Running for Kate: Annie’s tribute to her late grandmother

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Meet Annie Armstrong from Edinburgh – one of Age Scotland’s wonderful long-standing supporters.

Annie’s grandmother Kate was her biggest inspiration. Kate actively encouraged all of her granddaughters to live life to the full and loved hearing from Annie and her sister about their latest adventures, particularly Annie’s time living in New York.

When Kate sadly passed away in August, aged 92, Annie knew she wanted to do something special in her memory and decided to take on the Edinburgh half marathon to raise awareness and funds for Age Scotland.

Speaking of her decision, Annie said: “My grandmother was a social butterfly and an enabler of fun in her granddaughter’s lives. As a close family, we have always been there for each other. But this isn’t the case for every elderly member of society – and that’s why I want to run the Edinburgh Half raising money for Age Scotland.”

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Annie has always been an advocate of Age Scotland’s work and has a particular interest in our Helpline and Community Connecting programme. Our helpline provides information, friendship and advice to older people, their families and carers. This could be anything from help with a practical problem to having a friendly chat with someone who needs to hear a friendly voice. Our Community Connecting team work to ensure older people can access information about what organisations are available locally and assist them in accessing these services. This is a vital part of Age Scotland’s work as feeling integrated in the local community can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Annie says “I’ve always supported Age Scotland and I think the work that the charity does is unparalleled in communities.  I am delighted to be taking on this challenge for such a worthwhile cause.”

Annie says her grandmother Kate still inspires her and shapes how she lives her life today. This year she has been on a trip to France for ski-ing and music festivals, lived and worked in New York (and enjoyed training with stunning Manhattan views!) and has now signed up to take part in the Norway Midnight Sun half marathon in June.

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Annie has now moved to London but has always wanted take on a half marathon in her home town. The route of the Edinburgh Half Marathon has stunning city and costal views and has been voted one of the fastest routes in the UK by Runners world. Annie told us:

‘Being an Edinburgh native, I’ve always wanted to run a half marathon in the city. The fact that the course is primarily downhill and flat is also an attraction! Training has been impacted slightly by a move down south and a new job, but I’m enjoying running and can’t wait for the race’

We are delighted to have Annie’s support and so inspired by the enthusiasm she has for our work with older people in Scotland. We wish her all the best for her remaining training and fundraising and thank her for choosing to run for Age Scotland in memory of her lovely grandmother Kate.


You can support Annie in her efforts by visiting her Just Giving page.

If you’d like to find out more about taking on a challenge event for Age Scotland contact Stacey in our fundraising team on stacey.kitzinger@agescotland.org.uk or 0333 323 2400.

Tackling isolation among older veterans

Loneliness and isolation can affect older people generally, but there can be additional challenges tackling it for veterans.  Often they miss social contact with other veterans, who understand their experiences, and with whom they can enjoy the bond of military comradeship.  Doug Anthoney from the Age Scotland Veterans’ Project visited a project in Motherwell that offers veterans just that.


A cold Friday morning and my taxi awaits by Glasgow Queen Street Station.  “Get in,” says the driver, “I got you a coffee.” If that doesn’t sound like an ordinary taxi, that’s because it isn’t.  David Gibson is both co-ordinator and a driver for Fares4Free: a charity that arranges taxis for veterans who are isolated and unable to get to important services, and one of Age Scotland’s partners in the Unforgotten Forces consortium.  Today we’re off to the Veterans’ Café at Kings Church in Motherwell: VC@KC for short.

On the way we pick up Rosie, a nurse who supports veterans with health issues to attend the café for their first few weeks.  Today she’s off-duty however, and going because she’s a veteran herself.  We also collect a veteran who has been isolated and is going to the café for the first time.  As we drive it becomes clear that David’s service goes far beyond transport: he is a listening ear, information source and problem solver for veterans.  “Sometimes veterans wont’ share their problems for a long time,” he says.  “It’s only after you’ve been driving them for months, even years, that you’ll have built up the trust for them to tell you.”

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More than just transport; David offers a transport: listening ear, is a source of helpful information and a problem solver for veterans.

We arrive at the Café, and it’s buzzing.  There are over 40 veterans; some young, but most older.  I talk to one who did national service.  “I feel a bit guilty, not really a veteran like the others,” he says.  Julie Muir, who co-founded the café in 2015, says this is not uncommon.  “We had a man here who had served in military air traffic control; and he didn’t feel entitled.  We persuaded him that of course he was a veteran, and helped him get his service medal.  He and his family were so chuffed.”

Julie and her husband Scott left military service in 2002, but found resettlement hard and support structures inadequate.  “We thought, if we struggled with no debt, no kids, and no health problems, then how much harder will it be for veterans who face such problems.”

The café had a slow start.  “Initially there were more volunteers than veterans,” says Julie.  Attendance really picked up when they learned about veterans’ housing that was being built.  “We got a list of the houses and popped round with hampers for the veterans.  Now we have around 20 regulars, and there are about ten for whom it’s the only thing they go to.”

