Autumn Voices: exploring creativity in later life

Age Scotland are grateful to be receiving proceeds from the sales of a new book, Autumn Voices. The book has been published as part of a project exploring how ageing relates to writing and other forms of creativity. We hear from the book’s editor; author, dramatist and lecturer Robin Lloyd-Jones.


Three years ago, for the first time in our history, there were more people over the age of 60 in Scotland than under 18. This trend is increasing. The percentage of elderly people in the population of Scotland becomes greater each year. robinOur economy will not survive unless we stop regarding our elderly citizens as a burden and start seeing them as potentially productive and useful people whose maturity, greater life experience and insights are valuable assets. A society that is better for older people is better for people of all ages. To address the problems and the opportunities of the elderly is to benefit the welfare of our society as a whole.

This was my motivation for undertaking the Autumn Voices Project (funded by Creative Scotland). When I began the project, in 2015, I was 80, and 83 when it ended.  During this time I interviewed twenty Scottish writers ranging in age from 70 to 92 about their later lives and their continuing creativity. The majority of these men and women had made for themselves a benign circle. That is to say their creativity contributed to their health and wellbeing, and their health and wellbeing, particularly their mental health, was an important factor in maintaining their creativity.

It has certainly been my own experience that to forget self in a worthwhile project is like a tonic. Being completely immersed in what you are doing, having the mind fully engaged, having a purpose in life, waking up with something to look forward to, and knowing that you are still doing something useful to, and valued by, society – these things contribute massively to a happy, healthy and fulfilled old age.

These twenty autumn voices represent a total of over 150 years of varied, fascinating and colourful life experience since passing the age of 70. They are certainly proof of the saying: ‘You don’t grow old, you become old when you stop growing.’ I learned a great deal from them – not only about creativity in later life, but also about successful ageing.

Many of those to whom I spoke thought they had become more accepting and more tolerant not only of self, but of others. This, they reported, had opened the way to being able to forgive. Instead of huge amounts of mental energy being tied up in feelings of hatred, annoyance, suspicion and other negative feelings, it became available to channel in creative directions.  They spoke, too, about having a new relationship with time and about a heightened appreciation of everything around them. As hunger sharpens the appetite, so age had intensified their awareness of the beauty and wonder of the world, of love and of blessings.

One thing they definitely did not accept was the negative stereotype of the elderly – the self-fulfilling prophecy of old folk as people whose useful life is over and who no longer have the physical or mental capacity to be productive or creative. We live in a culture that is still learning how to age. Through their writing and their example, the remarkable men and women I was privileged to meet are at the frontier of this learning process.

Autumn Voices (Edited by Robin Lloyd-Jones, PlaySpace Publications, June 2018) can be ordered through the project website: www.autumnvoices.co.uk

What keeps you sharp?

Isn’t the expression ‘having a senior moment’ awful? Yet people often think of changes in their mental skills with age in terms of decline. While some people do experience these changes, others do not. So how do our thinking skills change as we age? And do our lifestyles affect those changes?

Those are just two of the questions that will be tackled in “What Keeps You Sharp?” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August. The show, led by Dr Alan Gow from Heriot-Watt University, returns as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. It will be a chance to explore a range of issues around changes in thinking skills, from when those changes might be expected (if at all), how those changes might be influenced by genes or lifestyles, and what lifestyle factors might be good or bad for brain health.

As we grow older, 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 individuals experience noticeable changes in their thinking and memory skills across their 60s and beyond, while others maintain these abilities into old age. This variation suggests that a number of factors influence the likelihood of mental decline.

Alan and his team in The Ageing Lab at Heriot-Watt are exploring some of those factors, 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.

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The big questions being explored in the “What Keeps You Sharp?” show were part of a UK-wide survey that was completed earlier last year. The audience will therefore have a chance to share their own thoughts about thinking skills, compare those to the 3000+ people across the UK who took part in the survey, and hear how that all links back to what the most recent research suggests. But don’t worry, it’s not a traditional lecture – one of the rules within the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas programme is that you can’t use slides, and the shows are also compered by comedian Susan Morrison to keep everything on track.

