Community connecting: tackling social isolation head on

Age Scotland has managed a helpline for many years providing information and advice across a wide spectrum of topics. Last year we were lucky enough to be given funding by the Scottish Government to kick-start a Scotland wide, phone based community connecting service.


The helpline often receives calls from older people feeling isolated or lonely and the community connecting service aims to tackle this head on. Callers can be referred to the service – which just involves them leaving a few details with an adviser. They are then contacted by one of the community connecting volunteers for a longer chat, to find about their interests, what sort of opportunity they might be looking for and any barriers that they might have to getting out and about (for example any mobility issues or difficulties accessing public transport). The volunteer can then get stuck into finding out what is available in the caller’s local area. We’ve been asked to help find all sorts of different opportunities from Men’s Sheds to IT classes, exercise to befriending. In many local authority areas there are specific community connecting projects delivered either by phone or face to face and where this is helpful for the person we will suggest they contact them for local expert knowledge.comcon.png

The Age Scotland helpline is very fortunate to have a team of exceptional and dedicated volunteers and several of them are involved in this new service with new volunteers being recruited to join them. One of our volunteers, Janice explains more about what she does:

“As a volunteer, I have been involved with Age Scotland’s community connecting service since it started a few months ago and am thoroughly enjoying being part of it.  The people I speak to have, for one reason or another, found themselves cut off from the community they live in and are unsure about how to make the first move to become more involved and less isolated.

After having an initial chat about the sorts of things they’re looking for, I try to find some local groups or organisations they might enjoy being part of. (My knowledge of the geography of Scotland is growing by the week!)

As I have been finding out, there is a lot going on out there.  The difficulty for the people who contact us is knowing where to look and, at times, having the confidence to take that first step.  That’s where we step in.  After giving each client some pointers, or even passing on their details to a chosen group, we follow up by making regular calls every 2 or 3 weeks for a couple of months to see how things are progressing, or as one client said, ‘to keep me on track’.

A relationship starts to build between you and the client and it is hugely satisfying when you know that you have got to the point where you can cut your ties because they are on their way. They have reconnected!”

We’ve had some lovely feedback from users about how useful the service has been to them and complementing our volunteers:

‘He’s been absolutely lovely…and I’ve found it helpful talking to him’.

This makes us even more keen to make sure that we can continue growing the service and helping even more people.

To allow this to happen we’ll need even more volunteers – that’s where you might come in!

If you think that you’d like to help people get back out and about in their community please get in touch with our team on 0333 32 32 400 or volunteering@agescotland.org.uk. You can also find out about all of the other ways you can get involved as a volunteer on the Age Scotland website.

 

 

 

Quality of Life on the Isle of Shapinsay

Toni Giugliano, Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement & Campaign Officer, recently headed to Orkney as part of his work around quality of life in later life in partnership with Stirling University. 


Earlier this month the Quality of Life Project took me to Shapinsay in Orkney. It was a unique opportunity to gather the views of older people about what makes a good life in later years in a rural and remote part of the country.

I was humbled by the extremely warm welcome I received by the organisers and participants. I was picked up from the ferry terminal in the community electric car and whisked along to the “Boathouse” – a fantastic community space where we were protected from the ultra-strong winds (which locals told me were not, in fact, that strong at all!).

In total, eight residents took part in the discussions, which explored several themes, including health and wellbeing, the importance of a close-knit community, relationships, care, transport, personal independence and the role of older people in society.

Below are some statements that came out of the discussions:

“Befriending services are a lifeline – even if you have a close family, often you feel like you don’t want to impose on them. You want to be independent, and a befriender won’t pass judgement.”

“Pass times are so important once you reach a certain age – they give you a focus, a purpose in life, a reason to be on this world.”

“As you become older, you enter a different category. You are likely to become slightly invisible.”

“Many people who once had a social status during their working life tend to lose it once they reach a certain age.”

“Older people still have a lot to contribute to society.”

“There should be incentives for volunteers to take on home care visits and spend some time chatting to people. The home visits you get only last 15 minutes – it’s just not enough. You want to get to know a person and have a chat with them. With the current system they just don’t have enough time to do that.”

“The cost of the ferry is too much; it’s not affordable. Other islands (local authorities) get a better deal”.

“We’ve had to fight hard on this island for the services we have. We need to stay on the ball and continue to do that if we want to keep them.”

