32 32 400.

Remember, if you are unable to attend these events, you can still submit direct to the Scottish Government or through our online consultation. We can also mail out a response form to those people who do not have internet access.

5 reasons that volunteering while studying might just be the best idea ever…

Studying at university or college is a huge task. Between lectures, seminars, tutorials, labs, reading and writing reports it can feel that there’s just not enough time to cram it all in and that’s before you even start studying for exams, working part time, socialising or making time to speak to your family.

However, there are some reasons that you still might want to consider volunteering while studying:

  1. It can help you gain valuable and transferable skills

There are many skills that are transferable to all kinds of jobs across every sector. Taking on a volunteer role can be to develop and practise these skills.

A couple of these key skills include communication in all its forms (writing, speaking on the phone etc.) and team working skills.

  1. Getting experience

So, you have the skills you need to land that job. Great! Now all you need is to be able to demonstrate them. In a really competitive job market having practical examples that you can use in an interview are more important than ever. Being able to talk about how you have recently used these skills in a voluntary capacity could set you apart from other applicants.

  1. Meet new people and get involved your (new) community

Volunteering can be a great opportunity to meet people. This can be especially helpful if you are living in a new place. It can also be a nice way to find out more about the community that you are living in and be actively involved in it.13645078_1204367659594797_8972420390861312461_n

  1. Do something worthwhile

Studying can be stressful and for many volunteers their role is a welcome opportunity to do something different and a good way to get away from those stresses and focus on something else for a couple of hours. Feeling that you are doing something worthwhile can be a great confidence boost and this can also help to combat stress.

  1. Find out about yourself

Volunteering is a wonderful way to have a go at doing something new. You might discover something that you are great at, a potential future career or find out about a cause or an issue that you care deeply about.

Age Scotland has had many student volunteers in recent years and they have often told us that volunteering has helped them secure a job or helped them to decide what they want to do when they finish their studies.

If you are concerned about not having enough time to fit volunteering in, it’s good to remember that volunteering can be really flexible. There are roles that require a couple of hours every week, but there are loads of others that involve just a one off activity (for example supporting at an event), just volunteering during holidays or roles that can be worked in when you have time.


If you are feeling inspired to have a look for a volunteering role you can find out about volunteering with Age Scotland on our website here: www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/get-involved/volunteer/

If we don’t have a role you fancy or would suit you, you can find out about all sorts of volunteering opportunities across the whole of Scotland on Volunteer Scotland website here: www.volunteerscotland.net/

Putting dementia on the workplace agenda

Dementia can affect any workplace – but if and when it does, how likely are employers and employees to respond in the right way?  Since joining our Early Stage Dementia team in April Doug Anthoney has been working to ensure Scotland’s workplaces are dementia aware.   Here’s the story so far.

“If one of your employees had dementia – would they tell you?” That’s the question we posed to the twenty employers taking part in a dementia awareness training taster day in May.  Only a handful were able to say “yes”.  This needs to change.

The case for putting dementia on the workplace agenda is clear.  Our population is ageing, state pension age is rising, and employers no longer have the power to force retirement at age 65.  Which means that more of us will experience the first symptoms of dementia at work, and more of us will be juggling work with caring for someone who has dementia.  In dementia unaware workplaces employees affected by the condition are more likely to be shown the door than compassion, and employers run increased risks: of quality and safety problems; legal non-compliance; and needlessly lost staff skills and experience.

Raising awareness in workplaces wasn’t in our original Early Stage Dementia project plan.  But calls to Silver Line Scotland and comments by employers to our Now & Next pre-retirement training team highlighted a need and a demand.  We were delighted when project funder Life Changes Trust accepted our case for an additional focus on workplaces.

My first task was to research the links between dementia and employment matters.  Two things helped immensely:  new findings on Dementia and the Workplace from the University of the West of Scotland and Heriot Watt University, and training materials already designed for raising the dementia awareness of Age Scotland member groups. Given this head start I was able to offer two half-day training workshops from late May: a general dementia awareness session for everyone in the workplace; and a specialist session for human resources staff and managers.  So far I’ve delivered workshops to employers including Stirling Council, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, SSE, Horsecross, Cohesion Medical and Glasgow Caledonian University, with really positive feedback.


I’ve also prepared five dementia aware tips for employers and a workplace dementia awareness display kit comprising display boards and flyers.  This is free for employers that book our workplace training, and we’ll be handing out kits to trade union reps at a conference we’re planning jointly with STUC and Alzheimer Scotland at the end of September.  Also in the pipeline is an Age Scotland guide to dementia in the workplace, which will be free to training participants.  We’d also like to develop video resources in which people living with dementia explain to employers what support would have helped them.