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“What Keeps You Sharp?” is on twice during the Fringe, at the New Town Theatre on George Street on 7 August (8.10pm) and 16 August (1.30pm). You can watch a short trailer here, or read more about the show and buy tickets here.

And if you can’t make it along, you can still find out more. Last year’s show was recorded for part of BBC Radio Scotland’s Brainwaves series. You can listen to that programme here…though best not to listen if you’re coming along as it might spoil some of the questions you’ll be thinking about!


Book your tickets today!

“What Keeps You Sharp?” is part of Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2018: 
Debate, discussion and discourse at the Edinburgh Fringe

Catch the show at the New Town Theatre on George Street, Edinburgh on 7 August (8.10pm) and 16 August (1.30pm).

 

Communities coming together at Christmas

While most of us are looking forward to the festive period, this can be the loneliest time of year for thousands of older people throughout Scotland. Around 80,000 older people say that the TV is their only source of company over Christmas and New Year, with nearly one in five keeping it on all day because “it’s lovely to hear human voices”.

Our Christmas campaign “No one should have no one”, aims to highlight the extent of loneliness and isolation in Scotland and encourage people to take action in their communities. We’ve been delighted to hear back from so many amazing people who are doing their part to bring people together over the festive period.

Here are the fantastic Christmas Day and Boxing Day events on offer that we have heard about. You can do your part by helping spread the word about these and any other events in your local community!

ORKNEY

Age Scotland Orkney and the Salvation Army are hosting a Christmas Day lunch for anyone who would otherwise be spending Christmas Day alone. Transport can be provided. Event details

RENFREWSHIRE

A Renfrewshire based project providing Christmas lunch; including transport, 3 course dinner, entertainment and a little gift and for those who are financially struggling a gift card to use in supermarket. Event details

GLASGOW

The No.1 Befriending Agency and The Real Junk Food Project Glasgow are offering a three course Christmas lunch on Boxing Day. Event details

EDINBURGH

Open doors and free Christmas dinner as part of the Edinburgh Cheer campaign. From 11am at Tynecastle stadium in West Edinburgh and from 11:45am at Easter Road Stadium in North Edinburgh > Event details

DUMFRIES

Lochside Community Centre have offered an open invitation for Christmas dinner and entertainment from 1pm to 6pm on Christmas Day > Event details

“Altogether Christmas” Day Party at Noblehill Community Centre – including cold buffet, festive treats with music and carols > Event details

KILMARNOCK

Head along to the Back to Basics Christmas Day drop in lunch – The Base, Grange Church, Woodstock Street, Kilmarnock 12-2pm on Christmas Day. All welcome – no questions, no charge.

DALKEITH

Newbattle Parish Church Ministry Team are offering a 3-course Christmas dinner for people who would otherwise be alone. Transport within 3 miles of Mayfield (EH22 ) can be arranged and venue is wheelchair accessible. Contact Erika Pryde at erika@newbattleparish.org

PENICUIK

Free four course Christmas meal with a gift at St James the Less Church Hall in Penicuik > Event details


If you have an event to add to our list please contact emma.bisset@agescotland.org.uk

Have a Merry Christmas!

 

 

A new Men’s Shed for Broughty Ferry!

Our vision is of a Scotland where everyone can love later life. We’re delighted to have been able to offer community development support to men’s sheds over the last four years. Another Men’s Shed recently open their doors to the communtity for the first time.


More than 50 people attended the Grand Opening of Broughty Ferry Men’s Shed on Saturday 14 October. The shed will bring older men together to work on practical projects, socialise and share skills.

The YMCA gave the group the use of a derelict hut in its Brook Street grounds, and helped them secure funding from the MOD Fund for wood and metal working tools and equipment. Volunteers have utterly transformed the building, installing heating, windows, doors, and a kitchen and creating a workshop space and IT area.


Age Scotland were delighted to support the project aslongside Rosendael Veterans Association. The shed also received donations from local organisations, businesses and individuals.

