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 placer 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.

isa 3

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’.

Age Scotland logo, Scottish War Blinded logo, Action on Hearing Loss logo

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.




Three top tips to stay warm and well

Age Scotland Energy Rights Officer Callum Boath, has been travelling across Scotland giving our member groups advice on how to stay warm whilst also reducing your fuel bills in the winter months. In his guest blog he shares his three top tips to keeping warm and well.

With the winter now well and truly upon us it’s important that we know what we are entitled to, where we can ask for support and, probably most importantly, reduce our fuel bills!

It’s quite amazing how much has changed over the last few decades. Our energy is set to be monitored in a new way with smart meters, our electricity is now being generated in part by renewable technologies and there’s a plethora of new energy suppliers on the market. Yes, long gone are the days of getting our gas from the Gas Board and electricity from the Electric Board. There are now almost 30 energy suppliers on the market and that number is only set to increase.

So, what are we entitled to and who do we speak to to get it? Here are three top tips.

Make sure you are getting the best deal

It is said that changing energy supplier could save people anywhere between £100 and £300 a year. However, with their being so many suppliers on the market, trying to get in contact with them would be a part time job! You could try online, but some people aren’t that way inclined and don’t feel comfortable giving personal information online. So, what do you do? We would normally encourage people to check with Citrus Energy, an impartial switching service based in Scotland. They offer free advice and also switch you over the phone and send all of the information through the post. If you want to give them a call for a chat you can get them on 0800 221 8089.

Check if you are eligible for extra support

Check if you’re eligible for the Warm Homes Discount. This could be £140 off of your electricity bill during the winter and often people are unaware of they are eligible for it. Not every supplier offers it but, if they do, and you receive pension credits, you should receive it automatically. There’s also the chance you can receive it if your income is under £16,100 and you are spending over 10% of your income on your energy. There are several ways to be eligible for it so contact your energy supplier or contact Citrus Energy who will try and pair you with a supplier who offers it.

Ensure your heating is up to scratch

Is your home cold and draughty? Was your heating system in with the bricks? It’s always difficult making the decision to change an old heating system because of how expensive it is but it could be that you’re eligible for support in changing it for a new one. You can contact Home Energy Scotland who are a free and impartial advice service who will let you know if you are eligible for any funding or grants from the Scottish Government. We’ve all had the cold calls offering us free heating systems but Home Energy Scotland will give you the correct advice. They can be contacted on 0808 808 2282.

All of these savings to be made without even changing a lightbulb to an LED one! But if you’d like more advice about simple ways to reduce your fuel bills and just have a general chat you can give the Age Scotland Helpline a call on 0800 12 44 222 and we’d be more than happy to discuss it with you.

The Warm and Well project offers to come out to groups of people to deliver a session about how to make your money go a little further in the winter and what people could be entitled to. If you’d like to arrange one of these session contact warmandwell@agescotland.org.uk

Preparing for cold weather

Cold weather alerts are issued by the Met Office when the winter weather is most likely to significantly impact people’s health. The Met Office’s cold weather alerts are a way of warning about cold weather conditions in advance – so you can take extra precautions to keep safe and well.

Make sure you’re prepared with these simple steps

1. Keep an eye on the weather forecast. It’s good to know what to expect so you can plan ahead.

2. If bad weather is forecast, make sure you have everything you need. Order any repeat prescriptions in plenty of time and check you’ve got enough medication. Stock up on food to keep in the cupboards or freezer in case the weather makes it harder to leave the house.

3. Take extra care if the ground is slippery. Wear shoes with good grip and consider keeping salt and sand mixture handy to grit paths. You could always ask your neighbours for help to clear paths or driveways clear in bad weather – the vast majority of people are more than happy to help.

4. Try to avoid driving in bad weather if at all possible, and make sure you follow advice on driving conditions near you. If you do need to go out, make sure you keep blankets, some snacks, water and a shovel in the car in case you get stuck. Make sure these are easy for you to access – supplies aren’t much use if they are in the boot and you can’t get to them!

5. Cold weather can sometimes result in power cuts. Have a torch at home in case of a power cut (and don’t forget to check the batteries!) It’s also worth making sure any mobile phones, laptops or tablets are fully charged. You should report a power cut by calling 105.

For more information about keeping well in the Winter months, view our Warm and Well guide.


Help Age Scotland become Edinburgh Airport’s chosen Charity for 2019!

We have some very exciting news – Age Scotland has been shortlisted to be Edinburgh Airport’s chosen charity for 2019!