It was particularly interesting to hear about the work of the Shapinsay Development Trust and the activities and services it runs to improve the lives of people on the island, including social activities to combat loneliness and isolation. The Sew Shapinsay project, for example, is a great social activity bringing many people together.

The Shapinsay focus group discussion, like all other focus groups that have taken place across the country, will soon be analysed by our researcher teams (who themselves are older people). The project seeks to: (i) explore what older people believe the essence of a good life is; and (ii) lobby decision makers to improve policies that support older people as they age.

Whilst in Orkney I took the opportunity to visit the Age Scotland office in Kirkwall to discuss the Scottish Government’s Social Security Consultation and how the proposed changes are likely to impact older people. We received a number of responses which helped shape our submission. For more information on this, see the relevant pages of our website.


The Quality of Life Project is funded by the Life Changes Trust. To find out more about the project, visit our website.

Food for Life Scotland – Bringing Generations Together

Good food is at the heart of happy, healthy communities, bringing people of all ages together. Soil Association Scotland’s Food for Life Scotland (FFLS) programme works to transform food culture and put good food on the menu, in the curriculum, and in all the places people live their daily lives.


In late 2015, FFLS set up an intergenerational project in Edinburgh which focuses on two settings – Inch View Care Home and Liberton High School. Both venues come under the management of the City of Edinburgh Council and both already have a commitment to good food through the Food for Life Catering Mark award.

When the idea of an intergenerational project was introduced, the school and the care home were enthusiastic. Both were keen to use the journey of their food –‘from soil to plate’ – as a basis for learning, sharing, and celebrating together.

Inch View polytunnel

Building a wheelchair-accessible polytunnel at Inch View has been one of the key projects. Volunteers helped with the construction and pupils from Liberton built its doors as part of their Craft Design & Technology work. Produce will be used in the home’s kitchen as ingredients for residents’ meals and scraps will also go to feed the home’s chickens.

Inch View chickens

As part of a dementia prevention project, Inch View decided to create a recipe book which involved residents reminiscing about childhood memories of food. The school’s art department ran a competition with S2 to design the cover, and pupils are now planning to produce the whole book, including illustrations.

In March 2016, a daffodil lunch was held at Liberton High School. Pupils from the school’s Food for Life Action Group worked with their school cook to look at nutrition for older people and consider what dishes they might like to eat. Pupils designed invitations, menus, prepared the tables and cooked up a fabulous range of dishes for their special guests from Inch View. Three generations sat down to eat together, sharing their experiences and getting to know each other.

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Future events being planned include a strawberry tea and harvest event in autumn, as well as the on-going sharing of produce grown in Inch View’s polytunnel and the school’s raised beds. One pupil from Liberton has been inspired to consider a career in catering and another pupil who has expressed an interest in care work has been offered work experience at Inch View.

The project has been a real team effort, it’s a great example of generations working together and celebrating through food.


To find out more about Food for Life Scotland, please visit www.foodforlifescotland.org or email ffls@soilassociation.org

Quality Matters – Our 2016 National Conference

On Wednesday 16th March invited guests and representatives from over 300 Age Scotland member groups came together for our 2016 National Conference.

Attendees travelled from across Scotland to take part in the conference held at Perth Concert Hall. It was a fantastic day with much discussion about what we mean by quality of life in later life. Read on for a round up of the day. 


 

Morning Session: Care Homes, Creativity and Urban Planning

Our conference chair, award-winning journalist Pennie Taylor, kicked off the day by posing two questions to the room: When is life good? When is it not so good?MMB_1377

Answers ranged from thought-provoking to funny to poignant and it was clear that quality of life means different things to different people.

Here’s just some examples of the hundreds of responses we received:

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We were then joined by our guest speakers. First up we had Fiona Cook, Facilitator at my Home Life Scotland discussing quality of life in care homes. Fiona introduced My Home Life Scotland and its’ work to improve quality of life in care homes for those who live in, work in and visit care homes.

We were then joined by Andrew Crummy – Community Artist and Designer of the Great Tapestry of Scotland. Andrew argued that regardless of age, everyone is creative and has something to say, and went on to describe how art can bring communities together and improve quality of life for everyone.

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(L-R) Professor Greg Lloyd, Fiona Cook and Andrew Crummy take questions from the audience

Lastly Greg Lloyd – Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning joined us from Ulster University. Professor Lloyd provided a fascinating overview of how urban planning and our environment can directly impact our quality of life. He went on to consider how we may be able to play a more active role in planning in the future to ensure a better quality of life in later life.