Broughty Ferry Men’s Shed is part of a growing movement of “shedders” throughout Scotland. The first Men’s Shed was set up in Aberdeenshire in 2013 and there are now more than 100 nationwide!

Alex Harvey, a retired engineer and chairman of the shed, said: “We want to deal with isolation and bring people into the community. This can particularly affect people who have been bereaved, retired, or made redundant.

“We hope that older people will come along and find some purpose in what we’re doing.  Many people are interested in learning a bit more about DIY, and you can learn something new at any age.”


The shed meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 9.30am to 3.30pm. They ask only donations from attendees, and it is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Age Scotland’s recent report, The Shed Effect, highlighted the impact these sheds have on improving health and wellbeing, and tackling social isolation among older men.

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Keith Robson, Age Scotland’s Charity Director, said: “The hard work and enthusiasm that has gone into this project is truly inspiring, and we’d like to wish them every success. We hope the shed will provide a welcoming space for people to come together, share skills, or just have a blether.

“We know from talking to shedders around the country how much they can improve health and well-being and help tackle loneliness and social isolation. I’d encourage everyone to come along, have a cup of tea, and see what the shed has to offer.”


To find out more about Men’s Sheds, contact the Age Scotland community development team on 0333 32 32 400.

One Woman. One Amazing Challenge.

Lesley Black always wanted to visit Machu Picchu so when the opportunity arose to do a charity trek for Age Scotland she couldn’t resist taking on this fantastic challenge.


Lesley will shortly spend 7 nights in Peru trekking, hiking and climbing all whilst raising vital funds for Age Scotland.

Following a long journey from Aberdeen via London and Lima, on arrival in Cusco Lesley will spend the first day acclimatising to the altitude as altitude sickness can be a problem. Before setting off on the trek the second day includes more altitude acclimatisation while walking around the Cusco area.

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Day 1 – Arrival in Cusco and acclimatising to the altitude

Day 2 – Walk round Cusco to allow for further acclimatisation – 3 hours

Day 3 – Cusco to Cuncani: 3800m including a trek over High Mountain passing to the Lares Valley – 4-5 hours

Day 4 – Cuncani to Huacahuasi: a long hike made easier by spotting incredible sights including alpacas and llamas roaming along the way – 6-8 hours

Day 5 – Huacahuasi to Ollantaytambo: Gradually gaining height, Lesley will take a little-used route through the Ranrayoc valley. She needs to dig deep for the high pass at 4,600m – 9 hours

Day 6 – Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu via Sun Gate: An early train journey to Km 104, being dropped off for a trek towards the Sun Gate. Following the traditional Inca path and climbing some 3,000 steps 6-7 hours

Day 7 – Back to Machu Picchu to explore the extraordinary Inca remains before travelling back to Cusco and returning to the UK the next day

If this wasn’t enough of a challenge Lesley gave herself the ambitious target of raising £4000 for Age Scotland.

Lesley decided to raise money for Age Scotland following the sad passing of her grandparents a few years ago. The last months of their lives and following their passing allowed her to reflect on ageing and how important it is for older people to be involved and included in society to ensure they are not on their own and suffering from loneliness.

She said ‘I wanted to support Age Scotland because they provide such valuable services for our elderly people in Scotland.  One of Age Scotland’s most important services is their helpline and Community Connecting service which any elderly person can call if they are feeling lonely so they can chat to someone about their day and be put in touch with local community groups. It also provides family members with vital information to help older relatives who may need more support’

We are so grateful to Lesley for her support. She has been tirelessly raising money over the past year through events such as holding a ceilidh in her local area and race and bowling nights. Alongside this Lesley has been able to receive sponsorship from local businesses through giving them the opportunity to appear on her Trek T-shirt which she will wear throughout her travels.

Lesley sets off on her trek on the 13th October and we can’t thank her enough for her support. Her excitement and enthusiasm for the trek and raising money is infectious. She really is an inspiration.

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To find out more or to support Lesley visit www.charitytrekmachupicchu.com

If you’d like to find out more about taking on a challenge event for Age Scotland, please contact Stacey on our fundraising team.

