The Big Knit is back!

Striped, spotty, glittery…it’s that time of year again where we receive bags full of little woolen hats of all shapes, sizes and colours. Yes, that’s right – the Big Knit is back! We have already received close to 20,000 hats and are so grateful to everyone who has taken part in the campaign so far. The final deadline is the 31st July 2019 so we are really excited to see what other wonderful creations we receive!

Many of our ‘Big Knit knitters’ are Age Scotland member groups and we’d like to shine a spotlight on them and the amazing things they do. One of these member groups is Forever Young, based in Renfrewshire. It is a sheltered housing group that does a wide variety of activities such as keep fit, coffee mornings and of course, knitting! Residents have been meeting over a cup of coffee and nattering away while creating some beautiful designs.

Last year the group knitted over 2000 hats for the campaign, with many residents becoming competitive over who could knit the most! This year they are back it again, having already knitted a fabulous 1900 hats, with the aim to knit over 3000! If the competitive streak of the resident’s is similar to last year, we are sure they will smash that target.

Forever Young’s group coordinator is Sally Logan. Sally’s mother is a member of the group, joining last year after suffering a stroke. For those living on their own in sheltered accommodation, groups like Forever Young give them the chance to socialize and reduce feelings of isolation. Sally told us that knitting hats for the Big Knit gave her mum focus and stopped her from sitting in on her own.

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Nessie, a member of Forever Young, has knitted over 1500 hats so far!

Think about it this way, would you want to spend most of your time sitting alone in your room or would you rather have a wee blether with Mary from three doors down about who got kicked out the Rovers Return this week? We’re sure it’s the latter so, if you knit or know anyone who does please get involved with this year’s Big Knit Campaign! You can have a chat and a cuppa while making some lovely little hats that will ultimately help support groups like Forever Young across Scotland.

 


Find out more about the Big Knit on the Age Scotland website

If you know anyone in the Renfrewshire area who would like to get join Forever Young, contact them on 01505 328864 or email Sally at sally.logan@renfrewshire.gov.uk

 

Networking, Inspiration and Celebration: Age Scotland’s fifth National Conference

2018 was Age Scotland’s 75th anniversary and through our ‘Speaking Up For Our Age’ project we learned a lot about the fantastic efforts of local and national older people’s groups and organisations in Scotland over the years. Looking back, a number of themes stand out as having been important to older people and continue to matter to us today. These themes – Homes, Health and Happiness – were the topics for discussion at our 2019 National Conference.

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Professor Rose Gilroy said we should demand better housing as poor housing has a detrimental effect on our welbeing.

We were delighted to welcome Age Scotland members and guests to the Radisson Blu in Glasgow for a day of discussion, networking and celebration. In the morning we had three fascinating presentations. First, we had Professor Rose Gilroy from the department of Ageing, Planning and Policy at Newcastle University, who shared how our housing stock has changed over the years and the impact it has on our wellbeing. Professor Gilroy went on to say that our housing options should not be determined by our age and that we need housing that works for all age groups.

We then had Dr William Bird MBE, Founder and Chief Executive of Intelligent Health, who spoke passionately about the difference being active makes to your physical and mental health. Dr Bird went on to explain how combining physical activity and being socially active can be life-changing and told us about the role of social prescribing in getting communities active.

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“Most people don’t become healthy for health’s sake. Combining physical activity and being socially active makes all the difference.” – Dr William Bird MBE

We were then joined by Dr Melrose Stewart, Lecturer at the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham who shared some heart-warming stories from her work on the award-winning Channel 4 TV documentary ‘Old Peoples Home for 4 Year Olds’. Dr Stewart spoke about how intergenerational practices not only encourage empathy and tackle ageism, but also make a big difference to our well being and encouraged all of us to foster intergenerational bonds in our communities.

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Dr Melrose Stewart was one of the experts that worked on the award-winning Channel 4 TV documentary ‘Old Peoples Home for 4 Year Olds’.

We broke for a delicious lunch and had a little unexpected excitement when the fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate! It didn’t dampen our spirits though and when we given the all clear by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service we returned for our afternoon workshops and a browse of the exhibition stalls.

The conference culminated in the presentation of the 2019 Age Scotland Awards. The Awards recognise and celebrate the exceptional commitment and contribution of individuals and organisations working to ensure Scotland is a great place to grow old in and we were shown a short film about each winner. It was wonderful to hear about the fantastic work going on in communities across Scotland. You can watch each of the films on the Age Scotland YouTube channel.