Could your workplace benefit from what we’re offering?  You can find out more at www.yourbrainyourjob.scot and get in touch at ESDteam@agescotland.org.uk.


workplace display

Living active, living well

Jim Ferguson’s life was completely changed when he became more active. He met with our Chief Executive Brian Sloan to spread the word about how getting active can improve your quality of life, even for those living with a chronic condition. 

DSC_0598Jim is a former local councillor who volunteers with a number of groups affiliated with Age Scotland and has given regular, valued help to our Community Development team. Jim was referred to a physiotherapist by his GP after being diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. When he was a young boy he had contracted pneumonia and this left an infection in his lungs. As he turned 30 medics removed lobes within his lungs and now, at 75, he is living with the long term consequences of this.

After a few weeks of physio, Jim was asked if he’d like to be ‘prescribed’ a regular exercise class that would give him the support he needed to help his breathing moving forward. Jim jumped at the chance and was referred to Live Active Leisure in Perth.

Jim began his regular Referral Classes and a simple 12 week programme followed that is designed to help inactive adults with any of the following: depression or other mental health issues, weight problems, high blood pressure, muscular / skeletal conditions, neurological conditions and pulmonary conditions – including COPD, like Jim.

“I was sent to Live Active Letham and started the classes with young Marcin – he’s a great guy! I really did get a lot of encouragement and I feel I was pushed just a little bit more every time. It was a huge benefit being part of a class that worked to my level but that was small enough for us all to get the attention we needed to move us on.

“When you can’t breathe you’re restricted in lots of things; it’s that simple. As you get older you have less physical strength and finding a way to start things off at a suitable ability level and work from there is a great thing. It’s made a huge difference to my quality of life and that means it’s also a very good thing for my mental health. “I’m passionate that people keep mobile and as fit as they can at all ages. It’s about mind and body – you have to keep it all going!”

If you want to know more about get fit options in your area, call Silver Line Scotland on 0800 4 70 80 90. If you live in Perth and want to get active, visit www.liveactive.co.uk.

Time for a wee ramble

Ramblers Scotland has 56 walking groups across Scotland and the number is increasing. So what is it about walking that’s got so many people heading outdoors?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy activity that would improve your physical and mental health, lower your risk factors in a range of illnesses, give you a chance to enjoy quality time with old friends and to make new ones, and that you could do throughout most of your life? Well, there is, and it’s as simple as going for a walk.

Walking is an excellent all-round exercise. Almost everyone can do it, anywhere and at any time – and it’s free. You don’t need special clothing and it’s easy to fit into your daily routine. Older adults should aim to walk for around half an hour on most days of the week, but doing any exercise at all is better than nothing. If you’re unfit you can start slowly and build up gradually.

There are real health benefits from being more active; it helps protect the body from many illnesses and conditions, such as heart disease, strokes and osteoarthritis, and also helps to lift depression and improve mental health. But never mind all the health benefits, it’s also enjoyable. Walking helps you to collect your thoughts and appreciate the changing Lochwinnoch BP photo
seasons as you walk throughout the year, and it’s also a sociable activity. 
Walking in a group helps reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and increases social contact. It also means you may be more likely to turn out on a cold morning, and to keep up the activity over time.

Ramblers Scotland has 56 walking groups across Scotland, all with walk programmes led and organised by volunteers, and they often also include social events. Non-members are welcome to go on a few walks for free before deciding whether you’d like to join us. You can be sure of a warm welcome and a good chat with like-minded people. As Dot, one of our members in Dalgety Bay, says, “I joined the Ramblers when I first retired as I was looking for something to do. I never expected I would get so much pleasure out of walking with my group. As well as being much fitter now and making lots of friends, I’ve loved getting to visit Scotland’s fantastic countryside.”

Cunninghame - New Lanark

If you want to explore your local neighbourhood, our Medal Routes project has gathered over 600 short, circular routes of 15, 30 and 60 minutes – bronze, silver and gold medal routes – from Dumfries to Shetland, which help you to get out and about. They are all available from our website. We also have a routes database, Ramblers Routes, which has route suggestions across Scotland, with shorter walks free to download for non-members.

For information on finding your local group, call 0131 472 7006 or email scotland@ramblers.org.uk. or visit our website