 

Ticking off Munros in your 80s

Keeping active in later life can significantly improve your physical and mental wellbeing. We hear from Kathrine Payne Ramblers Scotland about one of their members Pak Yeong Berry, one inspirational lady ticking off Munros in her eighties.


Many people assume that mountaineering is purely the preserve of the young, but for one Stirling octogenarian, life in the hills has begun in her eighties.

And now that she’s discovered hill-walking, Pak Yeong Berry’s only regret is that she didn’t start sooner.

Pek Yeong Berry, credit Ben Dolphin

Pek Yeong Berry with her fellow ramblers. Photo: Ben Dolphin

Since joining Stirling and Falkirk District Ramblers last year, Pek Yeong has already climbed several big hills, including three of the ‘Munros’ – Scottish mountains over 3,000ft. And she’s got big walking plans for the future.

“I loved walking Ben Chonzie, Schiehallion and Ben Lomond – and I’m looking forward to doing more Munros when the weather allows.

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Pek Yeong Berry (RIGHT) at the top of Schiehallion

“When I climbed my first Munro, Ben Chonzie, it was muddy, raining and cold. It was pretty horrible actually, but it didn’t put me off.

“It’s all going well for me so far. I don’t think about my age much. I just walk. I hope to tackle more and more mountains for as long as I’m capable of doing them, until I can’t anymore.”

Pek Yeong, aged 81, is now a familiar face at the front of the pack on Stirling and Falkirk District Ramblers’ weekly walks. Her positive attitude and enthusiasm for life are infectious, and she is an inspiration to walkers of any age.

“The first time I went out with the Ramblers, I was worried that I would hold everyone back, but it was fine. I wasn’t the slowest, put it that way!

“The only thing that matters is your ability, rather than your age. I’m fortunate because I’m very healthy and I don’t have any past injuries. If you’re fit, you can do anything and my age doesn’t bother me at all.

“Walking is a great activity to get involved in. We’ve done a bit of everything: mountains, flat walks, all different difficulties and terrains. It’s all new to me and I like the variety, from leisurely to challenging.”

Pek Yeong Berry 25jun. bend double against the wind up bishops hill

Before joining the Ramblers, taking exercise had been difficult for Pek Yeong – as she was focused on caring for her late husband, who had Parkinson’s disease.

“Being a carer limited my opportunities to exercise but when I became a widow last year, a very good friend introduced me to the Ramblers. It was the first time I’d walked in an organised group, and I thought it was great.

“Joining Ramblers was one of the best things I could have done, especially at that moment. I joined the group for exercise and fitness, but also as I was widowed and it was something sociable to do. It’s better than playing bridge or some sort of indoors activity.”

It’s not just rambling that keeps Pek Yeong active these days. She also enjoys regular yoga and belly-dancing!

“I feel like I need exercise, and if I go on holiday for a few days I miss it. At the moment, I do cardio, pilates, yoga, belly dancing. I have classes every week day, sometimes twice a day. It’s important to my lifestyle because it keeps me fit, and it gets me out of the house.

“Going rambling on a Sunday is very pleasant. I feel like I’ve achieved something and there’s nothing going on near me on Sundays, so I’d just be on my own otherwise.”

Pek Yeong had done some walking in Malaysia before emigrating to Scotland in the 1970s, but it’s not until joining the Ramblers that she truly caught the walking bug.

She puts this down to company, motivation, and support that walking in a group can provide.

“For me, walking alone is nothing like walking with others. There’s something about being in a group that’s so much more enjoyable.

“The Ramblers is ideal. It’s friendly, and you can assess if the walks and groups are right for you before you join.

“After our walks, we always go and have a cup of coffee. It’s nice to have a chat with a very caring and friendly bunch of people.

Pek Yeong is excited about having future adventures with the Ramblers, and plans to embrace every opportunity that comes her way – weather permitting.

There is no stopping her drive to remain active, and she’s got a lot more walking (and belly dancing!) yet to come.

To find a walk in your area, go to: ramblers.org.uk/go-walking.aspx

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