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

“Number six, cross kicks!” “Number eight, lift some weights!”

On 16th March we headed to the Scottish Parliament to launch ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ – a game of Bingo where each number relates to a move that encourages people to be more active!


What is ‘Body Boosting Bingo’?

Keeping physically active as you age is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can have a real impact on your quality of life, benefitting both your physical and mental health. Age Scotland’s  ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ contains a range of evidence-based strength and balance exercises such as squats or standing on one leg which participants do when the corresponding numbers is called. Of course after completing the move participants mark the number off their bingo card in the hope of winning a prize!

To launch ‘Body Boosting Bingo’, Age Scotland team members headed to the Scottish Parliament to host a few games with a selection of Age Scotland member groups and MSPs.

Visiting member groups joined us for some lunch in the Parliament before Age Scotland team members kicked off the game. Doug boomed out the bingo numbers in an excellent fashion, Jenny demonstrated the moves for each number with Yolanda showing the seated version, to ensure everyone in attendance could take part, even with the more challenging moves.

“Number six, cross kicks!”, “Number eight, lift some weights!” Some moves are self-explanatory but some require a little more explanation. “Fifteen, string bean!” sees our participants stretch their arms high as they can to get an all body stretch. “Two oh, do the tango!” saw MSPs Miles Briggs and Christine Grahame dancing at the front of the group. Everyone who took part were such great sports.

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Getting everyone involved!

The great thing about ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ is that it promotes light to moderate physical activity in a social context, allowing older people to socialise and keep fit at the same time.

Research shows that we gradually lose strength and power in our muscles and bones as we get older, however this can be reversed. Regularly doing just ten minutes twice a week of strength and balance exercises helps to maintain bone density and muscle power.  We are committed to promoting physical activity as a way for everyone to improve their wellbeing.

‘Body Boosting Bingo’ will be made available to day centres and older people’s groups across the country.


To find out more about ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ just call 0333 32 32 400 and ask to speak to a member of our Policy & Communications team.

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?

Grapevines and Kung-Fu kicks

Trust Housing Association invited us to run healthy active ageing showcase events at 18 of their premises across Scotland.  Thanks to funding from the Life Changes Trust we were pleased to be able to say yes.  Doug Anthoney reports.


Number nine: Grapevine.  Number two: do Kung-Fu.

These are just a couple of the ‘calls’ that can come up when Trust Housing Association’s older tenants play our Strength and Balance bingo game.  It’s a fun way of getting everyone moving, and almost everyone can move: the activities we showcase are based on NHS exercises for older people, and there’s a seated option for most of them.

We focus on strength and balance because these are particularly important for long term health.  If we don’t look after these aspects of physical health, our muscles will deteriorate gradually from age 35, and we’ll have lost a third of the bone density in our hips by age 80.  The good news is that because bone and muscle are living tissue we can build them up, whatever age we are, by doing simple exercises on a regular basis.

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Our showcase doesn’t just focus on the body.  We also look at what everyone can do, whatever their age, to keep the brain healthy.  A key message is that any concerns we have about changes in our thinking abilities are best shared with a doctor, sooner rather than later.  Surveys have found that people are far more likely to see a doctor about physical aches and pains than they are for problems affecting thinking, memory or communication abilities.   Yet many of the causes of such symptoms can be stabilised or even reversed.  And if something that can’t be cured is responsible, such as dementia, then getting a diagnosis is an important step towards getting the support and treatment that can enable someone to live well with the condition.

It’s not possible to guarantee that someone will never get dementia, but there are things that we can all do to reduce the risk of dementia.  Our showcase highlights these: from eating well to challenging ourselves to learn new things.

So far there’s been a lot of laughs in our showcase events with Trust residents: from Newton Stewart to Stornoway.  We’re serious about our message, but that doesn’t mean that we take ourselves too seriously, and when learning is fun it’s more likely to stick.


Doug Anthoney is Training Programme Officer with Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia project.

Quality of Life on the Isle of Shapinsay

Toni Giugliano, Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement & Campaign Officer, recently headed to Orkney as part of his work around quality of life in later life in partnership with Stirling University. 


Earlier this month the Quality of Life Project took me to Shapinsay in Orkney. It was a unique opportunity to gather the views of older people about what makes a good life in later years in a rural and remote part of the country.

I was humbled by the extremely warm welcome I received by the organisers and participants. I was picked up from the ferry terminal in the community electric car and whisked along to the “Boathouse” – a fantastic community space where we were protected from the ultra-strong winds (which locals told me were not, in fact, that strong at all!).

In total, eight residents took part in the discussions, which explored several themes, including health and wellbeing, the importance of a close-knit community, relationships, care, transport, personal independence and the role of older people in society.

Below are some statements that came out of the discussions:

“Befriending services are a lifeline – even if you have a close family, often you feel like you don’t want to impose on them. You want to be independent, and a befriender won’t pass judgement.”

“Pass times are so important once you reach a certain age – they give you a focus, a purpose in life, a reason to be on this world.”

“As you become older, you enter a different category. You are likely to become slightly invisible.”

“Many people who once had a social status during their working life tend to lose it once they reach a certain age.”

“Older people still have a lot to contribute to society.”

“There should be incentives for volunteers to take on home care visits and spend some time chatting to people. The home visits you get only last 15 minutes – it’s just not enough. You want to get to know a person and have a chat with them. With the current system they just don’t have enough time to do that.”

“The cost of the ferry is too much; it’s not affordable. Other islands (local authorities) get a better deal”.

“We’ve had to fight hard on this island for the services we have. We need to stay on the ball and continue to do that if we want to keep them.”

