Squaddie banter and a cuppa – support for Veterans in Falkirk

Just turned two, Falkirk Veterans is already making a big difference for veterans in Forth Valley, many of them older. In her guest blog Falkirk Veterans Chair Maggie Brown tells us more about this important service.


Falkirk Veterans aims to enable veterans, and often also currently service personnel, in getting together to ‘return to the tribe’ and become stronger, together. We have a Drop-In (the only one in Forth Valley) for anyone who feels isolated, needs some confidential help or just some squaddie banter and giggles with a cuppa and light bites. We now regularly FalkirkVetslogohave around 25 to 30 veterans, and a few family members, who attend every week. We also have a Breakfast Club, where former and serving military can enjoy an amazing breakfast and share memories and laughs. Businesses locally pitch in, with generously weekly donations from Asda, Greggs, Malcolm Allan, Thomas Johnson, Marshalls Bakers and Patricks of Camelon. We are also registered as referees for our local food bank and often make up food parcels for our more vulnerable veterans.

We are developing a Garden Club in the walled garden in Callander Park, which very soon will provide a safe, quiet space for relaxation and pottering around planting flowers or vegetables. This is particularly relevant for veterans who have suffered trauma related injuries. We grow and pick vegetables and give out food bags to our more vulnerable veterans.

There’s a social club with occasional free days out for families and a few other events during the year. In August, 19 veterans and their carers went to the Edinburgh Tattoo, thanks to a grant from the Not Forgotten Association. One said it was “the first time he had been out of his house and had gone to an event in 15 years.” A recent Hawaiian night was a great success with more bonding, fun and a break away from their normal lives.

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Welfare and signposting is the more serious part. Setting up support agencies and services, and expecting veterans to go to them, has long been the normal practice. But when individuals have been trained and conditioned to persevere and succeed under all circumstances and despite all adversities, as they are in the Armed Forces, it makes it very difficult for many veterans to accept, or even admit that they need help in the first place! This is why drop-ins like ours are so important. We build up the confidence and self-esteem of the individual to accept the help that is on offer to them. We have helped several veterans with welfare advice, counselling, housing and furniture: we have part of a storage container held at the Royal British Legion Grangemouth where we store furniture and furnishings donated from the public

Want to know more about what we do, or think you could support us? Pop over to our Drop-In, sample a cuppa and a hot filled roll and see for yourself what we do and what we offer.

  • The Drop-In is on Thursdays 11am-2pm at Royal British Legion, Grangemouth.
  • The Breakfast Club is second Sunday and last Saturday of every month, 10am in the Graeme Hotel, Falkirk

Falkirk Veterans is one of a growing number of organisations offering a ‘veterans’ warm welcome’ listed by Age Scotland’s Community Connecting service. To find out what is available in your area, call the Age Scotland Helpline for free on 0800 12 44 222 (Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm).

 

 

What keeps you sharp?

Isn’t the expression ‘having a senior moment’ awful? Yet people often think of changes in their mental skills with age in terms of decline. While some people do experience these changes, others do not. So how do our thinking skills change as we age? And do our lifestyles affect those changes?

Those are just two of the questions that will be tackled in “What Keeps You Sharp?” at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August. The show, led by Dr Alan Gow from Heriot-Watt University, returns as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas. It will be a chance to explore a range of issues around changes in thinking skills, from when those changes might be expected (if at all), how those changes might be influenced by genes or lifestyles, and what lifestyle factors might be good or bad for brain health.

As we grow older, 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 individuals experience noticeable changes in their thinking and memory skills across their 60s and beyond, while others maintain these abilities into old age. This variation suggests that a number of factors influence the likelihood of mental decline.

Alan and his team in The Ageing Lab at Heriot-Watt are exploring some of those factors, 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.