Our speakers got the room thinking and we had many attendees posing further questions and ideas to the speakers and wider floor. You can watch footage from the live stream of the guest speakers and subsequent discussion here.

Afternoon Session: Workshops, Award Winners and Eddi Reader

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An attendee laughs taking part in the “Looking after you” workshop

After some lunch and further opportunity to visit our information stalls, many attendees headed into one of our interactive workshops. We had five in total on a range of topics
related to quality of life, including Men’s’ learning and well being, spirituality and looking after you.

 

 

Attendees then came back together to commence the Age Scotland awards. The awards celebrate individuals and groups that are doing great work for older people in their local community. It was certainly a tough year for the judges, with many quality entries. As our chief executive Brian Sloan said, we would love to have given everyone an award, but there can only be one winner!

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Eddi Reader presents Lynn Benge with the Volunteer of the Year Award.

Our winners are listed below. Click on the links to watch a 2-3 minute video about the great work they did that earned them the award.

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Award-winning singer and songwriter Eddi Reader joined us to present the awards and rounded off the conference with a fantastic performance that had the whole concert hall singing along.

It was a great day full of discussion and debate about what we can do collectively to improve quality of life for those in later life.

What do you think has the biggest impact on quality of life? What could be done to improve quality of life in Scotland? Tell us in the comments below!

All images featured in this post by Mihaela Bodlovic

Sporting Memories – how an old leather football is bringing people together

Sporting Memories is a charity that works to support older people living with dementia, depression and loneliness by tapping into their passion for sport. Through encouraging people to share memories of sporting moments, the charity helps people to connect with others and with their past. 

Will Searle from our Communications team visited the Sporting Memories Group in Belshill-Orbiston to meet the group and find out more about their work.


Once the group is settled around a large table with their cups of tea, Norrie Gallagher, one of the two organisers, starts us off. An old leather football is given to a member who shares a story of a football match they attended. The ball is then passed around the group, with whoever holding it sharing a memory of their own. Norrie expertly goes around the room to see if it has struck a chord with anyone – do you remember that match? Have you been to an International?

Everyone has their chance to say their bit and bond with the group. Norrie leads the conversation, ensuring everyone who has come along is engaged and taking part. It’s great to see attendees who were quiet and withdrawn when they first came in, come alive reminiscing about their love of the beautiful game.

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At one point, someone pipes up with the question – “Did I tell you my memory from Wembley? 1977…” And so comes a great story from when Scotland beat England 2-1 at Wembley. Fans had been told that the grounds were being re-turfed after the match and celebrating Scots took to the pitch to get their own piece of turf. The man telling the story recalled watching this all unfold and asking a fellow fan, who had his arms full of turf, what he was going to do if he was “stopped by the bobbies”. The fan’s response was that if the police stopped him, he would say it was his brother’s grass and he was just looking after it while he was on holiday!

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This was just one of the many great stories filling the room with laughter over the course of two and half hours. There was good-natured banter about Lisbon Lions and Rangers Bears, memories from the war and a quiz about football team names.

It was great to see just how much this activity helped to make those who came along open up. What was also evident was the amazing camaraderie and how the youngest members were supported by older members, first timers by seasoned regulars.

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Sporting memories groups are also not just great social activities, but have been really positive activities for people with dementia. The Sporting Memories Network even won Best National Dementia Friendly Initiative in 2014 by Alzheimer’s Society.

As Norrie and his colleague Margo were tidying up, they told me more about how the group works. They really emphasised how they couldn’t keep running the group without their valued volunteers. So if you love sport and are looking for a really rewarding volunteer opportunity check out www.sportingmemoriesnetwork.com to see what groups are operating close by.

Are you ready for winter?

Ready Scotland is a campaign by the Scottish Government to help people across Scotland to think ahead and get prepared for winter. Recent research suggested that after a couple of milder winters, many people were not taking any steps to prepare for emergencies or severe weather. The Ready Scotland site brings together simple steps you can take that can make a big difference – with the help of their trademark dog!


 

For many it has been a good few years since daily life has been disrupted by waking up to find a few feet of snow has been dumped at their front door by Mother Nature or plans have had to change thanks to the impact of strong winds and rain.

