8 Women, 32 Dogs, 285km: One massive challenge

Eight like-minded woman from various walks of life have decided to take on a challenge that will push them to the limit physically, emotionally & mentally.

In March this year, the Åtte HUSKYteers will spend six days & nights enduring temperatures as low as – 30°, living, eating & sleeping in the frozen wilderness of the Arctic whilst tending to & driving their own team of Huskies 285km from Norway to Sweden.


L-R: Anna, Carroll, Sabrina,  Fiona, Sarah, Amanda, Julie, Georgina, Amanda

Before setting off on their expedition, the team will be shown all the specialist equipment and given a short briefing on how to drive the dogs and set up camp on the trail. They’ll be introduced to their dog teams and take a short trip of about 10-15km to put into practice their new dog sledding and camp building skills.

On the first day of their expedition, they will set off from TromsØ in Norway following the route below, before ending their journey in Kiruna in Sweden.


Day One – Signal Valley to Three-Nation Border – 30km

Day Two – Three-Nation Border to Keinovopio – 55km

Day Three – Keinovopio to Kamas – 75km

Day Four – Kamas to Camp 4 – 55km

Day Five – Camp 4 to Ice Hotel, Kiruna – 60km


As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, these dedicated ladies have also given themselves the goal of raising £100,000 for charitable causes they care about. The money raised will be split between four charities and Age Scotland is delighted to have been chosen as one of their four.1430390260Amandaw

Team member Amanda Wiewiorka put forward Age Scotland as one of the nominated charities after
experiencing first-hand how loneliness can impact older people in Scotland and seeing what we to do to help.

Amanda witnessed with both her father and her mother-in-law that despite having large families loneliness can still be an issue.

Amanda said ‘Families and society today has changed, people are busier and jobs and careers often mean families live further apart making it difficult for them to visit older relatives. Having someone older people can call for a chat or groups they can attend can make all the difference and it is important that we continue to raise the awareness of loneliness and the effects it can have mentally and physically on older people in Scotland’.



We are so grateful to Amanda and her fellow HUSKYteers for their support.

The trip itself is inspired by other team member Amanda Nisson’s mother Gill who had always wanted to go to the arctic and mush huskies, but sadly passed away after a long battle with cancer before she was able to. The team have a special member in her honour – Chilly Gilly, the team mascot.

Through sponsorships and fundraising events the Åtte HUSKYteers have been tirelessly raising money over the past year, including holding fashion shows, raft challenges and washing cars with Dundee Fire Service.  They have already raised over 50,000 and their last push to reach their goal is their final fundraising event – a fabulous Arctic ball held at the Prestonfield House Hotel tomorrow night.


The Atte HUSKYteers set off on their adventure on the 12th March and we can’t thank these fabulous, driven ladies enough for all their efforts to support Age Scotland. They truly are an inspiration.


Read more of their story and sponsor their efforts by visiting their website: www.attehuskyteers.co.uk


Sporting Memories – how an old leather football is bringing people together

Sporting Memories is a charity that works to support older people living with dementia, depression and loneliness by tapping into their passion for sport. Through encouraging people to share memories of sporting moments, the charity helps people to connect with others and with their past. 

Will Searle from our Communications team visited the Sporting Memories Group in Belshill-Orbiston to meet the group and find out more about their work.

Once the group is settled around a large table with their cups of tea, Norrie Gallagher, one of the two organisers, starts us off. An old leather football is given to a member who shares a story of a football match they attended. The ball is then passed around the group, with whoever holding it sharing a memory of their own. Norrie expertly goes around the room to see if it has struck a chord with anyone – do you remember that match? Have you been to an International?

Everyone has their chance to say their bit and bond with the group. Norrie leads the conversation, ensuring everyone who has come along is engaged and taking part. It’s great to see attendees who were quiet and withdrawn when they first came in, come alive reminiscing about their love of the beautiful game.


At one point, someone pipes up with the question – “Did I tell you my memory from Wembley? 1977…” And so comes a great story from when Scotland beat England 2-1 at Wembley. Fans had been told that the grounds were being re-turfed after the match and celebrating Scots took to the pitch to get their own piece of turf. The man telling the story recalled watching this all unfold and asking a fellow fan, who had his arms full of turf, what he was going to do if he was “stopped by the bobbies”. The fan’s response was that if the police stopped him, he would say it was his brother’s grass and he was just looking after it while he was on holiday!


This was just one of the many great stories filling the room with laughter over the course of two and half hours. There was good-natured banter about Lisbon Lions and Rangers Bears, memories from the war and a quiz about football team names.

