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.

 

 

 

Lifelong Learning Matters

The Age Scotland National Conference is back for 2017, bringing together member groups and invited guests of a day of learning, friendship and inspiration. Community Development coordinator Elizabeth Bryan talks us through the plan for this year’s conference.


Learning, in all its forms, makes a great difference to the well-being and quality of life of people over the age of 50. That’s why the theme for this year’s Age Scotland’s conference is Lifelong Learning Matters.

Taking part in learning opens up new interests, puts us in control of lives and helps us to remain physically and socially active. Age Scotland member groups engage in a wide range of informal learning, and many groups are providers of an array of learning opportunities for their members and older people in their local communities. This year’s conference will provide an opportunity to find out what current research is telling us about lifelong learning and older people, and the difference participating in learning makes to our health and wellbeing.

Guest speakers, musical performances and participative workshops

The fantastic Pennie Taylor, award-winning freelance journalist and broadcaster, returns as conference chair and we have some fantastic guest speakers lined up to get our guests inspired.speakers

After lunch attendees can browse our exhibition and chat to stall holders or take part in one of our participative workshops. We have five workshops this year covering topics from table tennis to getting online to mindfulness.workshops

Attendees will then enjoy afternoon tea and a performance by the fantastic Shooglelele Ukulele band! Not one to be missed.

Celebrating those making a difference

The conference will culminate with the presentation of the 2017 Age Scotland Awards to recognise and celebrate the exceptional commitment and contributions individuals and organisations make to ensure Scotland is a good place to grow old in. We are joined by Dean Park who will be presenting the awards.

For those unable to join us on the day, the event will be live streamed so you can watch our guest speakers and discussion, musical performances as well as the Age Scotland awards ceremony. Full details will be posted on our website soon.

It’s set to be a tremendous day and we look forward to welcoming everyone on Wednesday 29th March!


If you have any questions about our National Conference, please contact our team on 0333 32 32 400.

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.

Time for a wee ramble

Ramblers Scotland has 56 walking groups across Scotland and the number is increasing. So what is it about walking that’s got so many people heading outdoors?


Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy activity that would improve your physical and mental health, lower your risk factors in a range of illnesses, give you a chance to enjoy quality time with old friends and to make new ones, and that you could do throughout most of your life? Well, there is, and it’s as simple as going for a walk.

Walking is an excellent all-round exercise. Almost everyone can do it, anywhere and at any time – and it’s free. You don’t need special clothing and it’s easy to fit into your daily routine. Older adults should aim to walk for around half an hour on most days of the week, but doing any exercise at all is better than nothing. If you’re unfit you can start slowly and build up gradually.

There are real health benefits from being more active; it helps protect the body from many illnesses and conditions, such as heart disease, strokes and osteoarthritis, and also helps to lift depression and improve mental health. But never mind all the health benefits, it’s also enjoyable. Walking helps you to collect your thoughts and appreciate the changing Lochwinnoch BP photo
seasons as you walk throughout the year, and it’s also a sociable activity. 
Walking in a group helps reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and increases social contact. It also means you may be more likely to turn out on a cold morning, and to keep up the activity over time.

Ramblers Scotland has 56 walking groups across Scotland, all with walk programmes led and organised by volunteers, and they often also include social events. Non-members are welcome to go on a few walks for free before deciding whether you’d like to join us. You can be sure of a warm welcome and a good chat with like-minded people. As Dot, one of our members in Dalgety Bay, says, “I joined the Ramblers when I first retired as I was looking for something to do. I never expected I would get so much pleasure out of walking with my group. As well as being much fitter now and making lots of friends, I’ve loved getting to visit Scotland’s fantastic countryside.”

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If you want to explore your local neighbourhood, our Medal Routes project has gathered over 600 short, circular routes of 15, 30 and 60 minutes – bronze, silver and gold medal routes – from Dumfries to Shetland, which help you to get out and about. They are all available from our website. We also have a routes database, Ramblers Routes, which has route suggestions across Scotland, with shorter walks free to download for non-members.


For information on finding your local group, call 0131 472 7006 or email scotland@ramblers.org.uk. or visit our website

Scottish Walking Football Network kick offs

Walking football is a variant of traditional football aimed at keeping people aged 50+ involved with the sport if, due to a lack of mobility or for other reason, they are not able to play the traditional game. Yesterday saw the launch of Scotland’s first national Walking Football Network.


What is Walking Football?

Although it might not sound too energetic, Walking Football is an action packed game of football – just with no running or slide tackles. And if you run, you concede a free kick to the other side!

Walking Football is taking off with clubs across Scotland and is proving to be a popular way of staying involved with the sport. As well as allowing people to keep playing a sport they love, Walking Football is a great way to keep fit and active, socialise and has been shown to improve mental health and wellbeing.

The launch of the Walking Football Network

Age Scotland are working with Paths for All, Scottish Association for Mental Health, Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Professional Football League Trust to form the Walking Football Network in Scotland. Our role, alongside our partner organisations, will be to support and enable the development of the game across Scotland.

The Walking Football Network was officially launched yesterday at the Toryglen Regional Football Centre in Glasgow. The event, was attended by well known faces such as Chick Young (BBC Scotland), Jamie Hepburn (MSP), Humza Yousaf (MSP) and Ken Macintosh (MSP). It was kicked off by Archie MacPherson, the ‘voice’ of Scottish football and former Scottish FA chief executive Gordon Smith.

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Chic Charnley, Gordon Smith, Archie MacPherson and Ally Dawson at the launch of the Walking Football Network (Photo credit: Sky sports)

Age Scotland’s Chief Executive Brian Sloan said “Age Scotland are delighted to be a partner of the Walking Football Network and the launch yesterday was really enjoyable. Walking Football is a great way for people to keep involved in or rediscover the sport, but it really is more than just playing football.

