Respect for the Aged Day – bringing together generations

Did you know today is ‘Respect for the Aged Day’ in Japan? Also known as Keiro no Hi, this public holiday is a day to honour, celebrate and take care of the country’s older citizens.

Respect for the Aged Day started in a small village in Japan as a day to be kind to older people and ask for their wisdom and advice about ways to improve life in the village. In time it became a national holiday and is now celebrated across Japan on the third Monday in September.

The resulting long weekend allows those working during the week to visit their parents and grandparents, with those who cannot return home in person often encouraged to call or write.

Volunteers deliver food and basic necessities to homebound older people. Schools will organise performances for local retirement and care homes, or host something in the community which all older people are invited to attend. These are known as keirokai ceremonies.

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On Respect for the Aged Day, organisations and companies also host special events to help older people living in their community. Japanese media also get involved, reporting on the population and highlighting the oldest people in the country. Often the oldest among communities are invited to interview so they can talk about their experiences and share their wisdom opinions on ageing.

Unlike other holidays or themed days, ‘Respect for the Aged Day’ focuses less on raising awareness of and addressing inequalities in society and more on showing kindness, learning from older generations and intergenerational activities.

Of course it’s easy to say we should be doing these things all year round! And many people do.

In fact, Age Scotland have a campaign running just now called ‘Share What You Love’ where we are encouraging everyone to share something that they love doing with an older person. Too many older people feel cut off from society and we want to show Scotland’s older generation that we really care about them. From inviting an older neighbour round to help bake a cake or taking your great uncle to a football game, everyone has something they could invite an older person along to do.

So whether you always celebrate ‘Respect for the Aged Day’ or you just want to make a difference, visit sharewhatyou.love to find out how you can get involved.

 

Staying safe and well at home

Age Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) are working in partnership to highlight the dangers householders face from fire, and to provide information on how these can be reduced. 


We hear from Deputy Chief Officer (DCO) David McGown, the SFRS’s Director of Prevention and Protection. “Fires within the home can develop quickly and they can be fatal while others can cause injury. They can also devastate homes and result in the loss of precious family items that can never be replaced.

SFRS routinely attend fires within the home and we see the consequences of such incidents. So, while we can fight fires we believe that prevention is key – and we will make every effort to stop them from happening in the first place.”

There are over 5000 accidental house fires in Scotland every year.  Cooking is the number one cause of these. If you’re distracted, or have left the cooking on to go and do something else, fire can spread very quickly. Very often it is when people are tired, under the influence of alcohol or on medication that a cooking fire results in someone being injured or killed.

Over the last five years three-quarters of preventable fire deaths in Scotland were people aged 50 years or over – and almost a third of people injured through fire were aged 60 or over.

DCO McGown continues “We are determined to drive down the number of house fires in Scotland.  Many house fires in Scotland could be prevented by taking a few simple steps.  Too often people are injured or killed by fire when, for example, working smoke alarms could have prevented a serious fire.  Our staff are working in the community every day providing advice and assistance as well as fighting fires.  By working in partnership we can make a difference. ”

SFRS offer a free Home Fire Safety Visit service.  The visits only take around 20 minutes and help householders spot possible fire hazards and make sure that their home is safer.  Firefighters also help residents plan what to do if fire does break out, provide essential information about smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarms and identify any other agencies who could provide useful support.

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Home Fire Safety Visits are completely free and can cut the chances of a fire in the home.

You can cut out the chances of a fire happening in your home by booking a Home Fire Safety Visit, or if you know a person who could be at risk, then please tell them about our service or call us to see how we can help.

To request a free home fire safety visit for yourself, or someone you know, just call 0800 0731 999 or text ‘FIRE’ to 80800. You can also call the Age Scotland helpline who will link with the Fire Service to arrange the visit for you.

To find out more about keeping safe and well at home, please visit www.firescotland.gov.uk 

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Staying sharp at the Edinburgh Fringe

If it takes a bit of effort to keep your brain healthy, are you willing to do that?

That’s the “dangerous idea” that Professor Alan Gow from Heriot-Watt University will be considering at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August.

In “This Show Will Make You Sharper!”, Alan will share what people would be willing to do to protect their thinking skills with age. His team found that out by conducting a survey called “What Keeps You Sharp?”, completed by over 3000 people aged 40 to 98 across the UK.

