Directed by North Merchiston

As part of 2016’s Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival, and with support from Scottish Care, Documentary Filmmaker and Photographer Duncan Cowles worked at North Merchiston Care Home in Edinburgh to create a collection of short films directed by residents. From this coming Monday 20th March a film a week will be released to the public. We spoke to Duncan to find out more about this fascinating project.


Can you tell us a bit about Directed by North Merchiston?

Directed by North Merchiston is a project that was inspired by one of my previous films Directed by Tweedie where I attempted to get my Granddad to make a film, and I helped him to do it. With this new project I wanted to try and take that idea into a care home and work with the residents on making some short films.

One of the biggest issues for older generations today is loneliness. I wanted to give the residents of North Merchiston Care Home a voice, and ultimately provide them with both an audience and platform so that they could say whatever they wanted and create memories for their families. So instead of me coming in with my camera and making films about the people living there, I wanted the residents to think of themselves as the filmmakers and what story they’d personally like to tell.

The result is a series of five short films. I think each one of the residents has really enjoyed the process. Some were slightly reluctant initially, but once we got started admitted that they were having a laugh, and were glad they’d agreed to take part.

Some of them have spoken about how they’ve appreciated me simply coming in and spending time with them, and taking an interest in their lives. I think this will ultimately be one of the most valuable outcome of the project; the enjoyment that they’ve all had taking part. Hopefully that comes across in the films.

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The five residents that Duncan worked with to produce the short films.

Any favourite moments from the project?

Watching the footage back with the participants, and asking them about what bits they liked the most, and the things they would like to be focused on in their films, was really touching for me. For example; Edith who’s 90 years old, talked about how her Grandmother used to say to her when she was a wee girl, that the best thing in life was that: “It was nice to be needed”, particularly as an older person. Then deciding with Edith that the film could focus on that and be a little tribute to her Grandmother, I could see meant a lot.

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Edith’s film “It’s Always Nice To Be Needed” is released on the 3rd of April

Definitely on a personal level, having the honour to get to know these people as they’re in their later years, has been amazing. As a 26 year old I, like many others, still have a lot to learn about life and all of its ups and downs. These people have experienced it, they’ve been through so much, and listening to them talk about it, how they’ve coped and what they think and feel looking back over it all, is just staggering. It’s an education going into a care home, and it really makes you reflect a lot upon your own life, circumstances and future.

Why are creative outreach projects like Directed by North Merchiston important?

Everyone is creative, whatever our ages, and the chance for care home residents to take part in a project like this can offer all sorts of benefits. I’ve been going in and out of the care home for the past two months and seeing a positive change happen immediately in front of my eyes. Something like this isn’t necessarily a very public facing activity, but is equally as important as it’s making a difference to people directly.

Initially we did a really small screening of the films for friends and family in the care home. The hope is that the films will take on a life of their own, as we share them to a wider audience. It’s really important that older people’s voices are heard by other generations, and often that doesn’t happen.


You can catch the first film May: This is Your Life here.

Find out more about Luminate by visiting their website

 

Lifelong Learning Matters

The Age Scotland National Conference is back for 2017, bringing together member groups and invited guests of a day of learning, friendship and inspiration. Community Development coordinator Elizabeth Bryan talks us through the plan for this year’s conference.


Learning, in all its forms, makes a great difference to the well-being and quality of life of people over the age of 50. That’s why the theme for this year’s Age Scotland’s conference is Lifelong Learning Matters.

Taking part in learning opens up new interests, puts us in control of lives and helps us to remain physically and socially active. Age Scotland member groups engage in a wide range of informal learning, and many groups are providers of an array of learning opportunities for their members and older people in their local communities. This year’s conference will provide an opportunity to find out what current research is telling us about lifelong learning and older people, and the difference participating in learning makes to our health and wellbeing.

Guest speakers, musical performances and participative workshops

The fantastic Pennie Taylor, award-winning freelance journalist and broadcaster, returns as conference chair and we have some fantastic guest speakers lined up to get our guests inspired.speakers

After lunch attendees can browse our exhibition and chat to stall holders or take part in one of our participative workshops. We have five workshops this year covering topics from table tennis to getting online to mindfulness.workshops

Attendees will then enjoy afternoon tea and a performance by the fantastic Shooglelele Ukulele band! Not one to be missed.

Celebrating those making a difference

The conference will culminate with the presentation of the 2017 Age Scotland Awards to recognise and celebrate the exceptional commitment and contributions individuals and organisations make to ensure Scotland is a good place to grow old in. We are joined by Dean Park who will be presenting the awards.

For those unable to join us on the day, the event will be live streamed so you can watch our guest speakers and discussion, musical performances as well as the Age Scotland awards ceremony. Full details will be posted on our website soon.

It’s set to be a tremendous day and we look forward to welcoming everyone on Wednesday 29th March!