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The big questions being explored in the “What Keeps You Sharp?” show were part of a UK-wide survey that was completed earlier last year. The audience will therefore have a chance to share their own thoughts about thinking skills, compare those to the 3000+ people across the UK who took part in the survey, and hear how that all links back to what the most recent research suggests. But don’t worry, it’s not a traditional lecture – one of the rules within the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas programme is that you can’t use slides, and the shows are also compered by comedian Susan Morrison to keep everything on track.

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“What Keeps You Sharp?” is on twice during the Fringe, at the New Town Theatre on George Street on 7 August (8.10pm) and 16 August (1.30pm). You can watch a short trailer here, or read more about the show and buy tickets here.

And if you can’t make it along, you can still find out more. Last year’s show was recorded for part of BBC Radio Scotland’s Brainwaves series. You can listen to that programme here…though best not to listen if you’re coming along as it might spoil some of the questions you’ll be thinking about!


Book your tickets today!

“What Keeps You Sharp?” is part of Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2018: 
Debate, discussion and discourse at the Edinburgh Fringe

Catch the show at the New Town Theatre on George Street, Edinburgh on 7 August (8.10pm) and 16 August (1.30pm).

 

The Veterans’ Guide to Later Life in Scotland – out now

As we near UK Armed Forces Day (30 June) Age Scotland has launched a free advice guide for older veterans.

The Veterans’ Guide to Later Life in Scotland offers veterans a route map to embracing opportunities and overcoming challenges that later life can bring.  It’s available to download, and postal copies can be requested from the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222 or by emailing publications@agescotland.org.uk.  Here’s a flavour of what it offers older veterans, their families and professionals working with and for them.

Being treated fairly

Did you know that each council and health board in Scotland has signed a promise to every veteran?  Known as the Armed Forces Covenant this says you “should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens” and that “special consideration is appropriate in some cases, especially for those who have given most such as the injured and bereaved.”

Keeping well

Did you know that veterans are entitled to priority NHS treatment for health problems caused or made worse by military service? That means they should be seen more quickly than someone on the same waiting list who has the same level of clinical need.  There are NHS Veterans Champions you can speak to if you feel this hasn’t happened.

Care

When someone needs to move to a care home their social work department can carry out a financial assessment to see how much financial help they qualify for.  Did you know that if they are a veteran receiving War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments, these payments won’t be counted as income in the financial assessment?  This means they may be eligible for more funding.

Housing

Did you know that specialist housing for veterans is provided by a number of charitable organisations in Scotland – from single rooms to adapted family homes?  The guide includes a list of providers you can apply for housing with.

Money matters

The guide introduces the main benefits relevant to older veterans.  Benefits rules are complex and the guide will not give you all the answers.  It will however help you to ask the right questions, which you can then put to the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222.  In the first half of 2018, the helpline identified around £25,000 of unclaimed benefits for our veteran callers and their dependents.

Out and about

Did you know that veterans and their families can get discounts for many goods and services through the Defence Discount Service, the official MOD discount service for the UK’s armed forces and veterans?

Download the guide here or get a copy posted out for free by calling the Age Scotland Helpline 0800 12 44 222 or by emailing publications@agescotland.org.uk.

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Top tips for enjoying a heatwave safely

Scotland isn’t known for its hot summer months so when we do get some sunshine, we all want to make the most of it. It’s important to remember though that when the temperature goes up it can present health risks – especially for older people.


As we age, our body becomes less efficient at regulating our temperature, and this can be exacerbated by some types of medication. Some individuals are at greater risk, for example people living with dementia, heart problems (because the heart must work harder to pump extra blood to help cool your body down) or reduced mobility (which could make some tasks such as opening and closing windows or getting a drink of water more difficult).

By taking a few sensible precautions ourselves, and checking in with the older people you know, we can make sure everyone is able to make the best of the warmer weather.