Another key thing the survey explored was what people said would make them change their behaviour to better protect their thinking skills…and the results might surprise you (but we’re not allowed to give the answers away)!

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As we age, 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 people experience noticeable changes in their thinking and memory skills across their 60s and beyond, while others maintain these into old age. This variation suggests that a number of factors influence our brain health.

While the show is based on the latest research, this isn’t a traditional lecture. The show is part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas programme which has a simple rule – no slides! Comedian Susan Morrison returns to compere the programme, ensuring the academics keep on track and that the audience get a chance to have their say too.

For those who get along to the show, Alan will be interested in hearing what you think might be good (or bad) for “staying sharp” and where you get information about brain health from. The audience will therefore have a chance to share their own thoughts about thinking skills, compare those to the 3000+ people from the UK-wide survey, and hear how that all links back to what the most recent research suggests.

Alan and his team in The Ageing Lab at Heriot-Watt are exploring the factors that might protect thinking skills, 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.

“This Show Will Make You Sharper!” is on twice during the Fringe at the New Town Theatre on George Street, on 10 August (1.30pm) and 14 August (8.10pm). You can watch a short trailer below or read more about the show and buy tickets here.

To get a flavour of what to expect, one of Alan’s previous Fringe shows was recorded as part of BBC Radio Scotland’s Brainwaves series which you can listen to here.

Book your tickets today!


“This Show Will Make You Sharper!” is part of Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2019: Debate, discussion and discourse at the Edinburgh Fringe.

 Catch the show at the New Town Theatre on George Street, Edinburgh on 10 August (1.30pm) and 14 August (8.10pm).

Whatever later life brings, we’re here to help

Rachel is an adviser with the Age Scotland helpline. She recently had a caller who lives on her own in a private rental property and is of state pension age. The caller was finding money quite tight and spoke to Rachel about getting a benefits check. Rachel identified £90 a week in housing benefits that the caller wasn’t aware that she could claim. The caller was also able to get the entitlement backdated and so will receive a lump sum to help her. That extra money will make a real difference to her quality of life.

Navigating entitlements and helping callers access them is just one of the ways that our team can support older people, their families and carers. The Age Scotland Helpline is the flagship advice service for Scotland’s older people to help with any challenges they may face.

Our Community Connecting service is also based within the helpline. Volunteers work to combat loneliness and isolation by supporting older people to explore interests and take up new hobbies. Through regular calls of support and encouragement and by doing research into what is available, our volunteers help older people to get involved in lunch clubs and social activities in their local area. There is no typical caller. It could be someone who has recently retired and wants to pick up a new hobby. Or it could be someone who has been socially isolated for months and is ready to take that first step and meet new people in their area.

One caller who got in touch said that her life had been turned upside down by the death of her husband. She felt incredibly isolated. She had never contacted a helpline before but was looking for any kind of support she could find. Through regular calls our volunteer was able to get to know the caller’s interests and encourage her to try a local club. The caller went on to sign up for a befriending service as well as an I.T. class to help her develop skills online.

Later life can bring many challenges but it also brings opportunities. If you or someone you know could benefit from the support offered by our helpline or community connecting teams, please get in touch on 0800 12 44 222. It’s free to call and open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

We’re here to help.

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Older veterans’ adventures online

Age Scotland Veterans’ Project is proud to support Lothian Veterans Centre in establishing a computer club in Dalkeith for older veterans.  Our new video tells the club’s story.

The club began this April.  Once a fortnight it convenes after the centre’s regular Friday get-together for veterans, most of whom are older and some of whom would otherwise be quite isolated.

Computer club members are kitted with free iPads courtesy of the Royal Naval Association’s Project Semaphore.  Project Semaphore tackles loneliness and isolation using digital technology.  While its home-based support is solely for older Royal Navy and Royal Marines veterans, it is open to approaches from organisations planning group-based digital-inclusion initiatives with older veterans from across the armed forces.

The Computer Club is also supported by a volunteer from AbilityNet.  AbilityNet offers free training to older and disabled people for PC’s, laptops, mobile phones and tablets, with volunteer support at arranged locations or in the home.

