Irn-bru and an Iced Biscuit

Amy Telford, our Events and Community Fundraiser, shares her recent experience visiting some of our Member Groups and seeing firsthand the fantastic work they are doing in their local communities with help from Age Scotland.


I was recently lucky enough to meet with four ladies who form the committee for Age Scotland member group, The Carron Connect Partnership. They run SOFIA Project, organising social events in the local community for people over the age of 50.

I was bowled over not only by their commitment to helping those in later life, but also by their support of Age Scotland. Chair, Val Hunter, told me that they would love to do some 50/50 fundraising this year as they “…appreciate all of the support that Age Scotland has shown them and want to give something back.” This was so lovely to hear.

Ladies enjoying themselves at the tea dance

I was also delighted to attend one of their recent tea dances, which was well attended with members ranging from age 55 to 95. It was a real honour to be able to speak with some of the group members, finding out what they get out of coming along to these events. It was very apparent that without SOFIA Project, many of its members would feel lost. Member, Marilyn Kennedy told me, “I have new lease of life. We’ve made new friends and the girls that run it work hard.”

I was made to feel really welcome and was treated to a can of Irn-bru and an iced biscuit – I try to eat healthy most of the time but this was the perfect excuse to have two of my favourite things! I even had a dance with one of the members, although I can’t say I was any good at this. Live music was provided by singer, Katy Hart, who had a lovely voice and kept us all entertained.

As well as tea dances, the SOFIA project committee members also organise coffee mornings, bingo, day trips and special events, such as this year’s strawberry fair (where there will be a prize for the best bonnet and bunnet), a Scottish Evening and the annual Christmas party.

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I also recently visited a member group in Edinburgh, the social committee at sheltered housing development, Old Farm Court. Age Scotland’s Individual Giving Fundraiser, Alison Payne, accompanied me and we had a lovely visit. We met with three members of the committee who organise social events for residents. Jimmy, Diane and Ellen made us feel very welcome and we were amazed by the creativity of their fundraising. I think we actually learnt a thing or two!

Old Farm Court have offered to organise a Soup and a Sandwich event in aid of Age Scotland. It is really lovely that they want to give something back and we are incredibly grateful. I am so much looking forward to working with more of our member groups in the coming year and having met just a couple of groups since I started, I feel incredibly proud to work for such a fantastic charity.

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland – April’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.

April sees us team up with Action on Hearing Loss Scotland to bring you information about taking care of your hearing. In this guest blog, Delia Henry, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Scotland, explains how having your hearing tested is a vital first step towards getting the support you need


Delia Henry Action on Hearing Loss Scotland

Delia Henry – Action on Hearing Loss Scotland

Recognising that you have hearing loss can be an uncomfortable truth which many don’t want to deal with and people often confide in me that they are having difficulty hearing but are not sure what to do.

71 per cent of people of over 70-year-olds have hearing loss, with signs of deafness such as turning up the television volume, thinking others are mumbling and needing to ask people to repeat themselves.

With funding from the Scottish Government, Action on Hearing Loss Scotland and RNIB Scotland produced resources to help you recognise whether you have hearing or sight loss. The information cards and videos also provide useful deaf awareness and communication tips.

People can wait up to 10 years to take action from the point of first experiencing hearing difficulties but we encourage you to get your hearing checked regularly. Asking your GP to refer you to an audiologist for a hearing test is a vital first step on your way to getting the support that you need.

Good quality digital hearing aids are free on the NHS in Scotland and you can also choose to buy hearing aids from private dispensers too. Action on Hearing Loss and Which? have produced the ‘Best hearing aid providers: How to get the best hearing aid’ guide to help you to make informed decisions about which hearing aids are best for your individual needs.

Although hearing aids will help you to hear your conversations with friends and family more clearly, it can take time to adjust to wearing them. Community-based support from our Hear to Help volunteers, who have hearing loss themselves, in Tayside, Greater Glasgow and Ayrshire & Arran can make a big difference – especially for people who are housebound or have mobility difficulties. Our website has details of our drop-in sessions and contacts for home visits.

Hear to Help volunteer talks through the equipment

Hear to Help volunteer talks through the equipment

Learning to lipread can be also be a big help as the ability to identify lip shapes, patterns and facial gestures can fill in the gaps of conversations you have misheard. Details about what happens during lipreading classes, the benefits they bring and those running in your area can be found on www.scotlipreading.org.uk

There is also equipment such as personal listeners, hearing loops, amplified phones and flashing or vibrating doorbells to help people with hearing loss in everyday life. Visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/shop or call 0141 341 5330 to find out about the latest products.