This year’s awards were presented by special guest Anita Manning who congratulated our winners on their efforts and also remarked what an incredible energy the wider conference had.

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Antique expert and TV Presenter Anita Manning joined us as a special guest for the Age Scotland Awards

This year’s conference was our biggest yet and it will be a tough act to follow. We would like to thank all our members, invited guests and speakers for joining us and making it such a fantastic day.


Find out more about becoming an Age Scotland member.

MILAN is a part of my life

As part of Age Scotland’s Speaking Up for Our Age project marking 75 years of older people’s groups and organisations in Scotland, Milan Social Welfare Organisation in Edinburgh organised a special event for members, staff and supporters to celebrate their history and their work today.

Milan means friendly meeting place and started in 1991 providing day care, educational and social activities and information advice for older members of the Bangladeshi, Indian, Mauritian and Pakistani communities in Edinburgh and Lothians.  The word is common to the languages of all four communities.   Over the years the charity has grown to also provide company and support to older people who are housebound and isolated, and a space for informal carers to have some quality time outwith their caring role.

Mrs Farooq is one of the founders of Milan.  Born in India before partition, Mrs Farooq moved to Edinburgh in 1968 to join her husband who was an automobile engineer working with Ford. In the late 1980s she helped to set up Shakti Women’s Aid to support black and minority ethnic women and children experiencing domestic abuse and also started a number of Asian women’s groups in the city with support from the Council’s Community Education Service and other voluntary organisations in the city.

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Representatives of MILAN accepting the 2014 Age Scotland ‘Services for Older People’ Award

“We started women’s groups in community centres, in the Southside of Edinburgh and Leith Walk, and by managing those women’s groups we realised that there were older people who had nowhere to go.  The parents were living with the families of the women we were working with.  The name Milan means place for a meeting. We thought that there is a need for Milan – where the older people can meet.  At first it was for one day, then we made it three days.  The Tuesday and Wednesday groups are mixed groups but the Thursday group is especially for very old people and people who are vulnerable, who use wheelchairs, and need more comfort and patience.  It is a very good idea to have this group on Thursdays.”

Part of the success of Milan is that from the very beginning the charity welcomed older people from across the Bangladeshi, Indian, Mauritian and Pakistani communities.  Mr Choudhry first joined the Milan Thursday lunch club three years ago on the recommendation of his sister, and now attends three days a week. As well as being able to eat a hot nutritious meal, he enjoys the varied activities, the games, the information talks on keeping healthy, the group walks and the trips, but the biggest difference he finds is the company.   “We open our hearts and listen to each other”, he explains.  Before attending the lunch club Mr Choudhry sat in the house focussing on his troubles and feeling stressed.  One of the recent additions to group activities is a garden plot where members are enjoying growing vegetables and herbs such as coriander for cooking.

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Mr Miah, Mr Choudhry, Mr Kapoor, and Mr Masih enjoy playing dominoes when they meet on Thursday

Older members who are unable to attend events and outings are not left out either, thanks to Mrs Mirza, a Milan member and volunteer.  For the past 15 years Mrs Mirza has been writing about Milan’s activities for the charity’s newsletter which is distributed regularly to members. It all started with a request to write about the holidays to Bradford and Liverpool organised by Milan. Mrs Mirza speaks several languages and writes in English, Urdu and Hindi languages and enjoys putting her skills to use so that as many members as possible can keep up with the news at Milan and remain connected to the charity when they are unable to join in some of the events.  “I live alone. I have nothing to do, just watching television all the time.  It’s better to come here and talk with friends.  Milan is a part of my life.”

All members are full of praise for the staff and volunteers.  The main challenge the charity faces is their need for better premises so that they can expand, open up spaces to people on the waiting list and run activities every weekday.

Milan has so much to be proud of and celebrate and members, volunteers and staff did so in style on 30th August 2018 at their Speaking Up for Our Age event.  There was a history display and quiz, music, dance, tasty food including Lentil Dahl (the popular dish from the 1990s) and a minute’s silence in memory of past members.


To find out more about MILAN, visit their wbeiste or call 0131 475 2307.