Age Scotland Veterans’ Project is encouraging groups and services that support older people in using digital technology to be more veteran aware.  As our best of the net for older veterans resource illustrates, learning that an older person is a veteran allows you to introduce him or her to online content that could be of great benefit – from specialist support services to money saving opportunities.  We offer free older veteran awareness training to groups and services that support older people, to help them identify veterans and ensure that they offer a veterans’ warm welcome.

Size matters

Dr Sabina Brennan is a research psychologist, neuroscientist, filmmaker, award-winning science communicator and author of the No 1 bestseller 100 Days to a Younger Brain. In her guest blog, Dr Brennan shares with us why brain size matters.


Some people are able to tolerate more Alzheimer’s disease-related pathology than others while still maintaining cognitive function. We call this resilience reserve. Using a computer analogy we draw a distinction between brain reserve (the hardware) and cognitive reserve (the software).

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Dr Sabina Brennan

Brain reserve (the hardware) is the structural stuff: grey matter, white matter and the thickness of your cortex. Brain reserve refers to the actual differences in the brain itself that might explain how one individual has greater tolerance to damage than another.
Beth and Janet have the same amount of Alzheimer’s disease, but their brains are different sizes. Beth has more brain cells, denser brain connections and a larger brain than Janet. This means that Beth has more brain without disease than Janet has. It is not the amount of disease in the brain that accounts for differences in cognitive functioning between people, it is the amount of intact brain. Beth’s bigger brain will be more resilient than Janet’s to the effects of the same amount of disease pathology.

To put it simply: brain size matters. The larger your adult brain is, the longer you can resist the impact of disease on your functioning.

As the disease progresses the amount of diseased brain will increase and the amount of intact brain will decrease until a threshold is reached where the intact brain can no longer maintain normal cognitive functioning. Of course, the less Alzheimer’s disease pathology you have the better. However, if you do develop pathology the good news is that a brain healthy lifestyle can build brain reserves which will contribute to resisting its effects.

Cognitive reserve (the software) refers to the flexibility of brain networks in the face of disruption caused by ageing, injury or disease. Ben and Doug have the same amount of hardware (brain reserve). Ben can tolerate more disease-induced brain changes because the capacity of his underlying software (cognitive reserve) differs from Doug’s in a way that allows his brain to cope with or adapt to the disruptions.

Taking brain and cognitive reserve together let’s consider Jake and Peter, two fifty-five-year-old men. Jake has high reserve (high resilience) and Peter has low reserve (low resilience). Both begin to develop the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease in their brains at the same time. Both die at the age of seventy-five. Peter’s cognitive function gradually declines, going from mild through moderate, to severe and ultimately to his death. In contrast, Jake, won’t manifest any perceptible symptoms. Even though the disease pathology is still progressing in Jake’s brain his high levels of reserve allow his brain to cope with and compensate for the physical damage that is occurring until his death at seventy-five.

Had Jake lived for longer his reserves would eventually have been exhausted and he would have manifested dementia symptoms. However, unlike Peter, Jake’s decline would be dramatic and severe. Like falling off a cliff edge. Jake would have experienced a precipitous drop in his cognitive functioning, bypassing the mild and moderate stages. Reserve built through brain healthy life choices allows people like Jake to spend a greater proportion of their life living independently in possession of their cognitive faculties and a smaller proportion of life with functioning devastated by this disease.
Your brain has the capacity to build reserves. Adopting a brain healthy lifestyle is like investing in brain capital that you can cash in at some point in the future to cope with or compensate for damage, disease or decline. It will also optimise your brain function in the here and now. Here are my top tips for building reserves

  • Cherish sleep
  • Manage Stress
  • Stay socially engaged
  • Go mental (challenge yourself, learn new things, embrace new experiences)
  • Love our heart
  • Get physically active
  • Adjust your attitude (be positive, enjoy life and keep smiling)

About 100 Days to a Younger Brain – maximise your memory, boost your brain health and defy dementia.