I hope that I have reassured you about the range of support that is available for you, if you are diagnosed with hearing loss but, if you need more information about Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s services, please visit www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/Scotland or email: scotland@hearingloss.org.uk

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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:

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The relationship between sport and physical activity in later life

Greg McCracken, Policy Officer at Age Scotland recently attended ‘Learning from the Masters: The relationship between sport and physical activity in later life’ – a seminar hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University. Here he shares with us what we can learn from the research.


The benefits of sports in later life were made clear at a seminar hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) on Monday 13 April, where ‘Master’ athletes discussed the motivations and impacts of physical activity and some of the potential benefits for the wider population.

Funded by the Economic & Social Research Council and comprising academics from GCU, Brunel University and the Universities of Exeter and Loughborough, amongst others, the research group is examining the competing factors people must overcome to remain physically active as they grow older.

Masters sports are events that enable mature athletes to both practice their chosen discipline and participate in competitive games. Some prominent sports within the ‘masters’ category includes athletics, swimming and rugby.

Presentations considered participants’ motivations for competing, which ranged from a simple desire for victory, social benefits, and an understanding of the role which competitive sports can play throughout life, in terms of improving personal fitness levels.

Of course, it’s equally important that we don’t make physical activity for a mass audience exclusive; something that is only accessible if it’s in a formalised environment or which requires specialist equipment.  The benefits of physical activity are well known, as are the relative dangers of sedentary behaviours.

This, then, is the value of GCU’s research – if we can better understand what incentivises people to get active and stay active, we can develop and support programmes and facilities that genuinely meet people’s interests.

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Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of choice and ensuring that policy makers provide the widest variety of options to encourage and enable individuals to find the physical activity which works for them.  That means developing resources and infrastructure from a built environments that promotes active travel (walking and cycling), the availability of local gyms or swimming pools, right up to large scale tournaments and sporting events.

It’s with this in mind that Age Scotland is supporting the first Scottish Walking Football Festival on 7 June at Spartans Football Club in Edinburgh.

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The sport allows people to participate – at a walking pace – in a game in which many would previously have ruled themselves out.

So, if you’re interested in getting active again, have a look at some of the information available on our website here.

Footprints Connect – Using technology to enhance independence and well-being

Guest blogger David Valentine gives us an introduction to Footprints Connect – a social enterprise set up to develop a website and associated services to assist people in the 55+ age group to use and benefit from technology.


Some older adults find understanding and making use of new technology quite a challenge. The benefits and opportunities to be gained from computers and the internet may remain remote and even threatening. But many people in the over 55 age groups are meeting these challenges and going on to improve their well-being in many different ways (socially, emotionally and financially). For those still to access the benefits of the digital revolution, Footprints Connect, through its website and tutorials is helping older adults, in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, rise to the challenge.

Older people on a computer

Footprints Connect grew out of the Aberdeen Silver City Surfers (previous guest bloggers), when it was felt there was a need for an online presence that would give new learners a ‘place’ to use, practice, meet and benefit from their new digital skills.

Our website has been developed to offer two main things. Firstly, to support older adults get over the initial hurdles of accessing and learning to use new technology; and secondly, to provide them with a resource that begins to let them use and benefit from their new found skills.

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Both of those aims come together in our Trusted Services Directory where browsers can find a wide and growing variety of services including computing tutors, who will provide group and individual tuition in digital skills. Our Trusted Providers are businesses and organisations that have gained the respect of their customers and they have promised high standards of service for our members.  Some may also offer free extras or reduced rates for their Footprints Connect customers. As a social enterprise, our core funding comes from publishing Trusted Providers links and adverts. One of our first trusted providers was PC Inspire.

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We have used PC Inspire ourselves to run some of our Get It On classes and home tutoring. Here we have been trying to bring computer training to people who do not make their way to the SIlver City Surfers, including people living in Aberdeenshire.

You can see from our home page screenshot, above, the various sections we have on the website. Under ‘Hobbies & Activities’ we are building up a library of connections to local groups and events that might help people stay involved with favourite or new pastimes. This is also one of several ways the website can help older, and perhaps increasingly housebound, people to stay involved with the wider community.

So, along with the other tabs for News, Communities, Helplines (for free, independent advice including free community computing sessions), Viewpoints and our social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter , we are aiming to create a wide ranging resource that will engage and inspire older adults to use new technology to make the best of their later life.

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“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”
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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!