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

Don’t fear the D word 

Dementia is a word that strikes terror in many.  And no wonder: newspapers regularly feature headlines that sensationalize the ‘misery’ of dementia ‘sufferers’.   Yet there is a growing number of people with dementia who are active as campaigners, and they reject such language as stigmatizing.  Instead, they call themselves people who are living with dementia.  In one survey more than two thirds said they were living well with dementia.

Does the way we talk about dementia matter?  Yes.  A recent survey of the general public by the Alzheimer’s Society asked: “if you had a physical symptom, would you see a doctor right away?”  60 per cent of the sample said they would.  However, asked whether they would see a doctor right away for a non-physical symptom, such as a memory problem, only 2 per cent said yes.  For many people, fear of discovering that they have dementia will keep them from talking to their GP.

It’s beneficial for people who are worried about their thinking to get it checked out as soon as possible.  They may learn that their symptoms aren’t caused by dementia.  Did you know that memory loss, the symptom most associated with dementia, can also be caused by other things such as stress, depression, infections, nutritional deficiencies and even lack of sleep?  Moreover, with around 100 types of dementia that can affect the brain in different ways, memory loss is not necessary the first sign.  The range of early dementia symptoms includes reading problems, difficulty judging distance, less fluency when speaking, and even becoming less kind and caring.  Because of this a diagnosis can take time to reach: other possible causes need to be ruled out.

Getting a diagnosis is worthwhile, as without it you won’t be able to get support to live well with dementia.  In Scotland everyone who receives a diagnosis is entitled to personalized support which, if their dementia is in its early stages, will be from a Dementia Link Worker.  Link Workers can help someone understand and adjust to their diagnosis, to plan for the future, and to get the support they need to live well with dementia.

That support can come from a range of sources, including other people with dementia, and opportunities to enjoy supported activities, from singing to sport.  Did you know that many of the things that help people to live well with dementia are the same as those that make it less likely someone will get dementia in the first place?  Physical exercise, eating well, staying within safe alcohol guidelines, stopping smoking, socialising and challenging the brain can all play a part.

Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia project offers free guide booklets on a wide range of dementia related topics.  You can request these from the Age Scotland Helpline: 0800 12 44 222.

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.

Unforgotten Forces 7

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.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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.

Unforgotten Forces logo-hi-res

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

Staying connected to live better with Parkinsons

Having a social life is not an optional extra – staying social helps us to stay well. And for the 11,000 or so people with Parkinson’s in Scotland this is particularly true.  We hear from Parkinsons UK in their guest blog on how they are supporting people in their communities.


Parkinson’s affects adults of all ages, but the overwhelming majority of people are aged over 65. Although often understood as a condition affecting movement, it impacts on every aspect of daily life, including talking, walking, swallowing and writing. Tiredness, pain, depression, dementia, compulsive behaviours and continence problems also have a huge impact.  

A lot of people find their Parkinson’s symptoms embarrassing. They report negative responses such as staring or being accused of being drunk. Mobility and mental health issues can also make it really challenging to get out and about.  

It’s no surprise that people with Parkinson’s become more isolated as their condition progresses, and that unpaid carers have limited opportunities to maintain their social networks.  

That’s why Parkinson’s UK supports over 40 local groups across Scotland, offering friendship and a range of activities to people affected by Parkinson’s. People tell us that they really want to meet with others in similar situations. Sharing experiences can “normalise” Parkinson’s and make it easier to enjoy socialising.  

Many of our local groups offer health and wellbeing activities. Exercise classes, dance, art and walking groups are popular, and we are looking at new ways to make sure that everyone with Parkinson’s in Scotland can access activities even if there isn’t a Parkinson’s group nearby.

Fife Walking Group

Fife Walking Group

We also offer self management courses for people with Parkinson’s and carers. We’ve already run these in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh, and we’ll be expanding this year.  

Our Local Advisors provide confidential one-to-one information and support. For people who are isolated, this is a real lifeline. We also run an online Forum, a telephone Buddying Service, and are developing face-to-face peer support.

Lanarkshire volunteers

Lanarkshire volunteers

But there is more to be done, and not just for people with Parkinson’s. Making it easy for people to stay connected must be a policy priority. We need to tackle underfunding in social care and support services like befriending, buddying schemes, and day centres.  We need to make our communities as accessible as possible for everyone.  

And most of all we need to confront Scotland’s fears around aging and illness. It’s great to hear the Scottish Government talking positively about older people as assets, but too often this agenda focusses on those who are in good health. Older people who need support must not be “disappeared”. The voices and experiences of older, frailer people – including disabled people and those with conditions like Parkinson’s – must be heard.  

For more information on Parkinson’s support in Scotland, go to www.parkinsons.org.uk/support or phone our free helpline on 0808 800 0303. 

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.