“Looking After You” – February’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.

February’s theme is “Keeping mentally well” and offers tips on dealing with stressful events and challenges. In this blog, Age Scotland’s Karyn Davie looks in more detail at some of the things people should be aware of with their own mental health and wellbeing.

Your mental health is like an escalator, you can go up or down depending on life’s events. When things are going well you might move up, but if something comes along to upset the balance, like changes to physical health, relationships problems or worries about family or money, you might find yourself sliding down.

Sometimes, there’s no clear reason why we feel like this. Changes in our mental health can happen to anyone at any age and, sometimes, regaining the balance can prove difficult.

The stigma around mental health means people don’t always talk about it.  Many older people find it particularly hard to talk about their feelings, perhaps due to a sense of shame or embarrassment, not knowing why they feel the way they do, or simply not wanting to admit they’re aren’t coping.

Men, and older men in particular, typically hide or deny mental health problems, preferring to keep feelings to themselves or not to reveal perceived signs of personal weakness.

We often find it easier to talk about physical health problems than the way we feel.  Anyone can experience a mental health problem, so talking about it really is important.

If you notice a friend or family member withdrawing, try understanding what they’re going through. Their difficulties may be only temporary. If you’re concerned, you could ask (in your own words):

  • How are you feeling?
  • I’ve been worried about you, how are you?
  • You seem down, is there anything I can do to help?
  • Avoid cliché phrases like ‘Cheer up!’ or ‘I’m sure it’ll pass’.

Give them time and space until they’re ready to talk and ensure they know they can contact you when they’re ready. Just knowing they don’t have to avoid the issue with you is helpful.

Remember that the person hasn’t changed, they’re just going through a bad patch with their mental health, so keep talking about the things you always talked about. Just spending time with the person lets them know you care.

Further information can be found from the following organisations:

If you don’t have access to the internet, or if you experience feelings of loneliness and don’t have the social contact you feel you need, contact Silver Line Scotland for help 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”
  • “I do not think you could do any better. This is wonderful”
  • “Thank you for caring”

Download yours today!

Silver City Surfers – “The Internet is for everyone”

In our guest blog from Silver City Surfers, we find out about their work to get older people computer using computers and going online in Aberdeen & the North East of Scotland.

The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, tweeted at the 2012 London Olympics, “This is for everyone.” Well, we at Silver City Surfers believe the Internet is for everyone too. We do our best to help older people in Aberdeen & the North East of Scotland to get online and gain basic computer skills. Our philosophy aims to help and support older people to use modern technologies that can be used by them to connect to their loved ones and the World Wide Web, thus combating loneliness and isolation. These new skills can help keep older people stimulated and independent in today’s digital world.


Beginning in 2005, the charity, Silver City Surfers, has moved forward teaching computing and internet skills from desktops to laptops to tablets. The core strength of The Surfers is our dedicated and talented volunteers, both hospitality and tutors. Without these special people sharing their knowledge and expertise with others in a couthy manner, so many would still be excluded from the freedom of the Internet and valuable online interactions.

Silver City Surfers run five weekly internet cafes across the city where older people can drop in and receive one-to-one tuition on whatever aspect of technology they wish. These are free sessions. Teaching is driven by the learner, at the learner’s pace. Making their visit a social affair is equally as important as teaching and so, we serve some great refreshments after their training session where they can sit round the table, natter away and make new friends. We are very lucky that our hospitality volunteers are not only sociable but incredible bakers; everyone enjoys their bakes. We can report, the Great British Bake Off is alive and well and in full swing at Silver City Surfers in Aberdeen.


Two of our weekly sessions are outreach sessions in Seaton and Northfield. It is always heartening to see how well these sessions are appreciated by the learners in these communities. Once a month we hold a very popular motivational talk at Satrosphere Science Centre in Aberdeen. The coffee and cakes are worth going for alone! Thank you Satrosphere for your generosity! These talks cover the basics on different aspects of computing and the Internet. It is a perfect introduction to technology for many older people.


