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.

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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.

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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

 

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.

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.

Age Scotland launches Let’s Get Moving!

Let’s get moving is the latest campaign from Age Scotland aiming to promote the benefits of activity to older people by telling the stories of people from across Scotland about what they do to keep active and their motivation to keep doing regular exercise. 


Keith Robson, Head of Charity Services for Age Scotland, commented, “We all know that that we could do with getting more exercise, indeed, in a recent survey the charity conducted, we found that only 55% of respondents were getting the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.  Instead of telling people off for not doing exercise, Age Scotland is taking a different approach and telling the stories of what people do to keep active and why.

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We’ve heard from 81 year old ladies who can plank for a minute, grandads taking part in Walking Football and hundreds more.  Whilst all the people who we spoke to knew the benefits of activity include helping to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia this was never the first reason they gave for taking part in an activity.  Being social, keeping up with the grandkids and feeling a part of a community were more often quoted reasons for being active. So Age Scotland will be focusing on promoting these stories to encourage more people to get moving, and in doing so, get more people loving later life.”

Sandra White MSP is backing the campaign: “The importance of physical activity in older people cannot be understated. Be it to maintain a healthy body and mind or to combat loneliness, making sure we remain active is key.”

“Being the Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Older People, Age & Ageing I am acutely aware of the difference staying active can make in later life. Local support groups who work to promote and maintain physical activity with older constituents, as well as across all age groups, are important in these efforts.”

“As such I warmly welcome this scheme and wish it every success”

Anas Sarwar MSP commented “The Lets Get Moving Campaign makes clear that, whatever your age, keeping active is good for your health and quality of life.  The Scottish Health Survey published last week shows we still have much to do on issues like exercise and tackling obesity, so I congratulate Age Scotland on getting the message out there that there are simple things the great majority of us could do to be more active.”

Miles Briggs MSP also backs the campaign; “I commend Age Scotland for launching their Let’s Get Moving! Campaign and wish it every success.

“There is a mass of evidence that shows that physical exercise can help prevent a wide range of health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia, and can boost mood and confidence. It is really important that all sections of society and people of all ages, including our elderly citizens, are encouraged to exercise and are aware that even gentle activities like short walks can make a real difference to their health.

“I hope Age Scotland’s campaign will persuade many older people to consider taking up a new sport or rediscovering a physical activity they used to enjoy doing.”

Alison Johnstone MSP commented “There needs to be a greater promotion of the many benefits exercise can have for older people in Scotland. Not only that, we need to do better in explaining simple ways that exercise can be incorporated into peoples’ lives with little or no cost. It’s understandable that many Scots, old and young, struggle to exercise when transport policy in this country has continually prioritised private cars over public transport, walking and cycling.”

Willie Rennie MSP also backs the campaign; “No matter what your age is, keeping fit and active should always be at the heart of anyone’s lifestyle. When people get older, being active can be more difficult, but it is precisely for that reason that older people should be encouraged more to live an active lifestyle.

“Campaigns such as this one from Age Scotland are exactly what is needed to help older generations to keep moving.”


To find out more about the campaign visit our website.

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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

Irn-bru and an Iced Biscuit

Amy Telford, our Events and Community Fundraiser, shares her recent experience visiting some of our Member Groups and seeing firsthand the fantastic work they are doing in their local communities with help from Age Scotland.


I was recently lucky enough to meet with four ladies who form the committee for Age Scotland member group, The Carron Connect Partnership. They run SOFIA Project, organising social events in the local community for people over the age of 50.

I was bowled over not only by their commitment to helping those in later life, but also by their support of Age Scotland. Chair, Val Hunter, told me that they would love to do some 50/50 fundraising this year as they “…appreciate all of the support that Age Scotland has shown them and want to give something back.” This was so lovely to hear.

Ladies enjoying themselves at the tea dance

I was also delighted to attend one of their recent tea dances, which was well attended with members ranging from age 55 to 95. It was a real honour to be able to speak with some of the group members, finding out what they get out of coming along to these events. It was very apparent that without SOFIA Project, many of its members would feel lost. Member, Marilyn Kennedy told me, “I have new lease of life. We’ve made new friends and the girls that run it work hard.”

