Respect for the Aged Day – bringing together generations

Did you know today is ‘Respect for the Aged Day’ in Japan? Also known as Keiro no Hi, this public holiday is a day to honour, celebrate and take care of the country’s older citizens.

Respect for the Aged Day started in a small village in Japan as a day to be kind to older people and ask for their wisdom and advice about ways to improve life in the village. In time it became a national holiday and is now celebrated across Japan on the third Monday in September.

The resulting long weekend allows those working during the week to visit their parents and grandparents, with those who cannot return home in person often encouraged to call or write.

Volunteers deliver food and basic necessities to homebound older people. Schools will organise performances for local retirement and care homes, or host something in the community which all older people are invited to attend. These are known as keirokai ceremonies.

jana-sabeth-sndumdyf7o8-unsplash.jpg

On Respect for the Aged Day, organisations and companies also host special events to help older people living in their community. Japanese media also get involved, reporting on the population and highlighting the oldest people in the country. Often the oldest among communities are invited to interview so they can talk about their experiences and share their wisdom opinions on ageing.

Unlike other holidays or themed days, ‘Respect for the Aged Day’ focuses less on raising awareness of and addressing inequalities in society and more on showing kindness, learning from older generations and intergenerational activities.

Of course it’s easy to say we should be doing these things all year round! And many people do.

In fact, Age Scotland have a campaign running just now called ‘Share What You Love’ where we are encouraging everyone to share something that they love doing with an older person. Too many older people feel cut off from society and we want to show Scotland’s older generation that we really care about them. From inviting an older neighbour round to help bake a cake or taking your great uncle to a football game, everyone has something they could invite an older person along to do.

So whether you always celebrate ‘Respect for the Aged Day’ or you just want to make a difference, visit sharewhatyou.love to find out how you can get involved.

 

Staying safe and well at home

Age Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) are working in partnership to highlight the dangers householders face from fire, and to provide information on how these can be reduced. 


We hear from Deputy Chief Officer (DCO) David McGown, the SFRS’s Director of Prevention and Protection. “Fires within the home can develop quickly and they can be fatal while others can cause injury. They can also devastate homes and result in the loss of precious family items that can never be replaced.

SFRS routinely attend fires within the home and we see the consequences of such incidents. So, while we can fight fires we believe that prevention is key – and we will make every effort to stop them from happening in the first place.”

There are over 5000 accidental house fires in Scotland every year.  Cooking is the number one cause of these. If you’re distracted, or have left the cooking on to go and do something else, fire can spread very quickly. Very often it is when people are tired, under the influence of alcohol or on medication that a cooking fire results in someone being injured or killed.

Over the last five years three-quarters of preventable fire deaths in Scotland were people aged 50 years or over – and almost a third of people injured through fire were aged 60 or over.

DCO McGown continues “We are determined to drive down the number of house fires in Scotland.  Many house fires in Scotland could be prevented by taking a few simple steps.  Too often people are injured or killed by fire when, for example, working smoke alarms could have prevented a serious fire.  Our staff are working in the community every day providing advice and assistance as well as fighting fires.  By working in partnership we can make a difference. ”

SFRS offer a free Home Fire Safety Visit service.  The visits only take around 20 minutes and help householders spot possible fire hazards and make sure that their home is safer.  Firefighters also help residents plan what to do if fire does break out, provide essential information about smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarms and identify any other agencies who could provide useful support.

p27-SFRS

Home Fire Safety Visits are completely free and can cut the chances of a fire in the home.

You can cut out the chances of a fire happening in your home by booking a Home Fire Safety Visit, or if you know a person who could be at risk, then please tell them about our service or call us to see how we can help.

To request a free home fire safety visit for yourself, or someone you know, just call 0800 0731 999 or text ‘FIRE’ to 80800. You can also call the Age Scotland helpline who will link with the Fire Service to arrange the visit for you.

To find out more about keeping safe and well at home, please visit www.firescotland.gov.uk 

sfrs - Copy

 

 

Older People’s Champion: what’s in a name?