To find out more about becoming an Age Scotland member, visit our website, email our Community Development team at members@agescotland.org.uk

Weren’t born on the same day as your partner? Unlucky.

Blog by Age Scotland Policy Officer Ashleigh de Verteuil


Pension Credit is an important top up benefit for older people who are on a low pension income. It is already a massively under claimed entitlement with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimating that 40% of those eligible for pension credit don’t claim it.

But now changes by the UK Government to the eligibility criteria will see more older people unable to claim and become poorer as a result.

This is the bit where you, and your dearest’s, birthday matters. If you’re what is called a ‘mixed aged couple’, in other words one of you is of pensionable age and the other is younger than their state pension age, you will no longer be able to claim pension credit. What, you mean you don’t have the same birthday and birth year as your partner? Weird!

To make matters worse, the basic Pension Credit rate for a couple is currently £248.80 a week, and the basic Universal Credit rate for a couple is only £114.85 a week.

And I hate to add further insult to injury, but Pension Credit is a ‘passporting benefit’. This means that it acts as a qualifying benefit for other forms of assistance, but as you won’t be able to claim Pension Credit until you both are of pensionable age then you can’t claim them. This includes cold weather payments, maximum help with housing benefit, maximum help with Council Tax Reduction and you’ll also be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’, will not have access to claim social fund funeral payments, and may not be entitled to the warm home discount.

What are your options? Well you can either wait until the younger partner reaches their state pension age, or they can claim Universal Credit in the meantime as way to boost your joint income. This will mean they’ll be subjected to Universal Credit conditionality, for example, needing to prove that they are a carer, or that they’re seeking work for 35 hours a week, or that they’re not well enough to work. If you decide not to claim Universal Credit, and have no other income then you would be £133.95 a week worse off, potentially for several years.

This move is hugely unjust. With pensioner poverty on the rise, 29% of people aged 75 and over living on or just below the poverty line, and fuel poverty likely to increase.

The Age Scotland freephone helpline, which provides free information, friendship and advice is on hand to provide support to people over 50, their families, and carers. The changes for mixed aged couples won’t be introduced until May 15th 2019 so there is still time to start the Pension Credit claim process. This is something we can help with, call our helpline advisors and they can give you a free benefit check to see if you’re getting everything that you’re entitled to. In fact they can help with just about anything, they’re very knowledgeable- and friendly.

I implore you to call them, the changes to Pension Credit are a few months away and they can talk you through any entitlements you may be eligible for in great detail and how to claim them

If you’d also like to share your outrage about these changes, then we want to hear from you too. Sharing people’s real life stories is the best way to bring forward change so do get in touch with us.

Our helpline is free to call, and is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm on 0800 12 44 222.

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Computer Science and fighting loneliness: Meet Niamh

Student Volunteering Week (11-17th February) is a national celebration of the impact of student volunteers. Every year thousands of students engage in community life, tackle social and environmental challenges and support local causes through their volunteering. 

Meet Niamh – a 4th Year Computer Science student at Napier University – who volunteers with our Community Connecting service supporting older people to find and attend social activities in their local area. We asked Niamh to tell us about what she gets out of volunteering.


niamh volVolunteering is for everyone. There are infinite opportunities for people to get involved in and giving back can give you a great sense of fulfilment. Although your skills and time might help improve a group or service, it also boosts your own self-esteem and confidence. It’s a good feeling knowing you have made a difference.

I wanted to get involved with Age Scotland as wanted to give back to a similar service that my gran gets at home. Secondly, I wanted to do something outside of University. As a full time student, volunteering is a flexible solution that enables me to gain new skills while building on my existing abilities. I’m glad I can gain something from it while doing something worthwhile with my time, something that I wasn’t getting paid for.

Whilst university taught me a range of useful skills for the future, I believe it’s good to get some ‘real-life’ experience before getting a job. Volunteering has given me access to many training opportunities and has improved my telephone skills! I have gained so much confidence in talking to a wide variety of people and have learnt some useful tips for effective communication over the phone.


Visit the Age Scotland website to find out more about our community connecting service or volunteering opportunities.

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Studying psychology and tackling loneliness: Meet Hannah

Forget the stereotype of students doing nothing but partying, every year thousands of students are engaging in community life, tackling social and environmental challenges, supporting local causes and volunteering. Student Volunteering Week (11-17th February) is a national celebration of the impact of student volunteers.