So why does it work? “We’ve learned that a military-style environment is the last thing you need,” says Julie.  “Some served for a few days, some for 22 years.  No one gets treated any differently, and all feel they belong.  We don’t make distinctions between the services.  Everyone looks out for each other, and there are no cliques.”  It also helps that it’s a café. “For some of the guys, they really don’t want to go near a bar!”

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“No one gets treated any differently, and all feel they belong.  We don’t make distinctions between the services.  Everyone looks out for each other, and there are no cliques.”

The café is a hub for veterans’ services, including Unforgotten Forces partners such as the Armed Services Advice Project and Defence Medical Welfare Service.  It’s also about helping veterans’ families, including in some instances respite time for veterans’ carers.  “We’ve got new funding and plans to expand,” says Julie.  We want to offer more activities such as gardening and cooking.  Many of our veterans feel they’ve got a lot, now they would like to give back.”


To find out what the Veterans’ Project can do for older veterans, and for clubs, groups and services that would like to work with them, visit www.agescotland.org.uk/veterans.

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Protecting those with dementia from scams

Today, 15th June, is World Elder Abuse Day – a day which aims to focus global attention on the problem of physical, emotional, and financial abuse of older generations. The 2017 theme underscores the importance of preventing financial exploitation.

In his guest blog Paul Holland, Principal Prevention Officer with East Renfrewshire Council talks about an upcoming project to develop a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial exploitation.


On World Elder Abuse Day it is important to recognise tackling scams and protecting older people from financial harm as a big part of promoting a good later life for all. This is something I am very much aware of in my role in The Prevention Team for East Renfrewshire Council.  I have seen the terrible consequences of older people being the victims of scams, but I’ve also seen the benefits to older people of taking relatively simple measures to protect them from nuisance calls and scammers.

Seeing the benefits to older people of protecting them from scammers made me determined to ensure that more is done throughout Scotland to protect vulnerable people from financial abuse. That’s why I am delighted to be the Co-Ordinator of a new project funded by the Life Changes Trust to work in collaboration with Angus and South Ayrshire Council, to develop a preventative approach to protect people with dementia from financial exploitation. We are also looking forward to working with Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Project to ensure the Charity’s member groups have more information about our work, as it will benefit very many older people and not only people with dementia.

People living with dementia are at great risk of falling prey to scammers and carers are often very worried about how to prevent their relative becoming a victim of a scam, particularly in the early stages of dementia when a person still has capacity but may not always have sufficient understanding to exercise good judgement.

The aim of this project is to offer people with dementia an individualised, person-centred package to safeguard them from financial exploitation, on the doorstep, by telephone, by mail or online.

Each local authority area will bring together local and national organisations to develop and deliver a package of preventive measures, including practical solutions and various types of useful technology, for example, call blockers. Call blockers screen incoming phone calls and either block any unknown or unauthorised numbers or transfer them to a nominated family member or guardian.

It’s vital that all adults know about what can be done to protect themselves from scams, particularly older adults, as unfortunately it is often older people who are targeted, and scammers are becoming increasing sophisticated. You can find out more about our activity to stop scams on our website. This provides advice if you are worried that you, a friend or a relative may be vulnerable to scams; tired of cold callers at the door and on the phone; looking to hire reputable traders; or want to know how to keep safe and secure in the home and online.

Over the course of our project we are also looking forward to developing more advice and information for the Charity’s member groups. Working together there is a lot we can do to stop the scammers and ensure that there are fewer victims of financial abuse.

If you have been a victim of a scam or want advice about a suspicious contact telephone Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.  If in doubt check it out!

 

 

 

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

 

Walk to live long

Could you or someone you know benefit from getting a little more active this year? Paths for All, Scotland’s national walking charity, explains how a simple walk can be the perfect activity to keep you happy, healthy and active in later life.


At Paths for All, we support over 500 Health Walks taking place across Scotland every week. From Kirkwall to Galashiels, all Health Walks are free, accessible, fun, and open to everyone! We’ve trained thousands of volunteers to safely lead these health walks in local communities. They are always looking for new walkers and volunteers to join, making it the perfect way to meet new people in your area whilst getting active.

If you’re unsure joining a Health Walk group is right for you, have a chat with the project coordinator and they’ll explain what’s involved and how they can support you.

The benefits of Health Walks are amazing. Here’s how some of our Health Walkers describe the social and mental benefits they have gained from taking part:

“It’s a rewarding experience, participating with a diverse, active and interesting group of walkers.”

“I do not walk on my own. I need the company and companionship of the group for encouragement.”

The physical health benefits are great too. Our infographic sums it up:

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It’s simple to find your nearest Health Walk, head to the Paths for All website and use our map to find a Health Walk local to you. If you’d prefer to speak to someone, you can call the Paths for All office on 01259 218 888 and we’ll happily tell you what’s going on in your area.

Walking is the easiest way to get active and enjoy the benefits, we can help you start sooner than you think – why wait to get all the benefits just by going for a walk?