Research undertaken by the British Red Cross and the Scottish Government found that the longer the time period since an individual has had to deal with the effects of severe weather the less likely they are to take steps to prepare. As the memories of the severe weather experienced in 2010 and 2011 fade so does the intention to be ready.

Unfortunately, severe weather doesn’t stick to a rota. Past performance by the weather is not necessarily an indicator of what to expect this winter.

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment & Cities Keith Brown said:

“If there is anything recent winters have shown us it is that Scottish weather is unpredictable. The unpredictability of weather patterns means we cannot simply hope that we will miss the worst of it. While we can’t stop the weather causing disruption, we can be well prepared to cope with it.”

There are 3 elements to think about when it comes to being ready for winter.

Firstly, there is staying informed. Whether through local news, radio, social media or by signing up to the Met Office alert service, it is important that you stay in the know about imminent weather conditions.

The second element is about being prepared. Whether in the home, at work or travelling out and about there are a simple actions that will ensure you are better prepared in the event they have to deal with severe weather.

It is also important to consider whether you are prepared enough. For example, having an ice scraper and de-icer might be fine if you are only driving a mile from your home. However, for longer journeys you will want to make sure you have a blanket and a hot drink in the car in case you and your car become stranded.

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Thirdly, think about others. Are there individuals in your local community who might not be as able as you to deal with the effects of severe weather? Consider what you can do to help them be ready.

David Miller, Director of the British Red Cross in Scotland, said:

“Making sure you are prepared now for winter can make a huge difference when extreme weather hits. At the Red Cross we know that severe weather, including snow and floods, can have serious consequences. However, with a few simple steps you can make yourself and others ready for the disruption it can bring.”

For more information on how to get ready for winter visit www.readyscotland.org.

Amy and Douglas’ Adventure

Age Scotland’s Events and Community Fundraiser Amy Telford tells us about her recent visit to some of our member groups with Community Development Officer for the East of Scotland – Douglas MacNaughtan. 


Hello everyone! This guest blog follows on from my recent ‘Day Out With Douglas’ blog, where I told you about our visit to Age Scotland member group, Age Concern Cupar. Have a wee scroll down if you missed it and would like to catch up.

After a lovely visit with Age Concern Cupar, we hopped back in the car and drove to St Andrew’s, where we were lucky enough to visit HayDays Fife. They were having their summer concert, a highlight of group’s event calendar. It’s their last event before they break for the summer, which some groups do (although many run throughout the year).

HayDays take over the town hall every Tuesday. They have a large choir and hold lots of wonderful activities, everything from bridge to curling, even yoga! The choir were performing at the concert and they were great. They sang some lovely songs, but also some funny ones, such as their own rendition of The Jeely Piece Song. It was clear from watching them all that they get a lot out of attending HayDays. They have formed their own community and it was wonderful to see.

HayDays Concert

It struck me that this is what life should be like for everyone when we are older. We should all have fun and friendship in our later years. Sadly for some it’s not always possible, but if anything this motivates me as a Fundraiser and it makes me proud to work for a charity that helps combat loneliness and isolation for older people.

After the concert we headed off to East Neuk Lunch Club, another member group of Age Scotland. They are far smaller than HayDays and they meet in a tiny village hall. There were only eight ladies there, along with their Project Officer Ruby and volunteer, Daisy.

Douglas and Ladies - East Neuk Frail Elderly Project

I had a nice chat with all of the ladies and when I asked them what they liked best about coming along to group meetings, they were all in agreement: “Company…and food!” They love their chats and lunches.

One lady said: “We’re all from the same Sheltered Housing. A bus comes and picks us up, to bring us here, or perhaps to café where we all have lunch together. They spoil us here. They go out of their way.” It was lovely to hear about the fantastic work that Ruby and team do for these ladies. It’s clear that their work is incredibly important for the community

.Ladies at East Neuk Frail Elderly Project

It was getting on so Douglas and I had to leave for Edinburgh, but I had really enjoyed my day. It was great to see what a brilliant support Douglas is to our member groups in the East and I’m really looking forward to getting “out and about” with some of our other Community Development Officers. It was also really interesting to see how our grants programme has helped some of our member groups, and the great variety of groups we have. Large or small, all of our member groups play such an important role in helping older people to Love later life and they should all be celebrated.


If you’d like to find out more about how to support the work of Age Scotland please do contact the Fundraising team on 0333 323 2400 or fundraising@agescotland.org.uk for materials and lots of support. You too can help everyone to love later life.