Attendees are often inspired to go further with their learning, which is exactly what we want them to do. How inspiring these talks are was beautifully demonstrated by the story of one reluctant learner, Pam. Pam happened to accompany her friend to one of these talks. At the end, she asked if she could learn how to use an iPad with us. She had firmly rejected an iPad from her family, living in the States, a few months earlier, insisting that she had no need for it. Things certainly changed quickly for Pam – she went from ‘zero to hero’ on an iPad in a very short space of time and now loves it! She has entered the world of Facebook recently and still comes to us for iPad tips and tricks. We are also one year in to a very successful two-year intergenerational project wherein we facilitate technology and Internet learning between younger and older people within local primary and secondary schools.

Being a charity, fundraising is obviously very important to us, and Silver City Surfers has to strive to ensure we can support our activities. Funding comes from a variety of sources including local government organisations, individuals, and local businesses to our volunteers running a charity shop for a week every year. The majority of our funding currently comes from the Aberdeen Change Fund.

The term ‘digital inclusion’ is bandied about a lot these days and everyone at Silver City Surfers is proud that we are doing something positive about that. Berners-Lee still works hard ensuring that the web is accessible to all and so do we.

Website http://www.silvercitysurfers.co.uk
Facebook http://on.fb.me/1B9wwCg
Twitter https://twitter.com/silvercitysurf


Now hear me: it’s my right to speak

Helen McFarlane, Programme Director of Allied Health Professions at NHS Education for Scotland, explains how a new campaign is aiming to improve the quality of life for people of all ages who have problems speaking.

The ability to communicate is a fundamental human right. But, for many, being heard can be hard to achieve, creating a barrier to education, work, relationships and independence. It can also affect their opportunities to help themselves and work with others to bring about social change.

As a speech and language therapist myself, this is something I’ve seen many times. But there are solutions available. Augmentative and alternative communication, as it’s known, comes in various forms. There are simple approaches such as picture communication books and gestures, and hi-tech software such as text or other input-to-speech programmes (with Professor Stephen Hawking probably the best known user of such equipment).

It’s estimated that there are 26,500 people in Scotland who require AAC, resulting from lifelong conditions such as cerebral palsy or autism or as a result of an acquired condition such as dementia, motor neurone disease, stroke or head injury.

For many of these people, AAC has incredible potential to improve their quality of life, allowing them to express themselves, be more independent and, importantly, enabling them to communicate with the people who love them.  But there are no magic fixes. Different systems will work best for different people.  What matters most is the support of the wider community and taking time to listen.

Eddie Gasowski (65) from Dundee is one of many users of AAC that I have had the pleasure of working with as part of my role. Like many elderly users of AAC, Eddie has aphasia caused by a stroke.

At the time of his stroke 16 years ago, Eddie was a principal teacher in a secondary school, and for a number of years after his stroke he continued his profession as a volunteer teaching Home Economics for which he received a volunteer award. He enjoys many roles in life: husband, father, gardener, runner, fundraiser, furniture maker, baker, photographer, befriender, research participant and campaigner to break down barriers for people with communication disabilities.

Eddie (right) says using an iPad to communicate has made a big difference.

Eddie (right) says using an iPad to communicate has made a huge difference.

Speaking of his experience of AAC he said: “For many years I used a low-tech communication book along with little bits of speech, gestures and other non-verbal signals to get my message across. Three years ago I was introduced to an iPad and it has transformed my ability to communicate. I still live a very active life and my device makes it easier for me to do everything from ordering a coffee to raising money for charity.”

Communication extends to all aspects of our lives.  Civic participation and being able to contribute to political discussions – such as the debates during, and now after, the referendum across Scotland – are part of all our human rights.  Our aim is that people who use AAC can be as active in that debate as all other participants and will have their right to speak supported by others.

We want everyone to be confident in speaking to people who use AAC, addressing them directly (not just their carer) and being patient.  Anyone could face losing their speech and all most people in that situation want is to be treated as others themselves would want to be treated.

That’s why we’ve launched a new website and campaign at www.nowhearme.co.uk. It aims to raise awareness among health, education and care professionals and direct them to resources that will help them. But we also want to reach others, including community and private organisations and businesses, to let them know help exists if they need it in how they can best support people who use AAC to get the most from these organisations too.