What’s it really like to abseil from the Forth Rail Bridge?

The Forth Rail Bridge is one of Scotland’s most iconic features and on the 26th June a group of brave souls will be abseiling from it SAS style to raise money for Age Scotland!

We caught up with two of our wonderful fundraisers – one who took part in the abseil event last year and one who is about to take the plunge.


Sheila Herron took part in the 2015 abseil for Age Scotland along with some friends. We spoke to her to find out a bit more about the experience.

So what made you decide to sign up for the abseil?

My elderly mum had received valuable advice from Age Scotland and this alone was worth fundraising for. It was great that she could get help and advice from folk who understand at the end of the telephone. I have worked and fundraised for other charities previously (and still do) but felt Age Scotland’s work is something important enough to do this for.

And what was it like on the day?

The organisation of the day is excellent. There’s lots of helpers and volunteers which made it feel very safe and the day go well.

I am terrified of heights, just getting onto the gantry at the bridge was challenge enough! The crew at the top were brilliant though. Climbing over the bars was ok, the letting go was the hardest part, but the guy in the climbing crew was fab; nice, calm and patient. I had loads of support on the ground from family and friends, which just added to the buzz.

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Getting to the bottom was a relief but it was so worthwhile. I’m really pleased that I managed to do it. I found it really challenging but everyone involved was so good and you get swept along with the whole feel of the day so it ended up being a really good, fun day!

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about taking part this year?

I would absolutely recommend it to anyone – it was an amazing day, good fun and had a good community feel to it. And what a relief at the bottom!

My friends and I had a great time fundraising for it. We held a coffee and cake afternoon in the garden asking for donations and folk were really generous. I’d say to anyone that signs up it’s a good idea to get the Just Giving page started early on – it is amazing how the £10s soon add up!

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You can watch a video of last year’s abseil here.

Tamlin Wiltshire (better known as Tam) has signed up for this year’s abseil.

The event is on his 45th birthday so he and his family are making a day of it. Tam has signed up for the morning abseil then they will head for a nice lunch in North Queensferry and some drinks to celebrate.

Tam has always wanted to do an abseil but he chose Age Scotland as his charity to support because he lives in a small community in Inverkeithing and is aware of how important it is to provide support for the older generation. Tam’s wife told us “Tam is excited about the abseil and of course nervous – our daughter has a word for it Nervecited!!!”


If you’d like to take part in our Forth Rail Bridge abseil event on 26th June, we still have some spaces available. Just contact Stacey at Stacey.kitzinger@agescotland.org.uk or call 0333 32 32 400

“Looking After You” – February’s Hot Tips

Our free calendar “Hot Tips” aims to ensure everyone in Scotland knows about the organisations and services available to them, and how to make the most of later life.

February’s theme is “Keeping mentally well” and offers tips on dealing with stressful events and challenges. In this blog, Age Scotland’s Karyn Davie looks in more detail at some of the things people should be aware of with their own mental health and wellbeing.


Your mental health is like an escalator, you can go up or down depending on life’s events. When things are going well you might move up, but if something comes along to upset the balance, like changes to physical health, relationships problems or worries about family or money, you might find yourself sliding down.

Sometimes, there’s no clear reason why we feel like this. Changes in our mental health can happen to anyone at any age and, sometimes, regaining the balance can prove difficult.

The stigma around mental health means people don’t always talk about it.  Many older people find it particularly hard to talk about their feelings, perhaps due to a sense of shame or embarrassment, not knowing why they feel the way they do, or simply not wanting to admit they’re aren’t coping.

Men, and older men in particular, typically hide or deny mental health problems, preferring to keep feelings to themselves or not to reveal perceived signs of personal weakness.

We often find it easier to talk about physical health problems than the way we feel.  Anyone can experience a mental health problem, so talking about it really is important.

If you notice a friend or family member withdrawing, try understanding what they’re going through. Their difficulties may be only temporary. If you’re concerned, you could ask (in your own words):

  • How are you feeling?
  • I’ve been worried about you, how are you?
  • You seem down, is there anything I can do to help?
  • Avoid cliché phrases like ‘Cheer up!’ or ‘I’m sure it’ll pass’.

Give them time and space until they’re ready to talk and ensure they know they can contact you when they’re ready. Just knowing they don’t have to avoid the issue with you is helpful.

Remember that the person hasn’t changed, they’re just going through a bad patch with their mental health, so keep talking about the things you always talked about. Just spending time with the person lets them know you care.

Further information can be found from the following organisations:

If you don’t have access to the internet, or if you experience feelings of loneliness and don’t have the social contact you feel you need, contact Silver Line Scotland for help on 0800 4 70 80 90.

Download your 2015 Hot Tips Calendar here and get information and advice throughout the year. Here’s what you’ve thought about Hot Tips so far:

  • “Thank you for the calendar – useful & attractive”
  • “I do not think you could do any better. This is wonderful”
  • “Thank you for caring”

Download yours today!