Later life in Scotland: Taking the long view’

On the 20th of March Age Scotland members, guest speakers and invited guests will come together at the Radisson Blu in Glasgow for our fourth National Conference. Elizabeth Bryan, Age Scotland’s Community Development Coordinator, shares the thinking behind this year’s theme ‘Later life in Scotland: Taking the long view’.

Age Scotland is proud to work with and for older people, including supporting our member groups as they work to make a difference in their communities across Scotland. For many years older people have come together to support their local community, used their collective voice to campaign for change, and worked to improve later life for future generations.

Our predecessor charity, the Scottish Old People’s Welfare Committee, was established in 1943, later becoming Age Concern Scotland and more recently renamed Age Scotland following the merger with Help the Aged. 2018 will be Age Scotland’s 75th birthday.

Big anniversaries offer us a chance to reflect, so at our national conference with the help of our guest speakers and workshop presenters we will explore the changes that have taken place and the progress that has been made in Scotland in relation to later life over the past 75 years. We will also honour the commitment and achievements of older people’s groups, and discuss what would make life better for older people today and in the future.


There will be a variety of information stalls, time for our member groups to network and share their learnings with each other and a number of interactive workshops.


The conference will culminate in the presentation of the 2018 Age Scotland Awards to recognise and celebrate the exceptional commitment and contribution individuals and organisations make to ensuring Scotland is a good place to grow old in. We’re delighted to be joined by Jackie Bird to present the Age Scotland Awards.

We look forward to welcoming Age Scotland member groups and guests from across Scotland for a day of discussion, networking and celebration. It’s set to be a fantastic day and is already over-subscribed! You can follow discussions on the day on our social media channels.

To find out more about becoming an Age Scotland member, please contact

Don’t fear the D word 

Dementia is a word that strikes terror in many.  And no wonder: newspapers regularly feature headlines that sensationalize the ‘misery’ of dementia ‘sufferers’.   Yet there is a growing number of people with dementia who are active as campaigners, and they reject such language as stigmatizing.  Instead, they call themselves people who are living with dementia.  In one survey more than two thirds said they were living well with dementia.

Does the way we talk about dementia matter?  Yes.  A recent survey of the general public by the Alzheimer’s Society asked: “if you had a physical symptom, would you see a doctor right away?”  60 per cent of the sample said they would.  However, asked whether they would see a doctor right away for a non-physical symptom, such as a memory problem, only 2 per cent said yes.  For many people, fear of discovering that they have dementia will keep them from talking to their GP.

It’s beneficial for people who are worried about their thinking to get it checked out as soon as possible.  They may learn that their symptoms aren’t caused by dementia.  Did you know that memory loss, the symptom most associated with dementia, can also be caused by other things such as stress, depression, infections, nutritional deficiencies and even lack of sleep?  Moreover, with around 100 types of dementia that can affect the brain in different ways, memory loss is not necessary the first sign.  The range of early dementia symptoms includes reading problems, difficulty judging distance, less fluency when speaking, and even becoming less kind and caring.  Because of this a diagnosis can take time to reach: other possible causes need to be ruled out.

Getting a diagnosis is worthwhile, as without it you won’t be able to get support to live well with dementia.  In Scotland everyone who receives a diagnosis is entitled to personalized support which, if their dementia is in its early stages, will be from a Dementia Link Worker.  Link Workers can help someone understand and adjust to their diagnosis, to plan for the future, and to get the support they need to live well with dementia.

That support can come from a range of sources, including other people with dementia, and opportunities to enjoy supported activities, from singing to sport.  Did you know that many of the things that help people to live well with dementia are the same as those that make it less likely someone will get dementia in the first place?  Physical exercise, eating well, staying within safe alcohol guidelines, stopping smoking, socialising and challenging the brain can all play a part.

Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia project offers free guide booklets on a wide range of dementia related topics.  You can request these from the Age Scotland Helpline: 0800 12 44 222.

A new Men’s Shed for Broughty Ferry!

Our vision is of a Scotland where everyone can love later life. We’re delighted to have been able to offer community development support to men’s sheds over the last four years. Another Men’s Shed recently open their doors to the communtity for the first time.

More than 50 people attended the Grand Opening of Broughty Ferry Men’s Shed on Saturday 14 October. The shed will bring older men together to work on practical projects, socialise and share skills.

The YMCA gave the group the use of a derelict hut in its Brook Street grounds, and helped them secure funding from the MOD Fund for wood and metal working tools and equipment. Volunteers have utterly transformed the building, installing heating, windows, doors, and a kitchen and creating a workshop space and IT area.

Age Scotland were delighted to support the project aslongside Rosendael Veterans Association. The shed also received donations from local organisations, businesses and individuals.

Broughty Ferry Men’s Shed is part of a growing movement of “shedders” throughout Scotland. The first Men’s Shed was set up in Aberdeenshire in 2013 and there are now more than 100 nationwide!

