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.

 

 

 

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.

hiresstornowaytrust_4

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.”

Cunninghame - New Lanark

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.