Hearing Forces: a new service for Scotland’s Veterans

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s new Scotland wide Hearing Forces service is part of the Unforgotten Forces consortium, which offers advice and support to veterans aged 65 or over, their families and carers with hearing loss or tinnitus.


Hearing loss is a common health issue in the armed forces. Many veterans have been exposed to loud noise from gun fire, engines and other machinery, and explosives. The 2014 ‘Lost Voices’ report, collated by the Royal British Legion with support from Action on Hearing Loss, found that veterans under the age of 75 are around three and a half times more likely to experience hearing loss than the general population.

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Veterans William Smith and Elizabeth Mitchell 

Through the Hearing Forces service, we can offer a service regardless of where veterans are in their hearing loss journey. This can include:

• Hearing checks and screening
• hearing aid maintenance and support on using your aids
• advice on useful equipment to improve every day life (e.g. amplified
• telephones, personal listeners)
• support both before and after hearing aids have been fitted.

We are currently delivering the service in a variety of settings across Scotland, (in particular with Unforgotten Forces partner’s venues) including Scottish War Blinded centres, Erskine, Poppy Scotland welfare centres, British Legions, ex service clubs and many more! We can also visit veterans in their own homes if they struggle to get out or we can see them at a local location convenient to them.

We are also currently recruiting for volunteers to help us deliver the service, across the whole of the country – if this is something of interest to you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

To contact us, to make a referral or if you would like us to visit your group or venue, get in touch using the dteails below:

Tel: 07388 227407
Email: hearing.forces@hearingloss.org.uk

Supporting veterans with sight loss – a fantastic boost for Paisley

Age Scotland is proud to be part of the Unforgotten Forces consortium – a partnership between 14 leading organisations that deliver a range of new services and enhancements for older veterans living in Scotland. In this guest blog we hear from Scottish War Blinded about their work with older members of the veterans’ community.


Scottish War Blinded are part of the Unforgotten Forces Consortium to raise awareness of the increasing range of support and activities available to older veterans with aged related sight loss, or visual impairment as a result of any cause.

The Hawkhead Centre opened in Paisley in October of this year, and is for military veterans with sight loss – irrespective of the cause of their sight loss. It has become a hive of activity since the doors opened.

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Hawkhead Centre, Paisley

Many of the veterans who have regularly attend the centre’s activities and classes have age related sight loss such as macular degeneration.

The focus of the centre is on supporting veterans to regain confidence and skills they feel they might have lost following their sight loss.

Veterans who find it difficult to travel alone can make use of the free door to door transport, which has become a lifeline for many who live further afield from the centre. Veterans from across the West of Scotland are using these free transport links to come together at the centre on a regular basis.

A great opportunity available at the centre is one-to-one sight loss assessments to support veterans in getting the most out of their remaining sight. The Rehabilitation team work at the centre to provide specialist equipment, and get equipment which is best suited to each individual.

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The charity provides financial assistance so that veterans can take life changing pieces of equipment home, such as magnifiers to read the mail once more or screen readers to listen to the newspaper again.

Activities such as I.T training have opened up a new world for many older veterans in particular, many of whom felt that the online world was not for them. Guidance on assistive technology means many have sent their first email and completed their first online shopping.

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For many older people struggling with sight loss, falls have become an issue. The strength and fitness classes at the centre are a social way to gain better balance and improve mobility.

Cooking and baking sessions are a way to pick up old skills and learn new recipes, using specially adapted equipment which supports people with sight loss to cook safely and with more ease. Such equipment which enables veterans to be more independent at home is available following individual assessment.

The centre has proven to be a life affirming part of older people’s lives in a short space of time.

Scottish War Blinded welcomes new referrals to the new centre in Paisley, or to the Linburn centre in West Lothian. The organisation also provide an outreach service which supports people in their homes all over Scotland.

If you would like to refer a veteran with sight loss call 0800 035 6409 – it doesn’t matter the cause of their sight loss, Scottish War Blinded are for any veteran with sight loss.

Good Nutrition: the hidden issue

Nutrition is an important but often hidden issue for carers and their families. We hear from Lynne Stevenson BSc from Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition on how we can help provide better support for carers around nutritional problems and eating difficulties.


Good nutrition is vital for all of us, but particularly as we age and if we are living with long term conditions.

It’s also crucial for carers, who need to know about good nutrition for the person they are caring for as well as to look after their own health and wellbeing. In a recent survey Carers UK found that 60% of carers worry about the nutritional intake of the person they care for. That is why Carers UK/Carers Scotland are working in partnership with Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition to improve understanding about nutrition and caring.   This partnership provides carers with the information and resources on nutritional care for themselves and the person they care for.caring & nutrition photo

The following titles have been produced through the partnership to help provide better support for carers around nutritional problems and eating difficulties.

  • Eating well with COPD
  • Eating well with stroke
  • Eating well with dementia
  • Eating well with cancer
  • The importance of eating well for carers
  • The role of good nutrition when caring for someone
  • Understanding the nutrition gap and how it affects the person you care for
  • Speaking to your GP when you are concerned about the nutritional intake of the person you care for

You can find out more information by visiting the Carers UK website on or the Nutricia website. There is also the opportunity to learn more through an e-learning module.  Like Age Scotland, Carers Scotland and a whole host of organisations working on behalf of older people and carers do so much to highlight the importance of nutrition, and that is why we have been pleased to work to develop these publications to help ensure people have the information they need for good nutrition and healthy living.

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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.

Pek Yeong Berry (RIGHT) 7 may Schiehallion - Copy

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

Let’s talk about reducing your risk of dementia

 

29th May – 4th June is Dementia Awareness Week in Scotland. John Watson, Deputy Chief Executive at ASH Scotland talks about risk reduction and how you can help inform future campaigns in his guest blog.


Let’s talk about dementia.

In particular let’s talk about dementia not as a dark cloud hanging over the future, but as an illness like any other, an illness that is not an inevitable part of ageing but an issue over which we can start to take some control.

There are around 90,000 people in Scotland living with dementia, and that number is predicted to double within the next 25 years.

Even a small reduction in these numbers, or a delay in the onset of dementia, would mean thousands of people, and their families, avoid a condition which can be challenging and distressing for all concerned.

That reduction could be achieved if more people were aware that dementia is a disease, not an inevitable part of ageing, and that by changing various lifestyle factors you can influence your chance of developing dementia.

You may already be taking action to reduce your risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. It’s time to take the same approach with dementia. The science of dementia prevention is not so well established, but it may be that taking action now can reduce your dementia risk by a third.

This is why a number of voluntary organisations, including ASH Scotland and Age Scotland, are coming together under the Dementia DEFENCE banner. We aim to highlight that what you smoke, eat or drink, how physically and socially active you are, and generally the extent to which you live well and healthily can significantly impact your risk of developing dementia. Crucially how you live now affects your later health, so don’t put this off until later.

Man_Garden_006To help inform and develop our campaign we are looking for groups of adults to assist us in exploring how we can construct dementia prevention campaigns that will be effective in reaching communities, to raise awareness and encourage action in response.

We are looking to arrange discussions with a wide range of groups of adults, ideally around the 50s and 60s age range. We can tell you about the lifestyle changes that can reduce your dementia risk, but we also want to hear from you about your views on dementia, what would inspire you to take action to reduce your dementia risk and what we can do to help and encourage you.

As well as our information and our thanks we can provide some refreshments for the meeting. It will just take an hour of your time.

Interested? Contact Mike Andrews at ASH Scotland on 0131 225 4725 or at mandrews@ashscotland.org.uk

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

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