Alex Harvey, a retired engineer and chairman of the shed, said: “We want to deal with isolation and bring people into the community. This can particularly affect people who have been bereaved, retired, or made redundant.

“We hope that older people will come along and find some purpose in what we’re doing.  Many people are interested in learning a bit more about DIY, and you can learn something new at any age.”

The shed meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 9.30am to 3.30pm. They ask only donations from attendees, and it is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Age Scotland’s recent report, The Shed Effect, highlighted the impact these sheds have on improving health and wellbeing, and tackling social isolation among older men.


Keith Robson, Age Scotland’s Charity Director, said: “The hard work and enthusiasm that has gone into this project is truly inspiring, and we’d like to wish them every success. We hope the shed will provide a welcoming space for people to come together, share skills, or just have a blether.

“We know from talking to shedders around the country how much they can improve health and well-being and help tackle loneliness and social isolation. I’d encourage everyone to come along, have a cup of tea, and see what the shed has to offer.”

To find out more about Men’s Sheds, contact the Age Scotland community development team on 0333 32 32 400.

Ticking off Munros in your 80s

Keeping active in later life can significantly improve your physical and mental wellbeing. We hear from Kathrine Payne Ramblers Scotland about one of their members Pak Yeong Berry, one inspirational lady ticking off Munros in her eighties.

Many people assume that mountaineering is purely the preserve of the young, but for one Stirling octogenarian, life in the hills has begun in her eighties.

And now that she’s discovered hill-walking, Pak Yeong Berry’s only regret is that she didn’t start sooner.

Pek Yeong Berry, credit Ben Dolphin

Pek Yeong Berry with her fellow ramblers. Photo: Ben Dolphin

Since joining Stirling and Falkirk District Ramblers last year, Pek Yeong has already climbed several big hills, including three of the ‘Munros’ – Scottish mountains over 3,000ft. And she’s got big walking plans for the future.

“I loved walking Ben Chonzie, Schiehallion and Ben Lomond – and I’m looking forward to doing more Munros when the weather allows.

Pek Yeong Berry (RIGHT) 7 may Schiehallion - Copy

Pek Yeong Berry (RIGHT) at the top of Schiehallion

“When I climbed my first Munro, Ben Chonzie, it was muddy, raining and cold. It was pretty horrible actually, but it didn’t put me off.

“It’s all going well for me so far. I don’t think about my age much. I just walk. I hope to tackle more and more mountains for as long as I’m capable of doing them, until I can’t anymore.”

Pek Yeong, aged 81, is now a familiar face at the front of the pack on Stirling and Falkirk District Ramblers’ weekly walks. Her positive attitude and enthusiasm for life are infectious, and she is an inspiration to walkers of any age.

“The first time I went out with the Ramblers, I was worried that I would hold everyone back, but it was fine. I wasn’t the slowest, put it that way!

“The only thing that matters is your ability, rather than your age. I’m fortunate because I’m very healthy and I don’t have any past injuries. If you’re fit, you can do anything and my age doesn’t bother me at all.

“Walking is a great activity to get involved in. We’ve done a bit of everything: mountains, flat walks, all different difficulties and terrains. It’s all new to me and I like the variety, from leisurely to challenging.”

Pek Yeong Berry 25jun. bend double against the wind up bishops hill

Before joining the Ramblers, taking exercise had been difficult for Pek Yeong – as she was focused on caring for her late husband, who had Parkinson’s disease.

“Being a carer limited my opportunities to exercise but when I became a widow last year, a very good friend introduced me to the Ramblers. It was the first time I’d walked in an organised group, and I thought it was great.

“Joining Ramblers was one of the best things I could have done, especially at that moment. I joined the group for exercise and fitness, but also as I was widowed and it was something sociable to do. It’s better than playing bridge or some sort of indoors activity.”

It’s not just rambling that keeps Pek Yeong active these days. She also enjoys regular yoga and belly-dancing!

“I feel like I need exercise, and if I go on holiday for a few days I miss it. At the moment, I do cardio, pilates, yoga, belly dancing. I have classes every week day, sometimes twice a day. It’s important to my lifestyle because it keeps me fit, and it gets me out of the house.

“Going rambling on a Sunday is very pleasant. I feel like I’ve achieved something and there’s nothing going on near me on Sundays, so I’d just be on my own otherwise.”

Pek Yeong had done some walking in Malaysia before emigrating to Scotland in the 1970s, but it’s not until joining the Ramblers that she truly caught the walking bug.

She puts this down to company, motivation, and support that walking in a group can provide.

“For me, walking alone is nothing like walking with others. There’s something about being in a group that’s so much more enjoyable.

“The Ramblers is ideal. It’s friendly, and you can assess if the walks and groups are right for you before you join.

