Meet Maureen: one of our 2017 Abseil heroes!

The 28th of May sees the return of the iconic Forth Rail Bridge abseil – one of Age Scotland’s main events of the year. We’re delighted to welcome another group of brave souls this year to take on the challenge. In her guest blog Maureen shares with us why she decided to sign up to the 165ft abseil challenge. 


Hello, my name is Maureen Tait and I am 52 years of age. I am the Sheltered Housing Services Manager for Port of Leith Housing Association (PoLHA), and I have worked within PoLHA’s housing for older people’s service for 20 years, and with older people in various care and support settings for 38 years.

I have decided to abseil from the Forth Rail Bridge for two reasons. Firstly to thank Age Scotland and show my appreciation for all the work they do and secondly, as a personal achievement. I have a disability (which has never held me back) but what might hold me back for the abseil is that I am not terribly good with heights! Abseiling will certainly be a fantastic achievement and something struck off my bucket list!

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I am really lucky that one of my colleagues, Martin Hunter has agreed to abseil with me and I will value his support with fundraising and on the day – go team PoLHA!

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We plan to do lots of exciting things to fundraise, for example hosting a fun day for our tenants, which will include games, a lunch, a raffle and tombola. The Association, colleagues, our tenants’, families and friends have given us so much encouragement and are all right behind us in supporting our fundraising journey.

I am extremely passionate about the service for older people, and the service we provide in our Sheltered Housing. At our recent Inspection by the Care Inspectorate we maintained our graded of a 6 “Excellent” for our quality of Care and Support, and this is a credit to the sheltered team for the commitment and dedication they demonstrate in their work.

Over the last couple of years Age Scotland has kindly invited our tenants along to some of their events. We had a fantastic time visiting the Scottish Parliament for some lunch and to launch a new exercise called strength and balance bingo.

As part of PoLHA, I am committed to ensuring that we build and support a strong community in Leith. A key element of this is working with the different projects and local schools to encourage intergenerational activities for our tenants and younger people to enjoy and benefit from.

Through Age Scotland we were delighted to welcome the First Minister to our festive celebrations to see first-hand the real difference such group’s make to tackle problems of social isolation. We offer our wholehearted backing for Age Scotland’s ‘No-One Should Have No-One at Christmas’ campaign. Our tenants thoroughly enjoyed designing a gift of a tea pot, cup and saucer to give to the First Minister to show their appreciation of her visit.

I have decided to fundraise for Age Scotland as a way to show appreciation for all the support they give not only to our older people but all older people across Scotland

“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.

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.

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.

A New Future for Social Security – Age Scotland submission

Age Scotland has put forward an wide-ranging submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the future for social security in Scotland.

The charity endorses the basic principle that social security should be seen as an investment in the people of Scotland and in strengthening our social fabric.  We propose models which should exhibit trust in people and respect for their dignity.

We advocate an end to rules which are probably discriminatory based on age – such as the lack of a mobility component for attendance allowance, unlike other disability benefits – and we support the principle that universal winter fuel payments are the most effective means of reaching those most in need of support.

The submission is extensive, comprising some 56 pages, although the consultation paper was over 140 pages long and posed over 170 questions.  It is the most detailed policy submission which the charity or its predecessors have ever compiled.

The submission gives the charity’s perspective on a wide range of specific benefits affecting older people which are being devolved (including disability and carer’s benefits, funeral payments, and winter fuel payments).

It also deals with a series of administrative matters on how eligibility should be worked out, how benefits should be paid, and the overarching principles and intended outcomes which should be a focus for the new system.

Another important aspect is ensuring that the new devolved system works well with the other benefits which will remain reserved to the UK Parliament and Government, and administered by the DWP, JobCentres and the Pension Service.  Clearly it is important for there to be no disruption to payments on which vulnerable people depend, either as the responsibility is transferred or as changes the Scottish Government intends to make are implemented.

The response was informed by the views and experiences of older people themselves, which we gathered at eight distinct consultation events around the country, and also the expertise of our policy staff and helpline advisors, who regularly support older people with benefits concerns and queries.  We aim to use this invaluable information in our further discussions with Government Ministers and officials as the policies take shape and legislation is prepared to give effect to them.

Download our submission


Please feel free to share any views you have by emailing policycomms@agescotland.org.uk