If you have any questions about our National Conference, please contact our team on 0333 32 32 400.

Walk to live long

Could you or someone you know benefit from getting a little more active this year? Paths for All, Scotland’s national walking charity, explains how a simple walk can be the perfect activity to keep you happy, healthy and active in later life.


At Paths for All, we support over 500 Health Walks taking place across Scotland every week. From Kirkwall to Galashiels, all Health Walks are free, accessible, fun, and open to everyone! We’ve trained thousands of volunteers to safely lead these health walks in local communities. They are always looking for new walkers and volunteers to join, making it the perfect way to meet new people in your area whilst getting active.

If you’re unsure joining a Health Walk group is right for you, have a chat with the project coordinator and they’ll explain what’s involved and how they can support you.

The benefits of Health Walks are amazing. Here’s how some of our Health Walkers describe the social and mental benefits they have gained from taking part:

“It’s a rewarding experience, participating with a diverse, active and interesting group of walkers.”

“I do not walk on my own. I need the company and companionship of the group for encouragement.”

The physical health benefits are great too. Our infographic sums it up:

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It’s simple to find your nearest Health Walk, head to the Paths for All website and use our map to find a Health Walk local to you. If you’d prefer to speak to someone, you can call the Paths for All office on 01259 218 888 and we’ll happily tell you what’s going on in your area.

Walking is the easiest way to get active and enjoy the benefits, we can help you start sooner than you think – why wait to get all the benefits just by going for a walk?

What keeps you sharp?

Heriot-Watt researchers have launched a nationwide survey to explore people’s beliefs about how our thinking skills change as we age.

People often think of changes in their thinking skills in terms of decline. While some people do experience these changes, others do not. The new survey will get a clearer picture of how much people know about the possible changes and the factors they think might be good for brain health.

The ‘What Keeps You Sharp?’ survey is being led by researchers in the The Ageing Lab from Heriot-Watt University’s Psychology Department, Edinburgh.

Dr Alan Gow, Associate Professor in Psychology, leading the research, said, “As we age we may experience changes in our thinking, memory and reasoning skills. There is, however, large variation in the degree of change experienced.

“With this survey, we want to find out what people understand about how their thinking skills might change, and if they believe their lifestyle choices can affect those changes. By gaining a deeper understanding of what people across the country and of different ages believe, we can then better communicate what we know about how best to maintain thinking skills with age.“

To give the researchers the opportunity to compare how different age groups view the topic, the survey is open to adults across the UK aged 40 and over.

The survey is available online and paper copies can be requested directly from the research team. The researchers are also using their local and national networks to ensure a representative sample. The survey will remain open until early-February

Dr Gow added, “It’s important that we capture as broad a range of responses as possible. We’re working closely with our partners to ensure everyone can take part. And if people or groups want copies of the survey we’d be very happy to hear from them.”

Given international trends in ageing demographics, there is an increasing interest in how we might best protect or enhance our thinking skills as we age. The ‘What Keeps You Sharp?’ survey is the first phase of a new project exploring how a range of lifestyle factors affect cognitive skills in older people.

Grapevines and Kung-Fu kicks

Trust Housing Association invited us to run healthy active ageing showcase events at 18 of their premises across Scotland.  Thanks to funding from the Life Changes Trust we were pleased to be able to say yes.  Doug Anthoney reports.


Number nine: Grapevine.  Number two: do Kung-Fu.

These are just a couple of the ‘calls’ that can come up when Trust Housing Association’s older tenants play our Strength and Balance bingo game.  It’s a fun way of getting everyone moving, and almost everyone can move: the activities we showcase are based on NHS exercises for older people, and there’s a seated option for most of them.

We focus on strength and balance because these are particularly important for long term health.  If we don’t look after these aspects of physical health, our muscles will deteriorate gradually from age 35, and we’ll have lost a third of the bone density in our hips by age 80.  The good news is that because bone and muscle are living tissue we can build them up, whatever age we are, by doing simple exercises on a regular basis.

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Our showcase doesn’t just focus on the body.  We also look at what everyone can do, whatever their age, to keep the brain healthy.  A key message is that any concerns we have about changes in our thinking abilities are best shared with a doctor, sooner rather than later.  Surveys have found that people are far more likely to see a doctor about physical aches and pains than they are for problems affecting thinking, memory or communication abilities.   Yet many of the causes of such symptoms can be stabilised or even reversed.  And if something that can’t be cured is responsible, such as dementia, then getting a diagnosis is an important step towards getting the support and treatment that can enable someone to live well with the condition.

It’s not possible to guarantee that someone will never get dementia, but there are things that we can all do to reduce the risk of dementia.  Our showcase highlights these: from eating well to challenging ourselves to learn new things.