Top tips for staying cool in a heatwave

  1. Stay cool inside during the hottest time of the day from late morning to mid-afternoon. If you do go out use sunscreen of factor 15 or above, wear a hat and stay in the shade if you can. Keep your house cool by keeping curtains and blinds closed in rooms that catch the sun.
  2. Limit strenuous activities like housework and gardening – most chores will keep until its cooler.
  3. Drink lots of fluid, whether you are at home or out and about. Limit caffeine and avoid alcohol as they increase the risk of dehydration.
  4. Watch what you eat:
  • Try to have more cold foods such as salads and fruits as they contain a lot of water
  • Keep chilled food cold, bacteria grow quickly in warm weather
  • Keep hot food hot, particularly make sure barbequed food is cooked right through
  1. Dress for the sun, light-coloured, loose cotton clothing can help you stay cool in the heat. Let your feet breathe too, wear comfortable sandals which support your feet
  2. Cool off with cold water, a cool bath, shower or splash of water on your face can help you cool down. .
  3. Check for weather forecasts and temperature warnings on TV, radio and online at www.metoffice.gov.uk  

Helping each other in the heat

We would also encourage everyone to check in on older neighbours, friends and family to check that they are doing ok and ask if they need anything. Doing a quick run to the shops to pick up some sunscreen or helping to open/close a window to let some fresh air in can make the world of difference to someone’s comfort and wellbeing.


For more tips download our sisters charity Age UK’s publication on ‘Keeping Cool in a heatwave‘ or call the Age Scotland helpling for free on 0800 12 44 222. 

Being Dementia Aware: how you can help

In Scotland, around 93,000 people are living with the condition with that number set to double by 2050.   

Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia project is funded by the Life Changes Trust to raise awareness of dementia.  We have done this through making the charity more dementia aware and delivering our workshops to our member groups and other organisations across the country.  We have also published a suite of publications which you can access via our website here.

This Dementia Awareness Week, we want to highlight what we do day in and day out to help spread the awareness message.

This week will mark the start of our new project focussing on making communities age and dementia friendly.  As part of this we are launching an online survey to hear directly from you on your own thoughts which you can find here.

Last week, our Training Officer, Julie Turner, travelled to Orkney to launch our ‘Train the Trainer’ initiative before travelling back to Edinburgh to start our new TASTER workshops with our partners in the Age Scotland Veteran’s Project.  For more information on our TASTER sessions click here.

To celebrate Dementia Awareness Week, we also want to hear from you.

We want to know what Being Dementia Aware means to you.  Whether you are someone living with dementia, a carer, family or friend, what is being dementia aware meant for you?

To take part, you can download our campaign card from our website here, take a photo holding the card and send it to us at esdteam@agescotland.org.uk or tweet your photo or message to us using the #BeingDementiaAware hashtag.

We will also be running a ‘Being Dementia Aware’ quiz on our social media channels so make sure you are following us on Twitter and Facebook!

This year Dementia Awareness Week in Scotland runs from the 4th -10th June 2018.

The Age Scotland Early Stage Dementia Project has been running since 2016 with funding from the Life Changes Trust.  For more information on the project visit (enter website address) or email the team at esdteam@agescotand.org.uk.

 

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Let’s focus on older veterans’ mental health

To mark mental health awareness week The Age Scotland Veterans’ Project highlights the mental health needs of older veterans.


First, a myth to bust.  It’s not common for military veterans to have combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Yes, it happens, and can be debilitating for those living with it.  Yet according to Scotland’s Veterans’ Commissioner ‘the vast majority of those leaving the military do so without severe mental health problems and cope well with the transition to civilian life.’

 

So, no need for concern?  Wrong.  There are almost a quarter of a million veterans in Scotland who have their share of mental health problems common in the wider population, including depression, general anxiety or stress related disorders.  Almost half of those veterans are aged 75 or older, and so are at more risk of experiencing loneliness and isolation as a result of the big life changes ageing can bring.