Meet Hannah – a 4th Year Psychology student at Edinburgh University – who volunteers with our Community Connecting service supporting older people to find and attend social activities in their local area.


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Being in your fourth year at university, you must have a lot on your plate. Tell us a bit about why you volunteer.

Volunteering is valuable to me because just a few hours of my time every week can make such a positive difference to somebody’s day. Knowing that your phone call has made someone’s day just a little bit brighter is so rewarding.

I volunteer because I think it’s so important to stay connected with groups of people that I wouldn’t necessarily come across that often as a university student. I think that elderly people in particular can feel quite isolated in society due to technology advancing so quickly and everything going online, so I think volunteering at Age Scotland’s Community Connecting service is incredibly important to me because it allows me to find clubs and activities for our callers online, that they wouldn’t have known about if they didn’t have access to, or weren’t able to use the internet.

What do you feel you’ve gained from volunteering?

Feeling like I’ve made a positive difference to someone has definitely added value to my everyday life. It is, by far, one of the most rewarding experiences I have. In the future, I want to pursue a career as a Clinical Psychologist, and volunteering at Age Scotland has highlighted to me how important it is for everyone, particularly those who are older and more isolated, to have someone that they can trust and talk to, which has led to me deciding that I would like to offer free clinical services to elderly people in the future.


Visit the Age Scotland website to find out more about our community connecting service or volunteering opportunities.

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Ensuring older veterans are supported with sight and hearing loss

As people get older, sight and hearing may be affected as part of the natural ageing process. Sometimes though an older person will have worse problems with sight or hearing than might otherwise have been the case because of their military service.

Veterans who were exposed to loud noise from small arms fire, artillery, engines, other machinery or explosives are at particular risk of developing hearing loss. Research has found links between sight loss and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There is a wealth of support available specifically for veterans with sight and hearing loss but unfortunately many are missing out either because they are unaware it is available, or because they don’t realise they count as a veteran.

Anyone aged 65 years and older who has done and received pay for at least one day’s service in the UK Armed Forces is classed as an older veteran. That includes national servicemen, reservists and merchant navy who have supported a military operation.

Age Scotland has combined forces with Action on Hearing Loss and Scottish War Blinded to raise awareness among Scotland’s veterans of the need to act swiftly if they are having problems with their hearing or vision. Getting the right support in place can make a massive difference to someone’s quality of life.

Isa, age 88, first experienced sight loss problems in her mid-eighties. She said:

“It came on quite quickly. I just couldn’t see. It was as though there was something on my eyes, and I was rubbing them to try and get rid of it.”

A couple of weeks later she visited her GP and was referred to the Royal Alexandria Hospital, which diagnosed macular degeneration. A quick medical referral gave her answers about the causes of her condition, but little else. “After the hospital treatment I didn’t see anyone, and I was left to cope alone.”

The council sensory impairment team visited Isa and referred her to Scottish War Blinded. Over the following year she was visited by an Outreach Worker and benefited from home visits from the charity’s local rehabilitation officer, who provided guidance and a CCTV reader that enabled Isa to continue her hobby of knitting.

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Then Scottish War Blinded’s Hawkhead Centre opened in Paisley. “At first I thought it wasn’t for me, I told them I was too old. Now the Hawkhead drivers come and pick me up and drop me home again each week, which is great.”

She is involved with “everything”; from yoga, to art and crafts activities, to social music groups. “Around the house I’m fine, but I’m not confident to go outside on my own other than to the shop across the road so I love going to the centre. It’s smashing.”

With support from the centre’s Rehabilitation Officer she has also benefitted from equipment, including cup levels that enable her to make a cup of tea at home, and a talking watch to keep track of the time.

Getting the right support in place can make a huge difference – but sometimes it’s tricky to know where to start. Age Scotland have worked with Action on Hearing Loss Scotland and Scottish War Blinded to produce a new publication to help veterans find the support they are entitled to. You can download the guide below or request a free copy be posted to you by calling the Age Scotland helpline on 0800 12 44 222.

Download ‘Combating Sight and Hearing Loss – Advice for older people with a military service background’.

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Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s Hearing Forces project, Age Scotland and Scottish War Blinded are members of the ‘Unforgotten Forces’ Consortium which is a partnership between 15 leading organisations led by Poppyscotland which is delivering a range of new and enhanced services to older veterans.

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