“Looking After You” – January’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.

January’s theme is “Looking After You” and offers tips on keeping active, healthy and happy. Age Scotland Allied Health Professionals Yolanda Strachan and Jenny Ackland expand on these themes in their guest blog.

A new year can give us a bit of encouragement to break the habits of the old one. So 2015 could be the perfect time to look at what you can do to improve your health and well-being.

Research is increasingly showing that too much sitting is having a significant negative impact on health.  It is linked to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Inactivity can also impact on our mental health; lowering our mood and increasing the risk of depression.

Keeping active, keeping warm

Sitting too much is also a risk factor in contributing to falls.  New research shows that older women sitting in a cold room (at a temperature of 15 degrees C) for 45 minutes can have a remarkable loss in muscle power. This means it is more difficult to get out of a chair and will reduce walking speed.

632x305_smiling ladies on the couch

It is so important to keep warm and moving about, especially at this time of year, as it will help to warm up your muscles. Sue Lavery, an Occupational Therapist, has shared some useful hints that may help you keep warm in the cold weather.

  • Warm clothes – wear lots of layers that are easy to put on. If you need any help getting dressed, you can consider purchasing dressing aids, which are available here.
  • Warm feet – your feet are particularly difficult to warm up, so keep moving about and don’t let them get cold. Try wearing socks with high wool content and well-fitting shoes. Only wear slippers for short periods.
  • Warm room – if you can, programme your heating to come on before you get up in the morning. A remote control timer may help. Contact your energy supplier for information, or visit the Age Scotland website for more information.
  • Warm drinks and meals – establish a routine of making hot drinks, soup, porridge etc. The activity of making these will help keep you warm too. Visit our Spread the Warmth page for hints and tips.


Telecare also has an increasing role to play in helping people to keep warm.  A mobile phone controlled power sensor socket with temperature sensor contains a temperature probe to monitor room temperature. This also alerts carers by text message if for example a heater socket is switched off inadvertently. Click here for more information.

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:

  • “Invaluable, great help – used daily, all year”
  • “I do not think you could do any better. This is wonderful”
  • “Brilliant information that I will pass onto family and friends”

Download yours today!

‘When the War Came Home’ – a play by the Citadel Group and WEA

The Citadel Group, 2014 Winner of Age Scotland’s Patrick Brooks Award for partnership working are performing a play this week in Edinburgh with the WEA Playwrights Workshop. In her guest blog, Liz Hare tells us more…

‘When the War Came Home’ – a moving  play about the impact of World War I on the people of Edinburgh.  The drama combines stories of some typical Edinburgh families with real-life historical figures: Wilfred Owen teaching at Tynecastle High while recovering from shell shock and pioneering Edinburgh doctor Elsie Inglis taken prisoner by the Germans. Sir George McCrae leads Hearts players and supporters into battle.  Arthur Woodburn is imprisoned in Edinburgh for protesting against the war. Beside these historical characters are stories of representative Edinburgh citizens.

IMGP0879The Macleod family are caught up in a Zeppelin raid on the eve of their son’s departure to France. Tam, Andy and Eck, three Gorgie brewery lads, are shamed into volunteering to fight beside their football heroes by Agnes Drummond of the League of the White Feather. Middle class Peggy and Stewart Gilmour’s ne’er do well son goes south and joins the Territorials. After journalist Iain Sutherland’s article on the outbreak of war appears in Edinburgh’s first ever Sunday paper, the Dispatch, Iain reports on the course of the war until he too is called up. A Leith mother loses her son in the Gretna Disaster in which over 150 soldiers perish before ever leaving Britain. The play brings home the terrible cost of war to many unsung Edinburgh people.


‘When the War Came Home’ is presented by a cast of versatile performers including Citadel regulars Mark Kydd, Andrea McKenzie and Rob Flett and newcomer Euan Bennet. It is directed by Liz Hare. The script was created by seven members of the WEA Playwrights Workshop six of whom are pensioners. Scenes have successfully been tried out with inter-generational audiences in three schools, all in SW Edinburgh where much of the play is set.

