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

Finding Joy

Finding JoyRebecca Dickson, Age Scotland’s Community and Events Fundraiser, was invited to see Finding Joy at the Edinburgh Festival. Based on a true story, Finding Joy explores Joy’s relationship with her grandson as she experiences memory loss and confusion as a result of dementia. 20160804_161448

The folks at Vamos Theatre got in touch to invite Age Scotland to see the Edinburgh Festival preview of Finding Joy on Thursday 4th August. So, I went along to Rainy Hall, Assembly (New College for Edinburgh residents) and honour the invitation.

Finding Joy explores the life of Joy (Rachael Savage), a woman who has a playful spirit, a love of dancing, and dementia. Joy lives with her daughter (Sarah Hawkins) and grandson, Danny (James Greaves). The play is actually based on the true story of Danny, a young man who uses unorthodox methods to care for his Grandmother.

Danny is shown to be a most wonderful source of compassion and love. He is a poster boy for positive caring. He enables Joy’s safety and respects her dignity whilst also making sure that she is not confused anymore than the dementia causes her to be. For example, instead of questioning why she has a cushion on her head while they watch a football game, Danny and his friend simply pop their cushions atop their heads too. Simple, yet lovely.

Finding Joy has a delightful way of exploring Dementia from Joy’s perspective. We see what she is seeing. So, when those around Joy see her throwing pieces of bread around the living room, the audience sees a younger Joy and her husband having a picnic and throwing bread to the ducks.

The play also, very subtly addresses what not to do when a person has dementia. When Joy is admitted to hospital following a fall, we are shown how the consultant only greets and speaks with Joy’s daughter, instead of Joy herself. And, it is assumed that Joy cannot sign hospital discharge papers as her daughter is asked for a signature instead.

I will say at this point that the play is performed entirely without spoken word. Each of the 12 characters, played by 4 actors, convey their story so successfully that words are not necessary. Each actor wears the mask of the character they are playing, and music is used to set the tone of a scene. I have to say the lack of speech made me enjoy the jumping shoulders of the cast, a sign of a proper belly laugh, even more. The fact that the production does not use speech makes it accessible to both hearing and deaf audiences. What’s not to love?!

Finding Joy has been touring the country, with the Edinburgh leg lasting until Sunday 14th August. If you decide to attend, I have three tips for you:

  1.   Bring tissues. If not for you then for those around you. There will be tears.
  2. If you can, speak to the cast. I had a chance to speak with James (Danny) who is clearly so passionate about the production it will make you love it even more.
  3. Bring your pennies. Vamos theatre are kindly supporting Age Scotland by having a collection bucket at the end of each performance. We are incredibly grateful for anything you can give.

Thank you to Honor at Vamos Theatre for giving me the opportunity to see this lovely production. I wish them all the best for the future.2016-08-09_11.25.58

Food for Life Scotland – Bringing Generations Together

Good food is at the heart of happy, healthy communities, bringing people of all ages together. Soil Association Scotland’s Food for Life Scotland (FFLS) programme works to transform food culture and put good food on the menu, in the curriculum, and in all the places people live their daily lives.


In late 2015, FFLS set up an intergenerational project in Edinburgh which focuses on two settings – Inch View Care Home and Liberton High School. Both venues come under the management of the City of Edinburgh Council and both already have a commitment to good food through the Food for Life Catering Mark award.

When the idea of an intergenerational project was introduced, the school and the care home were enthusiastic. Both were keen to use the journey of their food –‘from soil to plate’ – as a basis for learning, sharing, and celebrating together.

Inch View polytunnel

Building a wheelchair-accessible polytunnel at Inch View has been one of the key projects. Volunteers helped with the construction and pupils from Liberton built its doors as part of their Craft Design & Technology work. Produce will be used in the home’s kitchen as ingredients for residents’ meals and scraps will also go to feed the home’s chickens.

Inch View chickens

As part of a dementia prevention project, Inch View decided to create a recipe book which involved residents reminiscing about childhood memories of food. The school’s art department ran a competition with S2 to design the cover, and pupils are now planning to produce the whole book, including illustrations.

In March 2016, a daffodil lunch was held at Liberton High School. Pupils from the school’s Food for Life Action Group worked with their school cook to look at nutrition for older people and consider what dishes they might like to eat. Pupils designed invitations, menus, prepared the tables and cooked up a fabulous range of dishes for their special guests from Inch View. Three generations sat down to eat together, sharing their experiences and getting to know each other.

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Future events being planned include a strawberry tea and harvest event in autumn, as well as the on-going sharing of produce grown in Inch View’s polytunnel and the school’s raised beds. One pupil from Liberton has been inspired to consider a career in catering and another pupil who has expressed an interest in care work has been offered work experience at Inch View.

The project has been a real team effort, it’s a great example of generations working together and celebrating through food.


To find out more about Food for Life Scotland, please visit www.foodforlifescotland.org or email ffls@soilassociation.org

Meet Rebecca: Events & Community Fundraiser and Radio Celebrity!

Rebecca Dickson, our new Events and Community Fundraiser, has been with Age Scotland for two and a half years and has filled a variety of roles. Here, she tells us more about herself and her plans in her new role.


I’ve worked with Age Scotland since October 2013 as an adviser within Silver Line Scotland, our helpline, providing information, advice and friendship to older people, their family and carers. Keen readers of the Age Scotland blog will also notice posts I have written about the Power of Attorney campaign that I led as Project Officer in 2015.

My experience working with older people as part of Silver Line Scotland, and with communities as Project Officer, puts me in a unique position as Age Scotland’s Community and Events Fundraiser. Not only am I able to give an honest and real account of the positions that older people in Scotland may find themselves in, but I can tell you first-hand about the difference Age Scotland has made and continues to make to the lives of older people across Scotland.