It was particularly interesting to hear about the work of the Shapinsay Development Trust and the activities and services it runs to improve the lives of people on the island, including social activities to combat loneliness and isolation. The Sew Shapinsay project, for example, is a great social activity bringing many people together.

The Shapinsay focus group discussion, like all other focus groups that have taken place across the country, will soon be analysed by our researcher teams (who themselves are older people). The project seeks to: (i) explore what older people believe the essence of a good life is; and (ii) lobby decision makers to improve policies that support older people as they age.

Whilst in Orkney I took the opportunity to visit the Age Scotland office in Kirkwall to discuss the Scottish Government’s Social Security Consultation and how the proposed changes are likely to impact older people. We received a number of responses which helped shape our submission. For more information on this, see the relevant pages of our website.


The Quality of Life Project is funded by the Life Changes Trust. To find out more about the project, visit our website.

Age Scotland launches Let’s Get Moving!

Let’s get moving is the latest campaign from Age Scotland aiming to promote the benefits of activity to older people by telling the stories of people from across Scotland about what they do to keep active and their motivation to keep doing regular exercise. 


Keith Robson, Head of Charity Services for Age Scotland, commented, “We all know that that we could do with getting more exercise, indeed, in a recent survey the charity conducted, we found that only 55% of respondents were getting the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.  Instead of telling people off for not doing exercise, Age Scotland is taking a different approach and telling the stories of what people do to keep active and why.

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We’ve heard from 81 year old ladies who can plank for a minute, grandads taking part in Walking Football and hundreds more.  Whilst all the people who we spoke to knew the benefits of activity include helping to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia this was never the first reason they gave for taking part in an activity.  Being social, keeping up with the grandkids and feeling a part of a community were more often quoted reasons for being active. So Age Scotland will be focusing on promoting these stories to encourage more people to get moving, and in doing so, get more people loving later life.”

Sandra White MSP is backing the campaign: “The importance of physical activity in older people cannot be understated. Be it to maintain a healthy body and mind or to combat loneliness, making sure we remain active is key.”

“Being the Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Older People, Age & Ageing I am acutely aware of the difference staying active can make in later life. Local support groups who work to promote and maintain physical activity with older constituents, as well as across all age groups, are important in these efforts.”

“As such I warmly welcome this scheme and wish it every success”

Anas Sarwar MSP commented “The Lets Get Moving Campaign makes clear that, whatever your age, keeping active is good for your health and quality of life.  The Scottish Health Survey published last week shows we still have much to do on issues like exercise and tackling obesity, so I congratulate Age Scotland on getting the message out there that there are simple things the great majority of us could do to be more active.”

Miles Briggs MSP also backs the campaign; “I commend Age Scotland for launching their Let’s Get Moving! Campaign and wish it every success.

“There is a mass of evidence that shows that physical exercise can help prevent a wide range of health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia, and can boost mood and confidence. It is really important that all sections of society and people of all ages, including our elderly citizens, are encouraged to exercise and are aware that even gentle activities like short walks can make a real difference to their health.

“I hope Age Scotland’s campaign will persuade many older people to consider taking up a new sport or rediscovering a physical activity they used to enjoy doing.”

Alison Johnstone MSP commented “There needs to be a greater promotion of the many benefits exercise can have for older people in Scotland. Not only that, we need to do better in explaining simple ways that exercise can be incorporated into peoples’ lives with little or no cost. It’s understandable that many Scots, old and young, struggle to exercise when transport policy in this country has continually prioritised private cars over public transport, walking and cycling.”

Willie Rennie MSP also backs the campaign; “No matter what your age is, keeping fit and active should always be at the heart of anyone’s lifestyle. When people get older, being active can be more difficult, but it is precisely for that reason that older people should be encouraged more to live an active lifestyle.

“Campaigns such as this one from Age Scotland are exactly what is needed to help older generations to keep moving.”


To find out more about the campaign visit our website.

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Living active, living well

Jim Ferguson’s life was completely changed when he became more active. He met with our Chief Executive Brian Sloan to spread the word about how getting active can improve your quality of life, even for those living with a chronic condition. 


DSC_0598Jim is a former local councillor who volunteers with a number of groups affiliated with Age Scotland and has given regular, valued help to our Community Development team. Jim was referred to a physiotherapist by his GP after being diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. When he was a young boy he had contracted pneumonia and this left an infection in his lungs. As he turned 30 medics removed lobes within his lungs and now, at 75, he is living with the long term consequences of this.

After a few weeks of physio, Jim was asked if he’d like to be ‘prescribed’ a regular exercise class that would give him the support he needed to help his breathing moving forward. Jim jumped at the chance and was referred to Live Active Leisure in Perth.

Jim began his regular Referral Classes and a simple 12 week programme followed that is designed to help inactive adults with any of the following: depression or other mental health issues, weight problems, high blood pressure, muscular / skeletal conditions, neurological conditions and pulmonary conditions – including COPD, like Jim.

“I was sent to Live Active Letham and started the classes with young Marcin – he’s a great guy! I really did get a lot of encouragement and I feel I was pushed just a little bit more every time. It was a huge benefit being part of a class that worked to my level but that was small enough for us all to get the attention we needed to move us on.

“When you can’t breathe you’re restricted in lots of things; it’s that simple. As you get older you have less physical strength and finding a way to start things off at a suitable ability level and work from there is a great thing. It’s made a huge difference to my quality of life and that means it’s also a very good thing for my mental health. “I’m passionate that people keep mobile and as fit as they can at all ages. It’s about mind and body – you have to keep it all going!”


If you want to know more about get fit options in your area, call Silver Line Scotland on 0800 4 70 80 90. If you live in Perth and want to get active, visit www.liveactive.co.uk.