If Age Scotland wins this partnership, funds raised by Edinburgh Airport will enable us to significantly develop our Community Connecting service, which works to draw older people from the isolation of their homes.  The service typically offers support and encouragement to older people who’ve lost a sense of purpose and social interaction since retiring, or through bereavement – helping them to take small steps initially to re-engage with others in their community, improving wellbeing.  We match individuals to activities based on their needs and preferences, facilitate introductions, and provide encouragement until their confidence grows. This important service helps individuals integrate back into their local community which significantly reduces feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

The partnership would also help us to raise awareness of Age Scotland as an organisation and the range of support we offer over 50s across Scotland. Our mission is to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow older. From our Independent Living Programme to the Age Scotland Helpline, from dedicated Early Stage Dementia and Older Veterans projects to our work with employers to create Age Inclusive Workplaces, we are doing a lot but with this partnership, we can do so much more.

Between now and the 10th of December Edinburgh Airport staff are being asked to vote for the charity they want to support during 2019 – and the charity with the most votes wins. This is a fantastic opportunity for Age Scotland as an organisation and we need your help to win.

It’s really easy.

Work for Edinburgh Airport? Please consider voting for Age Scotland.

Know someone who works for Edinburgh Airport? Encourage them to vote for Age Scotland.

No connection to the airport? You can still help! By sharing our social media posts across your network you can help spread the word about this fantastic opportunity. We’ll be working to gather support across Twitter, Facebook and Linkedinso please keep a look out.

Thank you for your support!

Banks should think again about closing branches

The theme from Sandra White MSP’s debate yesterday in the Scottish Parliament about the latest round of closures, this time from the Bank of Scotland was clear. MSPs, and the public, are getting fed up of closures and feel that banks don’t really care about the needs of all their customers.

Bank branches across Scotland have been closing at an alarming rate. In the last seven years, the number of bank branches in Scotland has reduced by a third. While many people now do their banking online, it’s too easy for banks to forget that not everyone uses the internet or feels confident banking online.

Indeed, 37% of people over the age of 60 in Scotland do not use the internet – the equivalent to the size of Edinburgh’s population at 500,000. This is hardly an insubstantial number of people.

In pushing ahead with branch closures and the relentless push to digital services, banks are at risk of alienating a huge chunk of the Scottish population – not just older people.

Older people tell us that bank branches are important to them. It came through loud and clear at a town hall event Age Scotland ran with the Bank of England earlier in the year.

They tell us that they prefer having a face-to-face conversation about their finances with a real person. And as older people are more likely to be targeted for scams, they feel that having the ability to speak to someone and show them what their concerns are is important. It’s also a way to ensure that banks are fully aware of all attempts of fraud and scams affecting their customers.

People shouldn’t be disadvantaged for making the choice to bank offline.

One caller to the Age Scotland Helpline told us that after forgetting her account password, a telephone advisor told her she would have to “pop in” to her nearest branch. The only problem was that she lived in rural Perthshire and the closest one involved a journey of almost two hours on two different buses

Not only do we have a rapidly ageing population in Scotland, the number of people living with dementia is also predicted to rise by 50% in the next 20 years. It can be hard for those living with dementia, and have control of their own financial affairs, to use tele and digital services, remember passwords and follow these conversations on the phone. Moreover, for those with hearing or sight loss a lack of access to a branch can be very difficult indeed.

Creating age-friendly banking support is vital to future-proofing Scotland. You can read more about age-friendly banking here – Age UK’s Age Friendly Banking Report

It’s important for banks to look for innovative solutions and not just take the easy route of closures. Crucially, when making decisions impacting the access to services, banks should ask their customers what they need and about the challenges they face.

We believe that banks should be bolder and think differently about how they offer face to face services to customers when they are considering closing branches. Shared banking hubs for smaller communities, suburbs and rural areas is gathering support from older people and politicians across Scotland. This also includes shared brand mobile branches that have reliable telecommunications, are designed appropriately for all customers including those with disabilities and all weathers and are open for a sufficient amount of time at each location to support people with limit mobility.

The Bank of Scotland could prove people wrong and think again before pressing ahead with these closures.

The Art of Intelligent Ageing: Portraits of the Lothian Birth Cohort

In June 1932 and 1947, almost all 11-year-olds across Scotland undertook a test of their thinking skills, giving us a comprehensive account of the intelligence of Scotland’s children born in 1921 and 1936. Decades later, researchers at the University of Aberdeen and Edinburgh rediscovered these tests and spotted a rare chance to study the factors that influence lifetime cognitive ageing. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, led by Professor Ian Deary, contacted those who had sat the tests and still lived in Edinburgh and the Lothians, and in doing so formed the Lothian Birth Cohorts (LBCs), which are now among the most important studies of ageing anywhere in the world. Members of the LBCs have been followed up since 1999; they have been assessed on many cognitive tests, they have taken part in brain scans, they have undergone many blood-based tests including genetic tests, and have carried out questionnaires on their social and family lives.