It was great to see just how much this activity helped to make those who came along open up. What was also evident was the amazing camaraderie and how the youngest members were supported by older members, first timers by seasoned regulars.


Sporting memories groups are also not just great social activities, but have been really positive activities for people with dementia. The Sporting Memories Network even won Best National Dementia Friendly Initiative in 2014 by Alzheimer’s Society.

As Norrie and his colleague Margo were tidying up, they told me more about how the group works. They really emphasised how they couldn’t keep running the group without their valued volunteers. So if you love sport and are looking for a really rewarding volunteer opportunity check out www.sportingmemoriesnetwork.com to see what groups are operating close by.

Are you ready for winter?

Ready Scotland is a campaign by the Scottish Government to help people across Scotland to think ahead and get prepared for winter. Recent research suggested that after a couple of milder winters, many people were not taking any steps to prepare for emergencies or severe weather. The Ready Scotland site brings together simple steps you can take that can make a big difference – with the help of their trademark dog!


For many it has been a good few years since daily life has been disrupted by waking up to find a few feet of snow has been dumped at their front door by Mother Nature or plans have had to change thanks to the impact of strong winds and rain.

Research undertaken by the British Red Cross and the Scottish Government found that the longer the time period since an individual has had to deal with the effects of severe weather the less likely they are to take steps to prepare. As the memories of the severe weather experienced in 2010 and 2011 fade so does the intention to be ready.

Unfortunately, severe weather doesn’t stick to a rota. Past performance by the weather is not necessarily an indicator of what to expect this winter.

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment & Cities Keith Brown said:

“If there is anything recent winters have shown us it is that Scottish weather is unpredictable. The unpredictability of weather patterns means we cannot simply hope that we will miss the worst of it. While we can’t stop the weather causing disruption, we can be well prepared to cope with it.”

There are 3 elements to think about when it comes to being ready for winter.

Firstly, there is staying informed. Whether through local news, radio, social media or by signing up to the Met Office alert service, it is important that you stay in the know about imminent weather conditions.

The second element is about being prepared. Whether in the home, at work or travelling out and about there are a simple actions that will ensure you are better prepared in the event they have to deal with severe weather.

It is also important to consider whether you are prepared enough. For example, having an ice scraper and de-icer might be fine if you are only driving a mile from your home. However, for longer journeys you will want to make sure you have a blanket and a hot drink in the car in case you and your car become stranded.


Thirdly, think about others. Are there individuals in your local community who might not be as able as you to deal with the effects of severe weather? Consider what you can do to help them be ready.

David Miller, Director of the British Red Cross in Scotland, said:

“Making sure you are prepared now for winter can make a huge difference when extreme weather hits. At the Red Cross we know that severe weather, including snow and floods, can have serious consequences. However, with a few simple steps you can make yourself and others ready for the disruption it can bring.”

For more information on how to get ready for winter visit www.readyscotland.org.

Now & Next: Planning for later life with Age Scotland

Age Scotland’s chief exec Brian Sloan explains why to truly love later life, you have to be prepared, as we launch our new brand for those aged 50-65.


“You get training at every stage in life except for retirement”. This was the opening line by Helen, a volunteer who was running a Planning for Your Future workshop, and around the room you could see the sentiment resonating.


You go to school to train for college or work. Once in work, you never stop training to keep abreast of health and safety, company policy or any of the myriad of ways that help you to do your job. Yet when you retire, you’re given your leaving present and off you go. For most people, this means going from a structured 40 hour week to absolutely nothing; you’ve looked forward to retirement for years, now off you go and do it. Yet retirement isn’t a thing you can just do, and that’s where Age Scotland can help.

In July 2014, the former Scottish Pre-retirement Council and the Tayside Pre-retirement Council joined forces with Age Scotland. Since then, we have been offering Planning for Your Future workshops aimed at the 50-65 age demographic. It might be a bit of a stretch to get your head around but an older people’s charity was after a younger demographic! Up until that point, Age Scotland was seen as a charity for the over 65s, but to truly love later life then you need to start planning well before then. So we gave the format a revamp to make it more interactive, relevant and thought provoking for today’s 21st century 50-65 year old and created Now & Next as the brand identity to speak to this audience.

Now and Next

When I’ve been along to workshops, I hear so many people say they that they had hopes for retirement but were not sure how to achieve them. And whilst these workshops can’t promise to make your dreams come true, they can at least help you plan a course of action to achieving them. Whether it is financial, legal or health goals, if you only start planning the day before you retire you’re setting yourself up for a fall.

