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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‘TeaSet’ – highlighting loneliness at the Edinburgh Festival

There are many ways to raise awareness on the effects of loneliness and isolation. Will Searle from Age Scotland’s Communications Team recently attended a play called ‘TeaSet’ in the Edinburgh Festival that aims to highlight social isolation among older people.

One of my favourite things about the Fringe is finding wee shows that have managed to cut past the hype of the huge behemoths everyone’s heard of and grabbed your attention. The team from Teaset did so by getting in touch with us at Age Scotland to see if we were interested in coming along to see their play. Simple and very effective!teaset

The play is a one-woman show performed superbly by Amy Malloy.  It tackles the incredibly difficult issues of loss, violence against older people and the heated debate of dying with dignity.  Using the medium of intergenerational interaction, Amy tells us how she came to meet Mrs A, an older lady, who is living in her daughter’s house.  Amy’s character, we never learn her name, is charged by Mrs A’s daughter to look after her whilst they go on holiday to the Carribean.

The story beautifully intersperses humour with the raw grief of loss that Amy and Mrs A have both experienced.  With the intimate setting of the venue, Pleasance That, you experience the emotion that Amy expresses so viscerally, whether as her own character or when she is voicing Mrs A.  You can feel the pressure as her eyes begin to well up and you really do forget that you’re in a show and not sitting opposite someone who is reliving a harrowing moment.


As a member of the Age Scotland Communications Team, I’m regularly faced with the job of being one of charity’s press team and answering the press phone.  Journalists will call us for comment on the latest court case or issue that affects older people.  I’m reminded on a far too regular basis of the violence that is unfortunately targeted at older people.  This play tackles the difficult aftermath of how that can affect an older person but also someone of Amy’s age.  It highlights the importance of building safe communities for everyone but also how we deal with the effects.  Violence, when it happens to anyone, is something that needs to be managed in a sympathetic and supportive way to ensure that you can move on from that point and stop it from consuming your whole person.teaset2

I had a coffee with Amy along with the director and producer after the show and chatted to them about their experience of the show.  The show had a very personal element to Amy as her own Grandmother passed away last year.  It was heart-warming that the Teaset team were really concerned about the isolation facing older people and how they could use the show as a catalyst to spur people into action to make a difference.  As such, they will be promoting Silver Line Friends in their programme, a volunteer opportunity with Silver Line Scotland.  By donating just an hour a week you can transform the life of someone who feels they have no one to speak to.  It seems such a simple concept but it really does make a life-changing difference.

I would very much urge you to go and see Teaset, it’s on at 2pm, Pleasance That, 6-23 and 29-31 August.  And once you’ve done that, take the time to contact an older relative or friend.  Be it a parent, a grandparent, aunt, great uncle or an old acquaintance, in doing so, you may just make the difference in their lives.

Amy and Douglas’ Adventure

Age Scotland’s Events and Community Fundraiser Amy Telford tells us about her recent visit to some of our member groups with Community Development Officer for the East of Scotland – Douglas MacNaughtan. 

Hello everyone! This guest blog follows on from my recent ‘Day Out With Douglas’ blog, where I told you about our visit to Age Scotland member group, Age Concern Cupar. Have a wee scroll down if you missed it and would like to catch up.

After a lovely visit with Age Concern Cupar, we hopped back in the car and drove to St Andrew’s, where we were lucky enough to visit HayDays Fife. They were having their summer concert, a highlight of group’s event calendar. It’s their last event before they break for the summer, which some groups do (although many run throughout the year).

HayDays take over the town hall every Tuesday. They have a large choir and hold lots of wonderful activities, everything from bridge to curling, even yoga! The choir were performing at the concert and they were great. They sang some lovely songs, but also some funny ones, such as their own rendition of The Jeely Piece Song. It was clear from watching them all that they get a lot out of attending HayDays. They have formed their own community and it was wonderful to see.

HayDays Concert

It struck me that this is what life should be like for everyone when we are older. We should all have fun and friendship in our later years. Sadly for some it’s not always possible, but if anything this motivates me as a Fundraiser and it makes me proud to work for a charity that helps combat loneliness and isolation for older people.

After the concert we headed off to East Neuk Lunch Club, another member group of Age Scotland. They are far smaller than HayDays and they meet in a tiny village hall. There were only eight ladies there, along with their Project Officer Ruby and volunteer, Daisy.

Douglas and Ladies - East Neuk Frail Elderly Project

I had a nice chat with all of the ladies and when I asked them what they liked best about coming along to group meetings, they were all in agreement: “Company…and food!” They love their chats and lunches.

One lady said: “We’re all from the same Sheltered Housing. A bus comes and picks us up, to bring us here, or perhaps to café where we all have lunch together. They spoil us here. They go out of their way.” It was lovely to hear about the fantastic work that Ruby and team do for these ladies. It’s clear that their work is incredibly important for the community

.Ladies at East Neuk Frail Elderly Project

It was getting on so Douglas and I had to leave for Edinburgh, but I had really enjoyed my day. It was great to see what a brilliant support Douglas is to our member groups in the East and I’m really looking forward to getting “out and about” with some of our other Community Development Officers. It was also really interesting to see how our grants programme has helped some of our member groups, and the great variety of groups we have. Large or small, all of our member groups play such an important role in helping older people to Love later life and they should all be celebrated.