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Snazzy new business card!

In my first few weeks I’ve been connecting with local businesses, giving them collection cans and discussing how they can work with Age Scotland. I’ve been meeting with some of our wonderful fundraising volunteers to support them with their upcoming events and I even appeared on the radio promoting the Loch Ness marathon!

I’m excited to continue to get out and about and demonstrate why the work we do is worthy of your support. I want to let you know about how we help older people, their families and carers to make informed decisions, how we tackle isolation and loneliness, and how we seek to effect change to the benefit of older people. Our aim is to enable older people in Scotland to love later life.2016-07-21_1120

If you would like to organise a fundraising event, volunteer, take part in a challenge or if you know you want to get involved but are not sure where to start, just get in touch! We want to support you and I’d love to hear from you.

Email me at fundraising@agescotland.org.uk or call 0333 323 2400

Community researchers needed for quality of life study

Age Scotland is excited to participate in a new project which will research the views and aspirations of older people on what good quality of life in later years means to them. 

The Charity is being supported by the Life Changes Trust to collaborate with the University of Stirling in a research project which will give older people themselves the role of researching what the key issues and challenges are for securing good quality of life.

The Project is seeking to involve 20-25 community researchers who are over 50, including people with dementia, from across the country to help establish what good quality of life means to older people in Scotland. The findings from the project will be crucial for the Charity for informing our campaigns and parliamentary engagement.

The role of the community researchers will work in teams of 4-5, alongside researchers from the University of Stirling. Their role will be to find out what people want in later life to make them happy through running small group discussions and evaluate the information gathered. No previous research experience or skills are needed, as researchers will be provided with all the necessary training and support by Age Scotland and the University of Stirling over the course of the project, between July 2016 and August 2017.

We are now engaged in the process of recruiting the community researchers, so if you would be interested in becoming a community researcher please get in touch with Richard Baker. This should be a rewarding and informative experience for those who take part, and it is certainly going to be a crucial part of the Charity’s work over the coming year.632x305_research_project

Beyond Volunteers Week: Volunteering Matters

Cat Campbell, Age Scotland’s Information and Advice Volunteer Development Worker reflects on Volunteers Week and how we carry its’ message forward.


This week I saw the following tweet from Volunteer Scotland:

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And I thought what a great – and important – message to round off Volunteers Week. As you may know, Volunteers Week, this year running from 1st – 12th June; is a UK-wide celebration of what the thousands of volunteers across the country do for charities and other organisations, and the benefits that being a volunteer can bring.

Volunteers Week was extended by 5 days this year in order to include the Patron’s Lunch, and we had a wonderful 12 days celebrating and thanking our volunteers. But it doesn’t stop there. At Age Scotland we recognise that, like many organisations across the UK, we simply could not do what we do without the incredible support and enthusiasm so kindly gifted every week by our amazing volunteers.

Some of our volunteers make calls every week to isolated older people who then have the opportunity for a friendly chat, a laugh or someone to listen. Others help keep our shops functioning or support our fundraising events; raising money so we can support local older people’s groups. Others facilitate training sessions for people approaching retirement so that the attendees can make the most of later life. Age Scotland could not accomplish all of this (and more!) without them.

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And it’s not all about us! It has been proven that volunteering is good for you. A recent study by the University of Exeter and National Council for Voluntary Organisations found that volunteers live longer and have more satisfying lives. It can also give you a sense of purpose and makes a great addition to a CV. It can enable you to use your existing skills or learn new ones.

Volunteering Matters

Age Scotland is proud to be part of the Scottish Volunteering Forum, which aims to bring people and organisations that are passionate about volunteering together – increasing awareness, sharing understanding and raising uptake.

In 2015 the forum published a really interesting document: ‘Why volunteering matters, the case for change’. It encourages people to ‘be the change’.  We need to move volunteering in people’s consciousness from something that is nice to do, to something that is essential for the wellbeing of individuals and society, if the number reaping the benefits is going to increase.

Volunteers’ Week is a great opportunity to thank volunteers but that shouldn’t stop just because the week is over.


To find out about volunteering with Age Scotland and what kind of roles we offer, visit our website or contact me at cat.campbell@agescotland.org.uk

 

EU Referendum: one week to go

As we approach the European Referendum, Age Scotland’s Chief Executive Brian Sloan encourages everyone to use their vote.


With only a week until the European Referendum, it is vital that Scotland’s older people have their say on this historic decision for the future of our country. Age Scotland is very conscious that there is a diverse range of views on our future in Europe among older people in Scotland.  That is why we feel it is very important we as a Charity take a neutral position on the referendum.  However while we will not support either of the campaigns in the referendum or encourage older people to vote for a specific position, we certainly do encourage older people to use their vote.

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Brian Sloan – Age Scotland’s Chief Executive

There can be no doubt that big issues affecting older people have been placed at the heart of the referendum debate by both campaigns – the future of our pensions, our public services and our NHS.  It is also true that many people who are weighing up how they will vote on the 23rd feel they would still like more information from the two campaigns to help them come to a decision.

As Scotland’s charity for older people, we are keen that Age Scotland does what we can to help encourage debate on these important issues and ensure people have they information they need to come to an informed view.  That is why we invited leading figures from both campaigns to write articles for our Advantage magazine to explain how they have come to their view.  Professor Sir Harry Burns, a former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, writes on behalf of Scotland Stronger in Europe, and Tom Harris, a former MP, is now Director of Scottish Vote Leave and has outlined that campaign’s position.

You can view the articles here on pages 14-15 and I am sure you will find them interesting and informative. How you will vote in the referendum is up to you, but given this is a big decision for Scotland’s older people I do encourage you to use your vote.