Helen is one of the volunteers that helps to facilitate the "Planning for Later Life" workshops.

Helen is one of our volunteers that helps to facilitate the “Planning for Later Life” workshops. Click here to find out more.

What’s more important is that planning for later life is not just about you. Living a balanced, happy and healthy retirement means you can improve the quality of life of those around you. Looking after grandkids, supporting your children or giving back to your community, later life should be the time you do what you want to do, so get on and plan it! If you want to know more about Now & Next visit our website, nowandnext.scot or watch Helen’s story (above). She’s one of the many volunteers who run our workshops, someone who has learned from the mistakes she made by not planning more carefully in advance and wants to help others step positively into their next life stage.


If you would like to find out more about Now and Next or the Planning for Later Life courses, just contact Stacey Kitzinger on stacey.kitzinger@agescotland.org.uk or call 0333 32 32 400.

Transport and Keeping Active – September’s Hot Tips

This month two enthusiastic cyclists from Age Scotland – Greg McCracken and Ciaran McDonald – were delighted to receive an invitation to an evening reception celebrating 20 years of the National Cycle Network at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh.

This month’s theme for the Age Scotland Hot Tips Calendar is Transport. In his guest blog, Ciaran shares his thoughts on the National Cycle Network, cycling and how we can all make the most of getting out and about.

Welcoming us to this event, John Lauder, the Director of Sustrans Scotland revealed that such an occasion of support for cycling just would not have been possible a decade ago. Fittingly, a number of respected figures gave thanks to the invited audience of supporters, volunteers and partner organisations, including the Minister for Transport and Islands, Derek Mackay MSP and the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Catherine Calderwood. Having the backing of these respected figures demonstrates how much of an important value society places on the National Cycle Network. Indeed it has recently been reported that in 2014 alone, the combined number of journeys taken on foot or cycle on the Network generated health benefits equating to £321 million!

Taking part in a physical activity is a fantastic way of reducing the likelihood of a number of conditions including diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. So there’s no excuse not to enjoy the 2100 miles of the National Cycle Network that cover a variety of landscapes across the country. At this event I learned that most journeys taken on the Network are actually on foot, which should come as no surprise given our country’s beautiful yet diverse scenery and the fact that 41% of the Scottish population live within a third of a mile of the Network.

Ciaran and Greg of Age Scotland pose with their bikes - please note they were just posing for the photo, they always wear cycling helmets and NEVER cycle on the pavement!

Ciaran and Greg of Age Scotland pose with their bikes – please note they were just posing for the photo, they always wear cycling helmets and NEVER cycle on the pavement!

Whether you live in an urban neighbourhood or a more rural community there’s bound to be a stretch of the National Cycle Network open for you. I was particularly encouraged by the showing of a promotional film at this event previewing the opening of Route 78, known as ‘The Caledonian Way’, which will stretch from Campbeltown to Inverness once it opens next month. Clearly such a project would not have been successfully completed were it not for the dedicated work of Sustrans Scotland in ensuring its development.

Besides hearing from distinguished guests and learning about new routes to try out, this event was a social celebration. For me, one of the best parts about getting out of the office is having the opportunity to contribute to conversations that I would not have otherwise expected. It was only apt that by chance I go chatting to a number of attendees who shared an interest in active ageing.

One gentleman I met as I was locking up my bike outside had a litter picker fixed to his cycle’s frame. I asked him why and he told me that every week he voluntarily cycles along the Union Canal in Edinburgh picking up rubbish from the towpath. Dedicated to the task, he heads out regardless of the weather and it’s great to see his commitment celebrated at events such as this.

Another fellow we met in the venue informed us that due to health reasons cycling was now one of the main methods he chose to get out and about around the city. Whilst another enthused of his love for cycling and indeed rock climbing. In fact he had not long returned from a rock climbing holiday in Morocco with a group of senior climbers from Ratho climbing centre. This struck me that this should surely be our next port of call for our work on promoting physical activity!

Undoubtedly this event underscored that regardless of age, being physically active plays a big part in many people’s lives. For me it was refreshing to meet so many people with a common interest in pushing the cycling agenda in Scotland and I hope that this will gather pace in the near future. Until then though, many happy returns to the National Cycle Network!

Download your 2015 Hot Tips Calendar here and get information and advice throughout the year. 

