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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Introducing our man in the North: Age Scotland’s Veteran’s Project

This autumn Steve Henderson joined Age Scotland as dedicated Community Development Officer for the charity’s new Veterans’ Project with a peripatetic remit spanning the north of Scotland.  We asked Steve, a veteran himself, about his background and aspirations for the project.


Steve joined the Army (Royal Regiment of Artillery) in 1983, with which he served as both soldier and officer until 2006.  He then moved with his family to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates where he worked on a ten-year military training management implementation programme.  After returning to UK early 2015, he eventually settled back home in Scotland and his career took a new direction with Dementia Friendly Communities (DFC) Helmsdale. IMG_0073 (2).JPG

The Age Scotland Veterans’ Project attracted him because “following a successful military career I saw it as an opportunity to give something back to a community of veterans who have served before me.”   The need he anticipates among older members of the veterans’ community include loneliness and isolation.  “This is an issue in general, but it can be exacerbated by being a veteran,” he says.  “Veterans tend to speak a different language; they have their own ‘craic.’  There are some things they won’t feel comfortable speaking about in a civilian environment, but will talk to other veterans about.

“There can also be a culture of self-reliance that means you don’t go to the doctor unless your arm is falling off. Some veterans will only ask for help when they’ve reached crisis point.”

Sensory impairment is another problem.  “Ear protection for the military didn’t come in until late 1990s,” says Steve.  His own hearing has been affected by proximity to rocket launches.

Perhaps the biggest issue however is that many people who are entitled to additional help and support inadvertently miss out.  “Lots of individuals don’t class themselves as a veteran, particularly those who did national service.  We want to make sure that older veterans can benefit from all the help and support available via Age Scotland and from our Unforgotten Forces partner organisations.

Steve has been delighted with the response so far to the project at recent Age Scotland network meetings and in meetings with individual groups.  “People think it is money well spent: not least the fact that Aged Veterans’ Fund funding comes ultimately from LIBOR banking fines.”  Steve’s next steps are to engage with more groups, both among Age Scotland’s membership and within the veterans’ community.  “One of the things I’m keen to do is introduce these groups to each other, so that more veterans can benefit from all that’s on offer from the charity’s members,” says Steve.  “I will also be available to enable people to access the information and advice they need, and to deliver training where applicable.”

632x305_veterans_projectIf you are part of a community group in the North or North East of Scotland and would like to make contact with Steve, you can call him on 07808 024801 or email steve.henderson@agescotland.org.uk.   Visit www.agescotland.org.uk/veterans

Break Away – a new service for veterans

Age Scotland is proud to be partnering with Poppyscotland as part of the Unforgotten Forces consortium. Unforgotten Forces is a partnership between 14 leading organisations which will deliver a range of new services and enhancements for older veterans living in Scotland. We hear from Poppyscotland on an exciting new service for veterans.


As part of the Unforgotten Forces project, Poppyscotland are proud to launch an exciting new service, Break Away, providing much-needed breaks for veterans aged 65 and older. Poppyscotland recognise the value of a break and the boost it can give to a person’s health and wellbeing. The service is aimed at anyone who would benefit from a holiday, whether it’s coping with ill health or bereavement, or for those who just need a change of scene and some new company.

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The Break Away service will run throughout the year and can be enjoyed anywhere in the UK.  Each break will be tailored to meet the individual’s circumstances and break preference, with many packages providing disability-access coaches, hotels and activities. The cost of the break, travel costs and a small pot of additional spending money will be made available.

For some, the break might be a six-day escape to the Highlands, taking in the ‘Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond’, the mountaintops of the Cairngorms and the beautiful valleys of the rivers Spey and Dee. Others might prefer a trip to South Devon’s glorious coast for a relaxing stay in Torquay. Here they can enjoy sandy beaches, a lively waterfront and the chance to take an excursion on the famous Flying Scotsman. These are just a few of the options available.

Respite breaks are also available for those with more complex personal care needs such as a severe physical disability or medical condition.  You and your partner / carer can be taken on a break that will be tailor-made for you and give you both the much-needed holiday that you can really enjoy.

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All applications will be assessed on a basis of welfare need and means, and you must be 65 or over.

If you are an eligible veteran, or if you know of someone who might qualify, we would love to hear from you.  For more information about the service or to make an application for a break, please contact Louise Maiden, Breaks Coordinator on email: breakaway@poppyscotland.org.uk or tel: 0131 550 1557.