Guest blog by Cllr Elaine Thornton-Nicol, Older People’s Champion, Scottish Borders Council


IMG-20190305-WA0006-01-01

When I was elected as a Councillor in 2017, I had been employed for 16 years in the voluntary sector, the last four specifically managing services aimed at improving the lives of older people, so I suppose I was the best choice when Scottish Borders Council was looking for nominations for the Older People’s Champion.

This role is ambassadorial, authority-wide, non-political and an honour.

There is no budget line attached to this role so there is no cost to the council.

When I agreed to the nomination, I asked for a role descriptor, because there was no point in me bumbling about the Borders hoping I am doing what is expected of me.  Bizarrely enough, there wasn’t one, but one was provided very quickly.

At this point, please remember I was newly elected and had little knowledge of the machinations of my own local authority, let alone the others.  I assumed that every council had an Older People’s Champion.

I thought I would be able to join the network of thirty-one other champions, some of whom would be in their second term, who would be able to share their knowledge and offer opportunities to take their learning to the Scottish Borders.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.  There are some who have the role but the councillor with the title is not proactive.  Some authorities claim to have an Older People’s Officer, but no description of what they actually do.  Others again have nothing and no one specifically tasked with ensuring that the voices of Older People are heard at every level.  I have to thank Simon Ritchie of Age Scotland and Diana Findley of the Scottish Older People’s Assembly for supporting me on this journey of discovery.

I see my role firstly as a listening one.  The best people to shape and inform Older People’s services are the older people who will use them.  Their voice must be heard.

I work with officers across the council to feedback on various issues and concerns that older people have raised. And I must say they are listening, supporting and, where possible, acting.

There is an aspect of this role that involves sitting in meetings.  It could be anything from listening to third and voluntary sector organisations as they try to learn to work more closely, commenting on proposed services, helping others to understand the need to find out what older people need, want, miss and, let’s be very truthful – don’t like.

I’ve been involved in a range of activities in my role so far. These include, among many others:

  • Exploring the creation of an Older People’s Directory for the Borders
  • Organising dementia training for every elected member of the council
  • A seat on the Borders Community Transport Service Board
  • Supporting the council on campaigns aimed at older people, including Flu Vaccine uptake

I am the face of the Council to Older People, and I am proud of that.  I want to be the best voice I can be for them.

At every Council meeting, my fellow councillors are used to me referencing an older person in my speeches.  I want us to keep our Older People at the forefront of our minds when discussing and debating services.

My role also entails supporting the Council on campaigns relating to Older People – recently I had my photo taken receiving my flu injection to encourage the uptake and thus hopefully prevent illness

If there was a network of thirty-two elected members who were proactive Older People’s Champions for their local authority, listening to our Older People, feeding through to Councils and the Minister for Older People and Equalities, imagine the knowledge and information base we would have.  How much faster we could respond.

So here is my challenge to everyone in Scotland –

  • Contact your local authority
  • Ask if they have and Older People’s Champion
  • Ask to meet with appropriate officers if they have no OPC and share the role descriptor I use
  • Encourage them to use this opportunity to put Older People at the heart of what they do
  • Push them towards that network that can share skills, knowledge and learning.

This is the chance to take the first step on what I know will not be a short journey – change is not easy for any of us.

And lastly, please remember, an Older People’s Champion is not necessarily an Older Person – they could be as young as me!


Age Scotland is calling on every Scottish Local Authority to appoint an Older People’s Champion. For more information, please contact the Age Scotland Policy & Communications team on 0300 323 2400 or email communications@agescotland.org.uk.

 

Weren’t born on the same day as your partner? You’re still unlucky.

Blog by Age Scotland’s Policy Officer Ashleigh de Verteuil


In a previous blog post, we highlighted massively unfair changes being made to Pension Credit. Well there is another looming deadline for couples who may be affected by the changes: the 13th of August is the last day you’ll be able to make a backdated claim for Pension Credit. 

So what does this mean?