While mental health awareness is increasing in the military, older veterans will have left service at a time when understanding and support was much more limited.  The Veterans’ Commissioner has also highlighted how the ‘military is historically associated with a culture of heavy drinking’ and that, while much has been done within the military to shift behaviours, ‘alcohol misuse is still significantly higher than amongst the general population.’  And then there is the pride, stoicism and self-reliance instilled by military life: qualities that are advantageous while in service, but potentially disadvantageous when it comes to admitting vulnerability and seeking help in civilian life.

The good news is that there is a wide range of help and support to enable older veterans enjoy the best possible mental health and wellbeing, including Combat Stress and Veterans First Point.  Comradeship, the strong bonds forged in military service, can also support mental wellbeing among veterans.  Many of our partners in Unforgotten Forces make huge contributions to enabling isolated older veterans to enjoy comradeship, including Legion Scotland, Luminate, Poppyscotland, Music in Hospitals & Care, Erskine and Fares4Free.

Older veterans who have mental health problems arising from, or made worse by, their service, may be eligible for compensation from the Ministry of Defence.  Under the War Pension scheme, which applies to conditions related to service before 2005, there is no time limit for claims.  For such conditions veterans are also entitled to priority healthcare, meaning that they should be prioritised over to other patients with the same level of clinical need.  The Armed Services Advice Project can give advice where that may not have been the case.

Pre-order your free copy of The Veterans’ Guide to Later Life in Scotland call 0800 12 44 222 or email publications@agescotland.org.uk.

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Running for Kate: Annie’s tribute to her late grandmother

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Meet Annie Armstrong from Edinburgh – one of Age Scotland’s wonderful long-standing supporters.

Annie’s grandmother Kate was her biggest inspiration. Kate actively encouraged all of her granddaughters to live life to the full and loved hearing from Annie and her sister about their latest adventures, particularly Annie’s time living in New York.

When Kate sadly passed away in August, aged 92, Annie knew she wanted to do something special in her memory and decided to take on the Edinburgh half marathon to raise awareness and funds for Age Scotland.

Speaking of her decision, Annie said: “My grandmother was a social butterfly and an enabler of fun in her granddaughter’s lives. As a close family, we have always been there for each other. But this isn’t the case for every elderly member of society – and that’s why I want to run the Edinburgh Half raising money for Age Scotland.”

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Annie has always been an advocate of Age Scotland’s work and has a particular interest in our Helpline and Community Connecting programme. Our helpline provides information, friendship and advice to older people, their families and carers. This could be anything from help with a practical problem to having a friendly chat with someone who needs to hear a friendly voice. Our Community Connecting team work to ensure older people can access information about what organisations are available locally and assist them in accessing these services. This is a vital part of Age Scotland’s work as feeling integrated in the local community can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Annie says “I’ve always supported Age Scotland and I think the work that the charity does is unparalleled in communities.  I am delighted to be taking on this challenge for such a worthwhile cause.”

Annie says her grandmother Kate still inspires her and shapes how she lives her life today. This year she has been on a trip to France for ski-ing and music festivals, lived and worked in New York (and enjoyed training with stunning Manhattan views!) and has now signed up to take part in the Norway Midnight Sun half marathon in June.

Annie New York

Annie has now moved to London but has always wanted take on a half marathon in her home town. The route of the Edinburgh Half Marathon has stunning city and costal views and has been voted one of the fastest routes in the UK by Runners world. Annie told us:

‘Being an Edinburgh native, I’ve always wanted to run a half marathon in the city. The fact that the course is primarily downhill and flat is also an attraction! Training has been impacted slightly by a move down south and a new job, but I’m enjoying running and can’t wait for the race’

We are delighted to have Annie’s support and so inspired by the enthusiasm she has for our work with older people in Scotland. We wish her all the best for her remaining training and fundraising and thank her for choosing to run for Age Scotland in memory of her lovely grandmother Kate.


You can support Annie in her efforts by visiting her Just Giving page.

If you’d like to find out more about taking on a challenge event for Age Scotland contact Stacey in our fundraising team on stacey.kitzinger@agescotland.org.uk or 0333 323 2400.