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

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.

Putting dementia on the workplace agenda

Dementia can affect any workplace – but if and when it does, how likely are employers and employees to respond in the right way?  Since joining our Early Stage Dementia team in April Doug Anthoney has been working to ensure Scotland’s workplaces are dementia aware.   Here’s the story so far.


“If one of your employees had dementia – would they tell you?” That’s the question we posed to the twenty employers taking part in a dementia awareness training taster day in May.  Only a handful were able to say “yes”.  This needs to change.

The case for putting dementia on the workplace agenda is clear.  Our population is ageing, state pension age is rising, and employers no longer have the power to force retirement at age 65.  Which means that more of us will experience the first symptoms of dementia at work, and more of us will be juggling work with caring for someone who has dementia.  In dementia unaware workplaces employees affected by the condition are more likely to be shown the door than compassion, and employers run increased risks: of quality and safety problems; legal non-compliance; and needlessly lost staff skills and experience.

Raising awareness in workplaces wasn’t in our original Early Stage Dementia project plan.  But calls to Silver Line Scotland and comments by employers to our Now & Next pre-retirement training team highlighted a need and a demand.  We were delighted when project funder Life Changes Trust accepted our case for an additional focus on workplaces.

My first task was to research the links between dementia and employment matters.  Two things helped immensely:  new findings on Dementia and the Workplace from the University of the West of Scotland and Heriot Watt University, and training materials already designed for raising the dementia awareness of Age Scotland member groups. Given this head start I was able to offer two half-day training workshops from late May: a general dementia awareness session for everyone in the workplace; and a specialist session for human resources staff and managers.  So far I’ve delivered workshops to employers including Stirling Council, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, SSE, Horsecross, Cohesion Medical and Glasgow Caledonian University, with really positive feedback.

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I’ve also prepared five dementia aware tips for employers and a workplace dementia awareness display kit comprising display boards and flyers.  This is free for employers that book our workplace training, and we’ll be handing out kits to trade union reps at a conference we’re planning jointly with STUC and Alzheimer Scotland at the end of September.  Also in the pipeline is an Age Scotland guide to dementia in the workplace, which will be free to training participants.  We’d also like to develop video resources in which people living with dementia explain to employers what support would have helped them.

Could your workplace benefit from what we’re offering?  You can find out more at www.yourbrainyourjob.scot and get in touch at ESDteam@agescotland.org.uk.

 

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