Pension Credit is an important top up benefit for older people who are on a low pension income. It is already a massively under claimed entitlement with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) estimating that 40% of those eligible for pension credit don’t claim it.

But now changes by the UK Government to the eligibility criteria will see more older people unable to claim and become poorer as a result.

This is the bit where you, and your dearest’s, birthday matters. If you’re what is called a ‘mixed aged couple’, in other words one of you is of pensionable age and the other is younger than their state pension age, you will no longer be able to claim pension credit. What, you mean you don’t have the same birthday and birth year as your partner? Weird!

To make matters worse, the basic Pension Credit rate for a couple is currently £248.80 a week, and the basic Universal Credit rate for a couple is only £114.85 a week.

And I hate to add further insult to injury, but Pension Credit is a ‘passporting benefit’. This means that it acts as a qualifying benefit for other forms of assistance, but as you won’t be able to claim Pension Credit until you both are of pensionable age then you can’t claim them. This includes cold weather payments, maximum help with housing benefit, maximum help with Council Tax Reduction and you’ll also be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’, will not have access to claim social fund funeral payments, and may not be entitled to the warm home discount.

What are your options? Well you can either wait until the younger partner reaches their state pension age, or they can claim Universal Credit in the meantime as way to boost your joint income. This will mean they’ll be subjected to Universal Credit conditionality, for example, needing to prove that they are a carer, or that they’re seeking work for 35 hours a week, or that they’re not well enough to work. If you decide not to claim Universal Credit, and have no other income then you would be £133.95 a week worse off, potentially for several years.

This move is hugely unjust. With pensioner poverty on the rise, 29% of people aged 75 and over living on or just below the poverty line, and fuel poverty likely to increase.

The Age Scotland freephone helpline, which provides free information, friendship and advice is on hand to provide support to people over 50, their families, and carers. You can still make a claim, which will be backdated, until the 13th August.

This is something we can help with, call our helpline and speak to one of our friendly advisors who can can give you a free benefit check to see if you’re getting everything that you’re entitled to. In fact they can help with just about anything, they’re very knowledgeable.

Untitled design (38)

Our advisors are here to help. Just call 0800 12 44 222 and one of our team will talk you through the process.

I implore you to call them, the changes to Pension Credit are a few months away and they can talk you through any entitlements you may be eligible for in great detail and how to claim them

If you’d also like to share your outrage about these changes, then we want to hear from you too. Sharing people’s real life stories is the best way to bring forward change so do get in touch with us.

Our helpline is free to call, and is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm on 0800 12 44 222.

Staying sharp at the Edinburgh Fringe

If it takes a bit of effort to keep your brain healthy, are you willing to do that?

That’s the “dangerous idea” that Professor Alan Gow from Heriot-Watt University will be considering at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August.

In “This Show Will Make You Sharper!”, Alan will share what people would be willing to do to protect their thinking skills with age. His team found that out by conducting a survey called “What Keeps You Sharp?”, completed by over 3000 people aged 40 to 98 across the UK.

Another key thing the survey explored was what people said would make them change their behaviour to better protect their thinking skills…and the results might surprise you (but we’re not allowed to give the answers away)!

Festival August 2017 108

As we age, 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 people experience noticeable changes in their thinking and memory skills across their 60s and beyond, while others maintain these into old age. This variation suggests that a number of factors influence our brain health.

While the show is based on the latest research, this isn’t a traditional lecture. The show is part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas programme which has a simple rule – no slides! Comedian Susan Morrison returns to compere the programme, ensuring the academics keep on track and that the audience get a chance to have their say too.

For those who get along to the show, Alan will be interested in hearing what you think might be good (or bad) for “staying sharp” and where you get information about brain health from. The audience will therefore have a chance to share their own thoughts about thinking skills, compare those to the 3000+ people from the UK-wide survey, and hear how that all links back to what the most recent research suggests.

Alan and his team in The Ageing Lab at Heriot-Watt are exploring the factors that might protect thinking skills, 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.