Beyond being more physically active those taking part are able to socialise and make new friends, which helps to reduce social isolation and improve mental health and wellbeing. It’s a wonderful initiative to be a part of and we look forward to seeing more clubs developing across Scotland.”

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Age Scotland’s Chief Exec Brian Sloan and Veteran Scottish football commentator Archie MacPherson on the field. Photo credit: Sky Sports

Craig Brown, former Scotland manager encouraged everyone to give it a try “And for those who haven’t played for a number of years, what are you waiting for? Get those boots on and start scoring a few goals!” (read the full story about the launch at Sky Sports News.)

Interested?

If you would like to get involved in Walking Football, just search for your local club or contact Billy Singh, Walking Football Development Officer by email or call 01259 218888.

 

Sporting Memories – how an old leather football is bringing people together

Sporting Memories is a charity that works to support older people living with dementia, depression and loneliness by tapping into their passion for sport. Through encouraging people to share memories of sporting moments, the charity helps people to connect with others and with their past. 

Will Searle from our Communications team visited the Sporting Memories Group in Belshill-Orbiston to meet the group and find out more about their work.


Once the group is settled around a large table with their cups of tea, Norrie Gallagher, one of the two organisers, starts us off. An old leather football is given to a member who shares a story of a football match they attended. The ball is then passed around the group, with whoever holding it sharing a memory of their own. Norrie expertly goes around the room to see if it has struck a chord with anyone – do you remember that match? Have you been to an International?

Everyone has their chance to say their bit and bond with the group. Norrie leads the conversation, ensuring everyone who has come along is engaged and taking part. It’s great to see attendees who were quiet and withdrawn when they first came in, come alive reminiscing about their love of the beautiful game.

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At one point, someone pipes up with the question – “Did I tell you my memory from Wembley? 1977…” And so comes a great story from when Scotland beat England 2-1 at Wembley. Fans had been told that the grounds were being re-turfed after the match and celebrating Scots took to the pitch to get their own piece of turf. The man telling the story recalled watching this all unfold and asking a fellow fan, who had his arms full of turf, what he was going to do if he was “stopped by the bobbies”. The fan’s response was that if the police stopped him, he would say it was his brother’s grass and he was just looking after it while he was on holiday!

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This was just one of the many great stories filling the room with laughter over the course of two and half hours. There was good-natured banter about Lisbon Lions and Rangers Bears, memories from the war and a quiz about football team names.

It was great to see just how much this activity helped to make those who came along open up. What was also evident was the amazing camaraderie and how the youngest members were supported by older members, first timers by seasoned regulars.

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Sporting memories groups are also not just great social activities, but have been really positive activities for people with dementia. The Sporting Memories Network even won Best National Dementia Friendly Initiative in 2014 by Alzheimer’s Society.

As Norrie and his colleague Margo were tidying up, they told me more about how the group works. They really emphasised how they couldn’t keep running the group without their valued volunteers. So if you love sport and are looking for a really rewarding volunteer opportunity check out www.sportingmemoriesnetwork.com to see what groups are operating close by.

Now & Next: Planning for later life with Age Scotland

Age Scotland’s chief exec Brian Sloan explains why to truly love later life, you have to be prepared, as we launch our new brand for those aged 50-65.


 

“You get training at every stage in life except for retirement”. This was the opening line by Helen, a volunteer who was running a Planning for Your Future workshop, and around the room you could see the sentiment resonating.

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You go to school to train for college or work. Once in work, you never stop training to keep abreast of health and safety, company policy or any of the myriad of ways that help you to do your job. Yet when you retire, you’re given your leaving present and off you go. For most people, this means going from a structured 40 hour week to absolutely nothing; you’ve looked forward to retirement for years, now off you go and do it. Yet retirement isn’t a thing you can just do, and that’s where Age Scotland can help.

In July 2014, the former Scottish Pre-retirement Council and the Tayside Pre-retirement Council joined forces with Age Scotland. Since then, we have been offering Planning for Your Future workshops aimed at the 50-65 age demographic. It might be a bit of a stretch to get your head around but an older people’s charity was after a younger demographic! Up until that point, Age Scotland was seen as a charity for the over 65s, but to truly love later life then you need to start planning well before then. So we gave the format a revamp to make it more interactive, relevant and thought provoking for today’s 21st century 50-65 year old and created Now & Next as the brand identity to speak to this audience.

Now and Next

When I’ve been along to workshops, I hear so many people say they that they had hopes for retirement but were not sure how to achieve them. And whilst these workshops can’t promise to make your dreams come true, they can at least help you plan a course of action to achieving them. Whether it is financial, legal or health goals, if you only start planning the day before you retire you’re setting yourself up for a fall.

Helen is one of the volunteers that helps to facilitate the "Planning for Later Life" workshops.

Helen is one of our volunteers that helps to facilitate the “Planning for Later Life” workshops. Click here to find out more.

What’s more important is that planning for later life is not just about you. Living a balanced, happy and healthy retirement means you can improve the quality of life of those around you. Looking after grandkids, supporting your children or giving back to your community, later life should be the time you do what you want to do, so get on and plan it! If you want to know more about Now & Next visit our website, nowandnext.scot or watch Helen’s story (above). She’s one of the many volunteers who run our workshops, someone who has learned from the mistakes she made by not planning more carefully in advance and wants to help others step positively into their next life stage.


 

If you would like to find out more about Now and Next or the Planning for Later Life courses, just contact Stacey Kitzinger on stacey.kitzinger@agescotland.org.uk or call 0333 32 32 400.