Jacket_Insta100 Days to a Younger Brain delivers, in clear everyday language, the basics on how your brain works and how to keep your brain healthy. The good news is that the life style changes, activities and attitudes that boost brain health can easily be incorporated into your daily life. The book is grounded in scientific research and filled with really practical tips to help you to do that. While there are generic tips that we can all follow to keep our brains healthy 100-Days to a Younger Brain acknowledges that your brain is unique, shaped by your life experiences and life choices. As you work through this life-changing programme you will gain a clear picture of the current state of your brain health and insight into what you are doing right and what needs fixing. Armed with this information you will set your own personal goals and create a bespoke brain health plan to optimise your brain function, slow brain ageing and minimise the impact of brain injury and brain disease

MILAN is a part of my life

As part of Age Scotland’s Speaking Up for Our Age project marking 75 years of older people’s groups and organisations in Scotland, Milan Social Welfare Organisation in Edinburgh organised a special event for members, staff and supporters to celebrate their history and their work today.

Milan means friendly meeting place and started in 1991 providing day care, educational and social activities and information advice for older members of the Bangladeshi, Indian, Mauritian and Pakistani communities in Edinburgh and Lothians.  The word is common to the languages of all four communities.   Over the years the charity has grown to also provide company and support to older people who are housebound and isolated, and a space for informal carers to have some quality time outwith their caring role.

Mrs Farooq is one of the founders of Milan.  Born in India before partition, Mrs Farooq moved to Edinburgh in 1968 to join her husband who was an automobile engineer working with Ford. In the late 1980s she helped to set up Shakti Women’s Aid to support black and minority ethnic women and children experiencing domestic abuse and also started a number of Asian women’s groups in the city with support from the Council’s Community Education Service and other voluntary organisations in the city.

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Representatives of MILAN accepting the 2014 Age Scotland ‘Services for Older People’ Award

“We started women’s groups in community centres, in the Southside of Edinburgh and Leith Walk, and by managing those women’s groups we realised that there were older people who had nowhere to go.  The parents were living with the families of the women we were working with.  The name Milan means place for a meeting. We thought that there is a need for Milan – where the older people can meet.  At first it was for one day, then we made it three days.  The Tuesday and Wednesday groups are mixed groups but the Thursday group is especially for very old people and people who are vulnerable, who use wheelchairs, and need more comfort and patience.  It is a very good idea to have this group on Thursdays.”

Part of the success of Milan is that from the very beginning the charity welcomed older people from across the Bangladeshi, Indian, Mauritian and Pakistani communities.  Mr Choudhry first joined the Milan Thursday lunch club three years ago on the recommendation of his sister, and now attends three days a week. As well as being able to eat a hot nutritious meal, he enjoys the varied activities, the games, the information talks on keeping healthy, the group walks and the trips, but the biggest difference he finds is the company.   “We open our hearts and listen to each other”, he explains.  Before attending the lunch club Mr Choudhry sat in the house focussing on his troubles and feeling stressed.  One of the recent additions to group activities is a garden plot where members are enjoying growing vegetables and herbs such as coriander for cooking.

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Mr Miah, Mr Choudhry, Mr Kapoor, and Mr Masih enjoy playing dominoes when they meet on Thursday

Older members who are unable to attend events and outings are not left out either, thanks to Mrs Mirza, a Milan member and volunteer.  For the past 15 years Mrs Mirza has been writing about Milan’s activities for the charity’s newsletter which is distributed regularly to members. It all started with a request to write about the holidays to Bradford and Liverpool organised by Milan. Mrs Mirza speaks several languages and writes in English, Urdu and Hindi languages and enjoys putting her skills to use so that as many members as possible can keep up with the news at Milan and remain connected to the charity when they are unable to join in some of the events.  “I live alone. I have nothing to do, just watching television all the time.  It’s better to come here and talk with friends.  Milan is a part of my life.”

All members are full of praise for the staff and volunteers.  The main challenge the charity faces is their need for better premises so that they can expand, open up spaces to people on the waiting list and run activities every weekday.

Milan has so much to be proud of and celebrate and members, volunteers and staff did so in style on 30th August 2018 at their Speaking Up for Our Age event.  There was a history display and quiz, music, dance, tasty food including Lentil Dahl (the popular dish from the 1990s) and a minute’s silence in memory of past members.


To find out more about MILAN, visit their wbeiste or call 0131 475 2307.

To find out more about becoming an Age Scotland member, visit our website, email our Community Development team at members@agescotland.org.uk