So far there’s been a lot of laughs in our showcase events with Trust residents: from Newton Stewart to Stornoway.  We’re serious about our message, but that doesn’t mean that we take ourselves too seriously, and when learning is fun it’s more likely to stick.


Doug Anthoney is Training Programme Officer with Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia project.

No one should have no one at Christmas

On the 5th of December, Age Scotland launched their ‘No one should have no one at Christmas’ campaign to raise awareness of loneliness and social isolation among older people over the Christmas period and beyond.


Loneliness is a problem all year round but nearly 65,000 older people in Scotland say they feel lonelier at Christmas. Cold weather in winter months can prevent some older people from getting out to socialise and the emphasis society places on spending time with family and friends at this time of year can intensify the feeling of having no one.

So what can we do about it?

As part of our campaign ‘no one should have no one at Christmas’ we are encouraging everyone to think about what they can do to address and prevent loneliness in their local community. It can be anything from checking in on an older neighbour to see if they would like a cup of tea and a chat to volunteering with a local group or charity that supports older people.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon helped kick off our campaign, joining us for an intergenerational Christmas tea party at Port of Leith Housing Association. The tea party was the culmination of a project organised by the Pilmeny Development Project where young and older people have been learning about each other’s lives and taking part in social activities together.

The First Minister joined pupils from Drummond Community High school and tenants from the housing association to play pass the parcel, take part in a Christmas quiz, and chat over some mince pies.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP said: “Dealing with loneliness and isolation can be incredibly difficult, but at this time of year it’s especially heart-breaking to see that so many older Scots will spend Christmas alone. Age Scotland’s work to ensure that ‘No one should have no one at Christmas’ is vitally important, and everyone can play a part.

“By reaching out to older people in their street or community – by taking them out, doing a good deed or simply having a chat – people can have a hugely positive impact on the wellbeing and happiness of an older person.”

The First Minister also kicked off our #EndLoneliness pledge by pledging to drop in on an older neighbour over Christmas. We are now calling on everyone to share what they will do to end loneliness in their local community.

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A great example is little Evie who made Christmas cards at nursery and asked her mum if she could give them to people who wouldn’t be getting any this year. Evie and her mum headed down to their local day care centre in Prestonpans and spent some time handing out cards and hugs and making new friends.

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Many of the individuals at the day centre do not have any family and would likely not receive a Christmas card this year and Evie’s kind gesture went a long way.

What could you do to end loneliness in your local community? Share your ideas and plans with us on social media using the hashtag #EndLoneliness


Age Scotland works to eradicate loneliness and social isolation among older people in Scotland by supporting and developing local groups and projects and running a free helpline.

To support Age Scotland’s work in local communities, please text HUGS16 £5 to 70070 now to donate £5 or visit our Just Giving page to make a secure online donation. Thank you.

5 thing you need to take to a charity ball

Friday 11th November sees the return of Age Scotland’s Silver Shindig – our glamorous charity ball. As this fantastic night approaches, we’ve pulled together five things you need when heading to a charity ball.


  1. Your glad rags

As the name suggests, a charity ball is a bit more glamourous than your average fundraising event – not a running shoe in sight! Arriving at the Hub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile you will walk the silver carpet – yes silver – to have your photo taken before heading in to a Champagne Reception in the Grand Ballroom Foyer. So brush off that kilt, look out that little black dress and get ready to make your grand entrance.

  1. Your appetite

A glamourous charity ball requires an equally impressive menu. After a short introduction to Age Scotland’s work, out comes the first of three courses, along with selected wines. We won’t spoil the surprise by telling you the whole menu but you best bring you appetite, you won’t want to miss out.

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  1. Your Christmas list

One of the most exciting features of a charity ball is the charity auction. Here you will find one off experiences and gifts, things you literally cannot buy anywhere else. This year we have some incredible things on offer, from a Velodrome Experience with a GB Gold Medallist at the London Olympic Velodrome to a Pickering’s Gin Tour for 6 with a Limited Edition hand-signed collector’s bottle. Find something unique for a special someone this Christmas or perhaps just treat yourself!

  1. Your dancing shoes

What would a charity ball be without dancing? We have the superb ‘Corra’ joining us to put on a selection of music alongside a wonderful Scottish ceilidh that will have you dancing into the wee hours. Their name literally means rare or extraordinary and once you’ve seen them live we think you’ll know why! Not a dancer? Not a problem! Just sit back and take in the atmosphere of some traditional Scottish music with a twist!

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  1. A smug smile

This one may well be the most important. You can feel good about attending our charity ball because through attending this glamourous evening you are supporting Age Scotland’s work with older people and fighting loneliness. And all while having a ball! Well done you.


For more information about Age Scotland events, just visit our website or contact our Fundraising team directly on 0333 32 32 400 or by email at fundraising@agescotland.org.uk