To find out more about Age Scotland’s Veteran’s Project please visit our website.

 

 

 

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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Support for Scotland’s older veterans

Age Scotland is proud to be a partner in Poppy Scotland’s Unforgotten Forces portfolio. We will be working with partners including Action on Hearing Loss Scotland, Care and Repair Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland, Defence Medical Welfare Service, Erskine, Fares4Free, Legion Scotland, Luminate, Music in Hospitals Scotland, Poppy Scotland, Scottish Older People’s Assembly, Scottish War Blinded and the University of West of Scotland.

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The portfolio is funded by the HM Treasury grant-giving body funded from Libor banking fines. The fund’s aim is to promote health and wellbeing for veterans aged over 65 and their dependants.

Around 1 in 10 people aged 65 or over in Scotland are veterans or veterans’ dependants; this includes a large cohort of older people who were required to do national service who do not necessarily view themselves as veterans. Age Scotland already works with many veterans, through our helpline, Men’s Sheds, walking football and our member groups. This project funding will enable us to identify and better meet their needs.

Most project staff will be based in our Edinburgh office, but we also have a new Veterans community development post which will be based in the north of Scotland.

So what will the project involve?

  • We will be working with our member groups to increase awareness of older veterans’ rights and issues
  • Supporting veterans who may be isolated to access service, support and good company in Age Scotland member groups and promoting networking among member groups which involve veterans.
  • Increased support for veterans from the Age Scotland helpline and referrals to agencies which provide specialist services such as the Citizens Advice Scotland Armed services advice project
  • Developing new information resources about services for older veterans
  • Digital inclusion help for older veterans
  • Increasing awareness of the policy issues which impact on older veterans’ lives
  • Training for Age Scotland staff and volunteers

Desired outcomes for older veterans and their families

Through this project we hope to achieve:

  • Greater understanding of their rights, accessing financial and other support they are entitled to
  • More engagement in community activities that reduce isolation and support health and wellbeing
  • Services and organisations supporting older people will be better equiped to deal with specific needs of older veterans
  • Older veterans’ issues will be better represented in the media and with policy makers and service providers.

If you would like to find out more about the Veterans Project, please contact the Age Scotland switchboard on 0333 32 32 400 or email veteransproject@agescotland.org.uk

Money Matters: a new Age Scotland project

Age Scotland has received funding from the Money Advice Service for a new project: until February 2018 we are offering older peoples’ groups a choice of Money Matters roadshows.

We have four new people in the team: Jessica Shields our Evaluation officer, Fiona Scott our Project assistant, Cheryl Fowler who will be delivering most of our roadshows and Sam Longden who will support helpline advisers and improve our information about money matters.

We can deliver roadshows on a choice of subjects:

Benefit entitlements – did you know that 1/3 of people who are entitled don’t claim Pension Credit? Could you be missing out? Do you know how many ways there are to get help with your council tax bill? Might you be entitled to Attendance Allowance?

Care costs and funding – what does care cost? If you qualify for free personal and nursing care what is actually free? Is it true that most people have to sell their house?

Power of Attorney – what types are there? How do you choose your attorney? What are your responsibilities if you are an attorney and where can you get advice?

Wills and funeral costs – why should you write a will? Do you know what a funeral costs? How much help is available from the government? How can you save money on costs?

Planning for and managing financial changes – does your group support people who face particular challenges with money because of caring responsibilities, health issues or bereavement? We can look at how best you can manage financial issues which affect you, and learn from you too.

After the roadshows, people can call the Age Scotland helpline, 0800 12 44 222 for a confidential conversation with an adviser.

The aim of the project is to find out “what works”. So we will be working with you to find out what you know before and after roadshows, seeing how many people make follow-up calls to our helpline and, if you agree, contacting you afterwards to find out if you did take steps to claim a benefit, take out a Power of Attorney or plan for funeral costs. We really need the feedback about what worked and what didn’t work, and we will adapt our roadshows and information in response to what we learn from you.

We are looking for some groups to help us to develop our training and information, and we will also be asking professionals who work with older people what money issues they are raising, what they know about money concerns for older people and what would support them to guide older people to find advice and help.

For more information or to book a roadshow call the Age Scotland switchboard on 0333 323 2400 or email the team

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!