A Lothian Birth Cohort reunion in 2017

A Lothian Birth Cohort reunion in 2017

The Art of Intelligent Ageing: Portraits of the Lothian Birth Cohorts by Fionna Carlisle is a unique art exhibition set to honour this remarkable group of people who have contributed so much to health research.JohnScott Exhibit logo

Fionna Carlisle is a renowned portrait artist and a former student of the Edinburgh College of Art. She has painted many of Scotland’s famous faces, including Alex Salmond, former leader of the Scottish National Party and the late MP Robin Cook. Fionna, who hails from Caithness, is an internationally recognised artist and splits her time between Crete and Edinburgh. She spent over four years painstakingly detailing some of the LBCs’ participants and researchers using her signature style of colourful, bold brushstrokes.

Alongside the paintings are scientific treasures from the LBCs, including a 3D-printed brain and laser-etched crystal block of the brain of one LBC member, John Scott. A special portrait of Nobel-prize winning physicist Peter Higgs – who also took part in an Edinburgh study of ageing – will also be on display. He took part in a cognitive ageing study that was a forerunner of the LBCs.

Fionna Carlisle said, “The camera is instant whereas the artist listens and studies the sitters to gradually build a human picture. With these paintings I wanted to filter age and show the youth and spirit of the older sitters as people who have real bodies and limbs, spirit and life.”

Professor Ian Deary said, “The Lothian Birth Cohorts have encouraged my scientific team to scour their minds, bodies, and histories to build rich and valuable accounts of their negotiating the whips and scorns of time.”

The exhibition is curated by Duncan Thomson, former Director at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and is free to visit. It will run on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 27 October to 24 November at the Fire Station, Edinburgh College of Art.

Let’s celebrate those making a difference in your community

Every day in communities across Scotland there are individuals making a positive difference to the lives of older people. Whether it be through volunteering, running local groups and services or campaigning for change, these dedicated individuals put their time and effort into making sure the older people in their local communities and beyond can love later life.

We believe the dedication of these inspiring individuals deserves to be recognised. Cue the Age Scotland Awards!

Celebrating those making a difference

Each of our award winners has a short film produced about them and is invited to our National Conference to receive their award after a showing of the film. Previous guest awards presenters have included BBC Broadcaster and Journalist Jackie Bird and Singer-Songwriter Eddi Reader.

The 2019 awards will be presented at the Age Scotland National Conference, held in March at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow.

The 2019 award categories

Our Jess Barrow Award for Campaigning and Influencing recognises political or awareness-raising campaigns that have made an impact on the lives of older people. Our 2018 winner was Walking Football Scotland in recognition of their nationwide campaigning to get more people moving by playing a walking version of the beautiful game.


The Patrick Brooks Award for Best Working Partnership is for partnership working between two or more organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to addressing the needs of older people. The 2018 award recognised the fantastic work between the Health and Social Care Partnership and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Podiatry Service in the running of Toe to toe footcare. The service is helping older people access foot care services that would not otherwise be available and the chance to have a chat with the practitioner means service users can be referred to other services quickly and efficiently.


Our Services for Older People Award recognises an individual or group who have provided an innovative service run by, or on behalf of, older people which has addressed the issue of loneliness and isolation and/or improved health and wellbeing in later life. For the 2018 award, Roar – Connections for Life impressed the judges with their huge range of services from keep fit classes to fall prevention efforts to dancing and lunch.


The Age Scotland Member Group of the Year Award recognises a member group whose activities have championed the needs of older people and had a profound impact on their members. Dalbeattie Men’s Shed won the award for 2018. The Shed provides a comfortable space for men to congregate, enjoy some banter and put their skills to good use (or learn new ones!).


Our Volunteer of the Year Award celebrates a volunteer who has championed a group or organisation to benefit the lives of other older people or on behalf of older people. In 2018 we congratulated Gladys Cruickshank who runs the Alford Car Transport Service. Coordinating 30 volunteers, the service Gladys runs has helped thousands of people get to medical appointments and other commitments since 1999.


Lastly, we have the Age Scotland Inspiration Award. Our inspiration award is open to both individuals and groups – celebrating either an inspiring older person or a group who has supported or enabled older people to love later life. In 2018 we celebrated Mary Walls of Kirkcaldy. She inspires so many people with her warmth, her kindness, her caring attitude and her determination to see older people in Kirkcaldy lead an enjoyable later life.


We also had a group winner in 2018 – the Scone and District 50 Plus group. The group offers a huge number of activities, tackling loneliness and isolation and letting people learn new skills and meet new friends.


Feeling Inspired?

Do you know a local champion, group, or service doing amazing things? Nominate them today!

The deadline for nominations is Friday 30th November. Find out more about how to nominate at www.agescotland.org.uk/awards