“After our walks, we always go and have a cup of coffee. It’s nice to have a chat with a very caring and friendly bunch of people.

Pek Yeong is excited about having future adventures with the Ramblers, and plans to embrace every opportunity that comes her way – weather permitting.

There is no stopping her drive to remain active, and she’s got a lot more walking (and belly dancing!) yet to come.

To find a walk in your area, go to:

Staying connected to live better with Parkinsons

Having a social life is not an optional extra – staying social helps us to stay well. And for the 11,000 or so people with Parkinson’s in Scotland this is particularly true.  We hear from Parkinsons UK in their guest blog on how they are supporting people in their communities.

Parkinson’s affects adults of all ages, but the overwhelming majority of people are aged over 65. Although often understood as a condition affecting movement, it impacts on every aspect of daily life, including talking, walking, swallowing and writing. Tiredness, pain, depression, dementia, compulsive behaviours and continence problems also have a huge impact.  

A lot of people find their Parkinson’s symptoms embarrassing. They report negative responses such as staring or being accused of being drunk. Mobility and mental health issues can also make it really challenging to get out and about.  

It’s no surprise that people with Parkinson’s become more isolated as their condition progresses, and that unpaid carers have limited opportunities to maintain their social networks.  

That’s why Parkinson’s UK supports over 40 local groups across Scotland, offering friendship and a range of activities to people affected by Parkinson’s. People tell us that they really want to meet with others in similar situations. Sharing experiences can “normalise” Parkinson’s and make it easier to enjoy socialising.  

Many of our local groups offer health and wellbeing activities. Exercise classes, dance, art and walking groups are popular, and we are looking at new ways to make sure that everyone with Parkinson’s in Scotland can access activities even if there isn’t a Parkinson’s group nearby.

Fife Walking Group

Fife Walking Group

We also offer self management courses for people with Parkinson’s and carers. We’ve already run these in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh, and we’ll be expanding this year.  

Our Local Advisors provide confidential one-to-one information and support. For people who are isolated, this is a real lifeline. We also run an online Forum, a telephone Buddying Service, and are developing face-to-face peer support.

Lanarkshire volunteers

Lanarkshire volunteers

But there is more to be done, and not just for people with Parkinson’s. Making it easy for people to stay connected must be a policy priority. We need to tackle underfunding in social care and support services like befriending, buddying schemes, and day centres.  We need to make our communities as accessible as possible for everyone.  

And most of all we need to confront Scotland’s fears around aging and illness. It’s great to hear the Scottish Government talking positively about older people as assets, but too often this agenda focusses on those who are in good health. Older people who need support must not be “disappeared”. The voices and experiences of older, frailer people – including disabled people and those with conditions like Parkinson’s – must be heard.  

For more information on Parkinson’s support in Scotland, go to or phone our free helpline on 0808 800 0303. 

“Number six, cross kicks!” “Number eight, lift some weights!”

On 16th March we headed to the Scottish Parliament to launch ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ – a game of Bingo where each number relates to a move that encourages people to be more active!

What is ‘Body Boosting Bingo’?

Keeping physically active as you age is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can have a real impact on your quality of life, benefitting both your physical and mental health. Age Scotland’s  ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ contains a range of evidence-based strength and balance exercises such as squats or standing on one leg which participants do when the corresponding numbers is called. Of course after completing the move participants mark the number off their bingo card in the hope of winning a prize!

To launch ‘Body Boosting Bingo’, Age Scotland team members headed to the Scottish Parliament to host a few games with a selection of Age Scotland member groups and MSPs.

Visiting member groups joined us for some lunch in the Parliament before Age Scotland team members kicked off the game. Doug boomed out the bingo numbers in an excellent fashion, Jenny demonstrated the moves for each number with Yolanda showing the seated version, to ensure everyone in attendance could take part, even with the more challenging moves.

“Number six, cross kicks!”, “Number eight, lift some weights!” Some moves are self-explanatory but some require a little more explanation. “Fifteen, string bean!” sees our participants stretch their arms high as they can to get an all body stretch. “Two oh, do the tango!” saw MSPs Miles Briggs and Christine Grahame dancing at the front of the group. Everyone who took part were such great sports.

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Getting everyone involved!

The great thing about ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ is that it promotes light to moderate physical activity in a social context, allowing older people to socialise and keep fit at the same time.

Research shows that we gradually lose strength and power in our muscles and bones as we get older, however this can be reversed. Regularly doing just ten minutes twice a week of strength and balance exercises helps to maintain bone density and muscle power.  We are committed to promoting physical activity as a way for everyone to improve their wellbeing.

‘Body Boosting Bingo’ will be made available to day centres and older people’s groups across the country.

To find out more about ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ just call 0333 32 32 400 and ask to speak to a member of our Policy & Communications team.

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.


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.

Edith 2

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