I was made to feel really welcome and was treated to a can of Irn-bru and an iced biscuit – I try to eat healthy most of the time but this was the perfect excuse to have two of my favourite things! I even had a dance with one of the members, although I can’t say I was any good at this. Live music was provided by singer, Katy Hart, who had a lovely voice and kept us all entertained.

As well as tea dances, the SOFIA project committee members also organise coffee mornings, bingo, day trips and special events, such as this year’s strawberry fair (where there will be a prize for the best bonnet and bunnet), a Scottish Evening and the annual Christmas party.

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I also recently visited a member group in Edinburgh, the social committee at sheltered housing development, Old Farm Court. Age Scotland’s Individual Giving Fundraiser, Alison Payne, accompanied me and we had a lovely visit. We met with three members of the committee who organise social events for residents. Jimmy, Diane and Ellen made us feel very welcome and we were amazed by the creativity of their fundraising. I think we actually learnt a thing or two!

Old Farm Court have offered to organise a Soup and a Sandwich event in aid of Age Scotland. It is really lovely that they want to give something back and we are incredibly grateful. I am so much looking forward to working with more of our member groups in the coming year and having met just a couple of groups since I started, I feel incredibly proud to work for such a fantastic charity.

Day out in the Scottish Borders

Morag Halliday, Development Officer, and Martin Munro, Legacy Officer, recently visited two very different groups in the Borders, where change has recently been a major factor

Hawick Senior Citizens Association

Hawick Senior Citizens Association’s Evergreen Hall is tucked away on Dovecote Street overlooking the River Teviot – but you will have no trouble finding the group with the clear shiny new sign that the group has just put up.  This is just one of the many recent changes that the group has undertaken – which together with larger structural changes for warmth and weatherproof – have created an inviting flexible space that is in constant use by the local community.

Evergreen HallWe were welcomed by the large friendly group into the newly insulated and plastered hall, to see phase two of the renovations which included new colour co-ordinated chairs, window and stage curtains that Age Scotland has helped fund.  We were fortunate to visit just before lunchtime on a Thursday – which is when  the Social Group meet for a nourishing and enjoyable lunch followed by a cup of tea and a blether.

Evergreen Group, HawickThe enthusiasm and energy which we witnessed over our meal – as we heard of the dances, indoor skittles and various events and activities the committees and volunteers run – was infectious; as were the inventive ideas for the usage and hiring of the hall and other fundraising ideas that have kept the group running since the 1960’s.

With commitment and enthusiasm like this it’s clear this group will continue to run and run…

If you would like to find out more about the group’s activities or get involved contact George Brown,  Tel No: 01450 373829 email: george.brown732@btinternet.com

Find out more about Age Scotland’s work in the community

Galashiels Men’s Shed

Galashiels Men’s Shed has been set up in record time by a hopeful bunch of people who sat together last November with the enthusiasm and commitment to create a place where men could come together share skills and interests, pursue hobbies and pastimes and have time for coffee and a chat.    Gala Mens ShedIn January this year they started operating from just one small room – making bird boxes and planters for a new sensory garden for people who are blind or partially sighted.  But it soon became apparent interest in the group meant this room was too small and they persuaded the local council to give them a local premises which had been earmarked for demolition.  Gala Mens shedThe group then took ownership of the premises in May this year and the Shedders have been working tirelessly to create a working space and socialising area, when we visited there were over a dozen men, some painting the building and some busy making their workshop benches.  Already they have a range of products that they have produced including garden chairs, bird tables, bird and bat boxes, and are also repairing bicycles  – and the local council has commissioned them to create planters for a common area in the Town Centre.

Its early days but this band of men – with ages ranging from 18 to 82 – with support from the Volunteer Centre Borders – have proven they have the drive to take things forward with an official launch event planned soon.

If you would like to find out more about the group or get involved contact: Nigel Sargent at Volunteer Centre Borders, Tel No: 0845 602 3921 email:  n.sargent@vcborders.org.uk

Find out more about Men’s Sheds on the Age Scotland website.