“This Show Will Make You Sharper!” is on twice during the Fringe at the New Town Theatre on George Street, on 10 August (1.30pm) and 14 August (8.10pm). You can watch a short trailer below or read more about the show and buy tickets here.

To get a flavour of what to expect, one of Alan’s previous Fringe shows was recorded as part of BBC Radio Scotland’s Brainwaves series which you can listen to here.

Book your tickets today!


“This Show Will Make You Sharper!” is part of Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2019: Debate, discussion and discourse at the Edinburgh Fringe.

 Catch the show at the New Town Theatre on George Street, Edinburgh on 10 August (1.30pm) and 14 August (8.10pm).

Whatever later life brings, we’re here to help

Rachel is an adviser with the Age Scotland helpline. She recently had a caller who lives on her own in a private rental property and is of state pension age. The caller was finding money quite tight and spoke to Rachel about getting a benefits check. Rachel identified £90 a week in housing benefits that the caller wasn’t aware that she could claim. The caller was also able to get the entitlement backdated and so will receive a lump sum to help her. That extra money will make a real difference to her quality of life.

Navigating entitlements and helping callers access them is just one of the ways that our team can support older people, their families and carers. The Age Scotland Helpline is the flagship advice service for Scotland’s older people to help with any challenges they may face.

Our Community Connecting service is also based within the helpline. Volunteers work to combat loneliness and isolation by supporting older people to explore interests and take up new hobbies. Through regular calls of support and encouragement and by doing research into what is available, our volunteers help older people to get involved in lunch clubs and social activities in their local area. There is no typical caller. It could be someone who has recently retired and wants to pick up a new hobby. Or it could be someone who has been socially isolated for months and is ready to take that first step and meet new people in their area.

One caller who got in touch said that her life had been turned upside down by the death of her husband. She felt incredibly isolated. She had never contacted a helpline before but was looking for any kind of support she could find. Through regular calls our volunteer was able to get to know the caller’s interests and encourage her to try a local club. The caller went on to sign up for a befriending service as well as an I.T. class to help her develop skills online.

Later life can bring many challenges but it also brings opportunities. If you or someone you know could benefit from the support offered by our helpline or community connecting teams, please get in touch on 0800 12 44 222. It’s free to call and open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

We’re here to help.

Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm (2).png

Books, chats and Big Knit hats

Many of us can’t imagine going for weeks without speaking to another person. Unfortunately that’s the reality for thousands of older people across Scotland, who are socially isolated and dealing with the horrendous experience of loneliness. 

For these individuals, services like the Falkirk Community Trust’s Home Library Service can be life-changing. The service delivers books, audio books and large print materials to any person living in Falkirk who is unable, for whatever reason, to go to one of their eight libraries. The service promoted the Big Knit campaign to their users and at the end of last year we had already received nearly 1000 little hats of all shapes and sizes from them – just amazing!

One of these incredible knitters is Marion Deans. Marion’s husband sadly passed away last year and as Naomi Kenny from the Falkirk Community Trust informed us, by being involved with the Big Knit, Marion felt she was able to knit through her grief as well as contributing to meaningful causes. Naomi also told us that Marion is proud of the hats she has knitted and we have to say she definitely should be!

Naomi from the Falkirk Community Trust with Marion who has been taking part in Big Knit

Naomi from the Falkirk Community Trust with Marion who has been taking part in Big Knit

By making sure that people are still connected to their libraries, often hubs of local communities, the home library service arguably is helping to prevent loneliness and isolation. Campaigns like the Big Knit help us at Age Scotland work with similar projects and make sure that those who are unable to, or perhaps less likely to, get out and about don’t feel isolated in their own home. It’s much better to dissect the plot of the latest Scandi-noir book you have read with someone, even if it is lovely Dave who delivers you books, than mull it over on your own.

That’s why, we are asking you or anyone you know who loves to knit to get involved in this year’s Big Knit and help us make sure that wee discussion over book is a possibility for everyone in Scotland.


Find out how you can get involved in the Big Knit here: http://age.scot/BigKnit

Find out more about the Falkirk Community Trust’s Home Library Service.