What keeps you sharp?

Isn’t the expression ‘having a senior moment’ awful? Yet people often think of changes in their mental skills with age in terms of decline. While some people do experience these changes, others do not. So how do our thinking skills change as we age? And do our lifestyles affect those changes?

Those are just two of the questions that will be tackled in “What Keeps You Sharp?” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August. The show, led by Dr Alan Gow from Heriot-Watt University, returns as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. It will be a chance to explore a range of issues around changes in thinking skills, from when those changes might be expected (if at all), how those changes might be influenced by genes or lifestyles, and what lifestyle factors might be good or bad for brain health.

As we grow older, we are more likely to experience general declines in our thinking and memory skills (these are referred to as our mental or cognitive abilities). Some individuals experience noticeable changes in their thinking and memory skills across their 60s and beyond, while others maintain these abilities into old age. This variation suggests that a number of factors influence the likelihood of mental decline.

Alan and his team in The Ageing Lab at Heriot-Watt are exploring some of those factors, and in the show you’ll hear about some of their own and others works focussing on the kinds of things we might do more of, or less of, to protect our brains as we age.

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The big questions being explored in the “What Keeps You Sharp?” show were part of a UK-wide survey that was completed earlier last year. The audience will therefore have a chance to share their own thoughts about thinking skills, compare those to the 3000+ people across the UK who took part in the survey, and hear how that all links back to what the most recent research suggests. But don’t worry, it’s not a traditional lecture – one of the rules within the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas programme is that you can’t use slides, and the shows are also compered by comedian Susan Morrison to keep everything on track.

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“What Keeps You Sharp?” is on twice during the Fringe, at the New Town Theatre on George Street on 7 August (8.10pm) and 16 August (1.30pm). You can watch a short trailer here, or read more about the show and buy tickets here.

And if you can’t make it along, you can still find out more. Last year’s show was recorded for part of BBC Radio Scotland’s Brainwaves series. You can listen to that programme here…though best not to listen if you’re coming along as it might spoil some of the questions you’ll be thinking about!


Book your tickets today!

“What Keeps You Sharp?” is part of Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2018: 
Debate, discussion and discourse at the Edinburgh Fringe

Catch the show at the New Town Theatre on George Street, Edinburgh on 7 August (8.10pm) and 16 August (1.30pm).

 

Being Dementia Aware: how you can help

In Scotland, around 93,000 people are living with the condition with that number set to double by 2050.   

Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia project is funded by the Life Changes Trust to raise awareness of dementia.  We have done this through making the charity more dementia aware and delivering our workshops to our member groups and other organisations across the country.  We have also published a suite of publications which you can access via our website here.

This Dementia Awareness Week, we want to highlight what we do day in and day out to help spread the awareness message.

This week will mark the start of our new project focussing on making communities age and dementia friendly.  As part of this we are launching an online survey to hear directly from you on your own thoughts which you can find here.

Last week, our Training Officer, Julie Turner, travelled to Orkney to launch our ‘Train the Trainer’ initiative before travelling back to Edinburgh to start our new TASTER workshops with our partners in the Age Scotland Veteran’s Project.  For more information on our TASTER sessions click here.

To celebrate Dementia Awareness Week, we also want to hear from you.

We want to know what Being Dementia Aware means to you.  Whether you are someone living with dementia, a carer, family or friend, what is being dementia aware meant for you?

To take part, you can download our campaign card from our website here, take a photo holding the card and send it to us at esdteam@agescotland.org.uk or tweet your photo or message to us using the #BeingDementiaAware hashtag.

We will also be running a ‘Being Dementia Aware’ quiz on our social media channels so make sure you are following us on Twitter and Facebook!

This year Dementia Awareness Week in Scotland runs from the 4th -10th June 2018.

The Age Scotland Early Stage Dementia Project has been running since 2016 with funding from the Life Changes Trust.  For more information on the project visit (enter website address) or email the team at esdteam@agescotand.org.uk.

 

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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.

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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.

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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 members@agescotland.org.uk

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.

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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: ramblers.org.uk/go-walking.aspx

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 www.parkinsons.org.uk/support or phone our free helpline on 0808 800 0303.