Performances are on 14th Jan 7pm in St Bride’s Centre, 10 Orwell Terrace, Edinburgh EH11 2DZ and on 16th Jan 7pm in Tynecastle High School, 2 Macleod Street, Edinburgh EH11 2ND.There will also be a performance for Tynecastle pupils.

Tickets are £8/£6 and can be reserved from ftennick@hotmail.com or by phone 01875 340 717 or purchased at the door. There is a special £5 ticket for Age Scotland members.

Power of Attorney: Elizabeth’s Story

Elizabeth’s parents did not want to set up a Power of Attorney, but when Vascular Dementia hindered their ability to make decisions for themselves, Elizabeth found herself limited in what she could do without Power of Attorney set up. She shares her story with us.

I would always advocate that Power of Attorney is organised sooner rather than later. Both my parents have vascular dementia and when the subject was broached in the early stages they resisted strongly. As a result I have had to apply for Guardianship through the legal system. The process took around 9-10 months (with many professionals having to visit my parents to compile reports) culminating in an appearance at the Sheriff Court. Fortunately, guardianship was granted without ‘Caution’. During this I also had to apply for legal aid. Even with the legal aid there were still a number of costs to be met (around £600).

Since being granted welfare and financial guardianship I have spent time completing audit and management data for the Office of the Public Guardian; visited my parents’ bank to give them copies of the guardianship and sorting out direct debits; letting their solicitor know about the change in circumstances; and letting the GP surgery know. At times this felt like having a second full time job.

I am happier with these powers as I now feel I can make decisions to ensure they remain in their own home as long as possible and that they enjoy the same quality of life. When unscrupulous companies telephone my parents now to arrange insurance for their Television box, my father can no longer complete the transaction, as I have been able to arrange for him to have an ATM card without the security number on the reverse. At one point, my parents had six sets of insurance for their Television box and were also paying an extortionate amount for their gas servicing.

It is easy to have 20/20 hindsight, but this is why I would always advise others to sort out Power of Attorney at the earliest opportunity.

For more information on Power of Attorney visit the Age Scotland website, or download our Information Pack. You can also speak to someone about your individual situation by calling Silver Line Scotland on 0800 4 70 80 90.

“Home Energy Scotland saved me a few bob” – could they help you?

Home Energy Scotland share with us how they can help with cost of energy bills this Winter.

We all know how that it can be a challenge to heat a home and keep fuel bills down over the winter months however thanks to the Scottish Government‘s Home Energy Scotland campaign free, impartial help is on hand.

Over the past five years Home Energy Scotland has offered help to a third of Scottish homes, with support ranging from advice and financial support to households receiving insulation, central heating and new boilers for free.

Members of the Home Energy Scotland roadshow team, Channing Jackson and Caroline Jackson with the campaign mascot, Doug the draught excluder

Members of the Home Energy Scotland roadshow team, Channing Jackson and Caroline Jackson with the campaign mascot, Doug the draught excluder

All it takes is one call to the Home Energy Scotland hotline (0808 808 2282) to find out if you qualify for help. And no matter what your circumstances, our expert advisors are there to give personalised advice to everyone on how to make homes more energy efficient.

One person who has benefitted from help from the Scottish Government, through the hotline is Mr Anderson, 67, from Hilton Avenue, Aberdeen.

Mr Anderson commented: “When my boiler packed in and the guy said he couldn’t fix it, I was worried as they are very expensive. I spoke to my brother-in-law who mentioned that he had managed to get a free boiler from the Scottish Government. I decided to ring Home Energy Scotland to see if I was eligible. They came around and did a few surveys and 60 days later I got a new boiler. It’s been just great – I had the best winter ever last year and Home Energy Scotland saved me a few bob.”

To find out the kind of home energy assistance you could be eligible for – whatever your circumstances – call the Scottish Government’s Home Energy Scotland hotline now on 0808 808 2282 or go to homeenergyscotland.org

Doug the Draught excluder!

Doug the Draught excluder!