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.”

DavidF4F March 2018

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!”

VC@KC March 2018.jpg

“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.

Integrated logo for email updates.jpg

 

Ending Isolation in Scotland – Glasgow Loneliness Summit

It has a reputation as one of the UK’s friendliest and most welcoming cities. So you might be surprised to learn that two thirds of Glaswegians have experienced loneliness.

Not only are they reluctant to talk about it, but it’s a growing problem. Nine out of 10 residents think they’re more likely than ever to be lonely as they get older.

These figures were revealed by the Campaign to End Loneliness ahead of today’s Loneliness Summit, held at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall with the city council. Following the Scottish Government’s new strategy on tackling loneliness and isolation, it’s a chance to address this modern epidemic.

After an opening by Poet Laureate Jackie Kay, speakers will include Age Scotland’s Senior Policy Officer Derek Young and Tressa Burke of the Glasgow Disability Alliance.

Of course, loneliness can affect us at any age and no matter where we live. But we’re more likely to be affected as we get older due to retirement, bereavement, loss of mobility or long-term illness.

Around one in 10 older people in Scotland feel lonely most or all of the time – a staggering 100,000 people throughout the country. One in six haven’t spoken to a friend or neighbour in a week, while forty per cent say the TV is their main form of company.

This is having a devastating impact on mental and physical health, increasing risk of death by 10 per cent and exacerbating heart disease, blood clots and cancer. Our recent research with the Mental Health Foundation found that a quarter of older people have experienced depression as a result of loneliness.

So what can we do about this? There is still a reluctance, especially among an older generation to seek help. They often fear being a burden on family and friends, with almost a third saying they just need to cope by themselves.

The Scottish Government’s strategy – the first of its kind worldwide – is an important first step. It acknowledges that a lot of the expertise and potential for tackling isolation already exists in our communities and organisations such as Age Scotland, with its 1000 member groups around the country.

But there are more concrete steps to take, such as investing in accessible and affordable transport, maintaining community hubs, and identifying those most at risk. And we can all play our part by reaching out to friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbours, creating a compassionate and inclusive society where nobody is forgotten about.

Starting those conversations is key, and we hope events like today’s summit will highlight the problem and encourage people to talk about it.

Watch our twitter feed for more updates from the event throughout the day.

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!

 

 

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

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.

DSC_2324

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.

Community connecting: tackling social isolation head on

Age Scotland has managed a helpline for many years providing information and advice across a wide spectrum of topics. Last year we were lucky enough to be given funding by the Scottish Government to kick-start a Scotland wide, phone based community connecting service.


The helpline often receives calls from older people feeling isolated or lonely and the community connecting service aims to tackle this head on. Callers can be referred to the service – which just involves them leaving a few details with an adviser. They are then contacted by one of the community connecting volunteers for a longer chat, to find about their interests, what sort of opportunity they might be looking for and any barriers that they might have to getting out and about (for example any mobility issues or difficulties accessing public transport). The volunteer can then get stuck into finding out what is available in the caller’s local area. We’ve been asked to help find all sorts of different opportunities from Men’s Sheds to IT classes, exercise to befriending. In many local authority areas there are specific community connecting projects delivered either by phone or face to face and where this is helpful for the person we will suggest they contact them for local expert knowledge.comcon.png

The Age Scotland helpline is very fortunate to have a team of exceptional and dedicated volunteers and several of them are involved in this new service with new volunteers being recruited to join them. One of our volunteers, Janice explains more about what she does:

“As a volunteer, I have been involved with Age Scotland’s community connecting service since it started a few months ago and am thoroughly enjoying being part of it.  The people I speak to have, for one reason or another, found themselves cut off from the community they live in and are unsure about how to make the first move to become more involved and less isolated.

After having an initial chat about the sorts of things they’re looking for, I try to find some local groups or organisations they might enjoy being part of. (My knowledge of the geography of Scotland is growing by the week!)

As I have been finding out, there is a lot going on out there.  The difficulty for the people who contact us is knowing where to look and, at times, having the confidence to take that first step.  That’s where we step in.  After giving each client some pointers, or even passing on their details to a chosen group, we follow up by making regular calls every 2 or 3 weeks for a couple of months to see how things are progressing, or as one client said, ‘to keep me on track’.

A relationship starts to build between you and the client and it is hugely satisfying when you know that you have got to the point where you can cut your ties because they are on their way. They have reconnected!”

We’ve had some lovely feedback from users about how useful the service has been to them and complementing our volunteers:

‘He’s been absolutely lovely…and I’ve found it helpful talking to him’.

This makes us even more keen to make sure that we can continue growing the service and helping even more people.

To allow this to happen we’ll need even more volunteers – that’s where you might come in!

If you think that you’d like to help people get back out and about in their community please get in touch with our team on 0333 32 32 400 or volunteering@agescotland.org.uk. You can also find out about all of the other ways you can get involved as a volunteer on the Age Scotland website.

 

 

 

“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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.