Older adults benefit from two minute exercise routine

With physical activity shown to improve our ability to perform daily tasks and positively impact a wide range of health outcomes, like cardiovascular disease, dementia and diabetes, the benefits of exercise even in later life are significant. However, with older people struggling to find the time to get active, researchers at the University of Abertay in Dundee have identified a way that could help you get fit in matter of seconds. 

The Scottish Government’s Health Survey reveals that the majority of the older population don’t exercise regularly, with only one in twenty of those aged 75 and over (5 per cent) meeting physical activity and muscle strengthening exercise recommendations, rising to just 16 per cent among 55-64 year olds.

With many older people juggling the demands of caring, volunteering, looking after grandchildren or just enjoying retirement, time has consistently been reported as one of the major barriers to getting active.

With this in mind, academics at Abertay University have been developing an exercise routine that is time efficient and can be used by older people.  It involves cycling on an exercise bicycle against a set resistance as hard as you can for 6 seconds, followed by a period of recovery.  The rest period is determined by the time taken for your heart rate to return to below 120 beats per minute.

This would be repeated for a maximum of 10 times in a session, with training sessions taking place twice weekly.  This meant that in the studies involving older adults, participants were in training for a maximum of 15 minutes with only 60 seconds of that time being spent in activity.

Incredibly, participants in the research saw their physical capacity improve by 20 per cent in just 6 weeks and reported feeling more physically capable of doing things they previously found daunting.  After 8 weeks, they had drastically reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes and over 10 weeks, there were dramatic improvements in cardiovascular health, with an 8 per cent reduction in hypertension.580x260_women_exercising

Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Project, funded by the Life Changes Trust, has a core function of advancing the public understanding of healthy living, both in reducing the risk of developing dementia but also in delaying its onset.

Greg McCracken, Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Team Leader & Policy Officer, said “If we are to encourage older people to reap the benefits of physical activity we need to develop solutions that reflect the reality of older people’s busy lives.

“The research from Abertay University into high intensity training shows that significant benefits can be reaped from surprisingly short periods of activity.  People should consult their GP before beginning a new exercise routine, but it will be reassuring for many that a mere 2 minutes of intermittent exercise per week, performed at maximum effort, has the ability to dramatically improve their health and wellbeing.”

5 tips on how to be more energy efficient – August’s Hot Tips

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

Our topic for August is Energy Efficiency. Ciaran MacDonald, Policy Officer at Age Scotland, shares five top tips on what you can do now to be be more energy efficient and potentially save money ahead of heating your home this Winter.

This has been an exceptionally cool summer. In fact I was invited on to BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Good Morning Scotland’ programme earlier this month to discuss what sort of knock on effect this can have, and how cooler summer months could affect a growing older population.

One of the points mentioned during this discussion was that if we spend money on heating during the summer then it could have an impact on household budgets for the rest of the year.

Yet, help is at hand. The summer months are an ideal time to think about how energy efficient our homes are. If you would like a more cost-effective and warmer home this winter, then why not follow these simple steps.

Step 1
It’s always wise to make sure your energy supplier has an accurate and up-to-date reading of your meter. Most suppliers will have dedicated lines, which you can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to inform them of your usage.

Step 2
Call your energy supplier to see if you are on the cheapest possible tariff that reflects your usage. Although your circumstances may change throughout the year your supplier will be able to recommend the best deal for you – so just ask!

Step 3
Switch off any electrical equipment, which you don’t need left on. You could make a yearly saving of up to £3 by turning off one appliance. As some homes have up to 50 appliances on standby at any one time that’s a lot of money to be saved!

Step 4
Consider installing an energy efficiency measure. There are many simple technologies that can be added to make your home warmer, such as installing loft insulation or a more effective central heating system. Home Energy Scotland is supported by the Scottish Government and is the one stop destination for free and independent advice on what is best for your home.  Visit the Home Energy Scotland website or call 0808 808 2282 for more information.

Step 5
Don’t be scammed! Sadly there are many ruthless tradespeople out there capitalising on people’s fears of the cold. If you have any doubts or feel pressurised to agree to work then don’t! If a scheme is legitimate you will not need to sign up for it there and then. Reputable companies will fully understand this. If you have any queries or concerns then contact Home Energy Scotland (details above) or the Trading Standards Scotland Consumer Advice line on 03454 04 05 06.

Finally, if you are worried about meeting the cost of your energy supply or if you live in a home that is difficult to heat, remember help is available. For free, independent advice, why not contact Home Energy Scotland or get in touch with your local Citizens Advice Bureau or call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.

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