If you’d like to find out more about how to support the work of Age Scotland please do contact the Fundraising team on 0333 323 2400 or for materials and lots of support. You too can help everyone to love later life.

Your Home in the Summer – July’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 July is looking after your home in the summer. Robert Thomson from Care and Repair Scotland gives us some tips about repairs that can prevent longer term problems with the property.


1. Think Ahead

Take advantage of the better weather and start preparing for autumn and winter. Consider carpet cleaning, gutter cleaning, window washing and have your central heating checked out.

2. Prevent water damage

Summer can bring heavy rain to some areas. Prevent water damage by having the roof, windows, gutters, foundations and doors checked. Anywhere there is a trim need to be inspected to make sure there are no cracks or leaks. Checking this early can save you a lot of money on repairs from damage in the future.

3. Freshen up paintwork

Summer is the best season for painting doors, windows  or fences. It can make your house look fresh and helps protect wood from rot.  Preventative touch up jobs can save you a lot of money you would have to spend on repairs later on.

4. Trim shrubbery and trees

Have trees and shrubs that touch your house cut back. Wind and rain can cause these to rub up against and damage the roof or sides of your home. The upkeep of gardens can be a problem for many people and in some areas there are volunteer groups who can assist with this.

5. Think about security and safety

Do you have door locks that jam? Do your windows open and close? The summer months are a good time to have these items fixed. Many local Fire and Rescue teams and Scottish Police services offer safety inspections and advice. You may find that your home is as safe and secure as you can make it but there is no harm in asking the advice of professionals.

6. Think about the future

Perhaps the summer months give an opportunity for us to reflect on whether we think our house will continue to be suitable for us. Maybe we could explore some options for the future.  Perhaps we could think of using some of the equity in the property to finance adaptations that will make life easier later on.

Care and Repair Scotland


Care and Repair has 35 offices throughout Scotland that can give you advice and assistance about maintaining, improving or adapting your home. For further information, contact: 0141 221 9879 or visit our website.

Visiting our Member Groups – A day out with Douglas

Age Scotland’s Events and Community Fundraiser Amy Telford tells us about her recent visit to some of our member groups with Community Development Officer for the East of Scotland – Douglas MacNaughtan. 

In my role as Events and Community Fundraiser, I’m really keen to get out into communities, meeting with supporters and volunteers, but also getting to know some of our wonderful member groups. Recently, I was lucky enough to spend a day out with Douglas MacNaughtan to do just that.

Amy - Age Scotland's Events and Community Fundraisers

Amy Telford – Age Scotland’s Events and Community Fundraisers

Age Scotland has over 1,000 member groups across the country and we offer a small grants programme that they can apply to annually. This could be to fund a day trip in the summer, for a group of older people who don’t get out of their houses very much; or it could be to help organise a festive party in a care home at Christmas, or even Halloween! We also provide small grants to fund things like equipment, or to help upgrade a facility that the group members use for their meetings.

However, another of the really important things we do for our member groups, is the direct support on offer from our fantastic team of Community Development Officers.

I met Douglas just over the Forth Road Bridge at Ferry Toll, where we started our adventure. Our first visit was to Age Concern Cupar. Douglas told me that we have a very close relationship with this group. Just last year, for example, Age Scotland provided the group with a grant of £1,248, to help buy some comfortable chairs for the day centre. Some of the members were finding it difficult to visit as often as they’d like, as the chairs needed replaced urgently.

Age Concern in Cupar

Age Concern in Cupar

Aside from being able to help the group with small grants, Douglas has worked very closely with them for a number of years – almost 20 in fact! He introduced me to Anne Ronaldson, who is the Manager at the day centre and has worked there for 21 years. It is clear that Anne and her team are doing a fabulous job and with limited funding too. Douglas helped them to organise an Open Day about a year ago, which helped them to increase their core funding; a great example of the important work our Development Officers do.

Amy, Bett and Marlene

Amy, Bett and Marlene

The group is for anyone aged 55+ and their oldest member is 100. They play dominos and bingo, and they hold “TV and ice cream” sessions and quizzes. I spoke to group member, Marlene Melton, who said: “It’s a great way to meet people and it’s the best thing I ever did coming here.” Her friend, Bett Ainslie, told me that she also loves coming along and has attended the group for over 17 years.

After having a lovely chat with Marlene and Bett, I went over to speak group member, Jane Russell, who was busy knitting a snazzy pair of socks. She was clearly a talented knitter because when I admired her jumper, she told me that she’d knitted that too! Jane lives on her own and she really enjoys coming to the day centre. She lost her husband two years ago, so it’s been great for her to meet new friends. She went on the group’s recent trip to Ireland, which sounds amazing! She has also really enjoyed that last two Christmas parties.

Jane knitting away

Jane knitting away

Douglas pointed out that I was having far too nice a time chatting, as we had to get to our second visit of the day. He took me to HayDays Fife, which was a whole new and wonderful experience. Look out for my next guest blog to hear a little more about that and also the third group we visited.

If you’d like to find out more about how to support the work of Age Scotland please do contact the Fundraising team on 0333 323 2400 or for materials and lots of support. You too can help everyone to love later life.