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.

 

 

 

Quality Matters – Our 2016 National Conference

On Wednesday 16th March invited guests and representatives from over 300 Age Scotland member groups came together for our 2016 National Conference.

Attendees travelled from across Scotland to take part in the conference held at Perth Concert Hall. It was a fantastic day with much discussion about what we mean by quality of life in later life. Read on for a round up of the day. 


 

Morning Session: Care Homes, Creativity and Urban Planning

Our conference chair, award-winning journalist Pennie Taylor, kicked off the day by posing two questions to the room: When is life good? When is it not so good?MMB_1377

Answers ranged from thought-provoking to funny to poignant and it was clear that quality of life means different things to different people.

Here’s just some examples of the hundreds of responses we received:

goodnotsogood

We were then joined by our guest speakers. First up we had Fiona Cook, Facilitator at my Home Life Scotland discussing quality of life in care homes. Fiona introduced My Home Life Scotland and its’ work to improve quality of life in care homes for those who live in, work in and visit care homes.

We were then joined by Andrew Crummy – Community Artist and Designer of the Great Tapestry of Scotland. Andrew argued that regardless of age, everyone is creative and has something to say, and went on to describe how art can bring communities together and improve quality of life for everyone.

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(L-R) Professor Greg Lloyd, Fiona Cook and Andrew Crummy take questions from the audience

Lastly Greg Lloyd – Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning joined us from Ulster University. Professor Lloyd provided a fascinating overview of how urban planning and our environment can directly impact our quality of life. He went on to consider how we may be able to play a more active role in planning in the future to ensure a better quality of life in later life.

Our speakers got the room thinking and we had many attendees posing further questions and ideas to the speakers and wider floor. You can watch footage from the live stream of the guest speakers and subsequent discussion here.

Afternoon Session: Workshops, Award Winners and Eddi Reader

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An attendee laughs taking part in the “Looking after you” workshop

After some lunch and further opportunity to visit our information stalls, many attendees headed into one of our interactive workshops. We had five in total on a range of topics
related to quality of life, including Men’s’ learning and well being, spirituality and looking after you.

 

 

Attendees then came back together to commence the Age Scotland awards. The awards celebrate individuals and groups that are doing great work for older people in their local community. It was certainly a tough year for the judges, with many quality entries. As our chief executive Brian Sloan said, we would love to have given everyone an award, but there can only be one winner!

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Eddi Reader presents Lynn Benge with the Volunteer of the Year Award.

Our winners are listed below. Click on the links to watch a 2-3 minute video about the great work they did that earned them the award.

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Award-winning singer and songwriter Eddi Reader joined us to present the awards and rounded off the conference with a fantastic performance that had the whole concert hall singing along.

It was a great day full of discussion and debate about what we can do collectively to improve quality of life for those in later life.

What do you think has the biggest impact on quality of life? What could be done to improve quality of life in Scotland? Tell us in the comments below!

All images featured in this post by Mihaela Bodlovic

Amy and Douglas’ Adventure

Age Scotland’s Events and Community Fundraiser Amy Telford tells us about her recent visit to some of our member groups with Community Development Officer for the East of Scotland – Douglas MacNaughtan. 


Hello everyone! This guest blog follows on from my recent ‘Day Out With Douglas’ blog, where I told you about our visit to Age Scotland member group, Age Concern Cupar. Have a wee scroll down if you missed it and would like to catch up.

After a lovely visit with Age Concern Cupar, we hopped back in the car and drove to St Andrew’s, where we were lucky enough to visit HayDays Fife. They were having their summer concert, a highlight of group’s event calendar. It’s their last event before they break for the summer, which some groups do (although many run throughout the year).

HayDays take over the town hall every Tuesday. They have a large choir and hold lots of wonderful activities, everything from bridge to curling, even yoga! The choir were performing at the concert and they were great. They sang some lovely songs, but also some funny ones, such as their own rendition of The Jeely Piece Song. It was clear from watching them all that they get a lot out of attending HayDays. They have formed their own community and it was wonderful to see.

HayDays Concert

It struck me that this is what life should be like for everyone when we are older. We should all have fun and friendship in our later years. Sadly for some it’s not always possible, but if anything this motivates me as a Fundraiser and it makes me proud to work for a charity that helps combat loneliness and isolation for older people.

After the concert we headed off to East Neuk Lunch Club, another member group of Age Scotland. They are far smaller than HayDays and they meet in a tiny village hall. There were only eight ladies there, along with their Project Officer Ruby and volunteer, Daisy.

Douglas and Ladies - East Neuk Frail Elderly Project

I had a nice chat with all of the ladies and when I asked them what they liked best about coming along to group meetings, they were all in agreement: “Company…and food!” They love their chats and lunches.

One lady said: “We’re all from the same Sheltered Housing. A bus comes and picks us up, to bring us here, or perhaps to café where we all have lunch together. They spoil us here. They go out of their way.” It was lovely to hear about the fantastic work that Ruby and team do for these ladies. It’s clear that their work is incredibly important for the community

.Ladies at East Neuk Frail Elderly Project

It was getting on so Douglas and I had to leave for Edinburgh, but I had really enjoyed my day. It was great to see what a brilliant support Douglas is to our member groups in the East and I’m really looking forward to getting “out and about” with some of our other Community Development Officers. It was also really interesting to see how our grants programme has helped some of our member groups, and the great variety of groups we have. Large or small, all of our member groups play such an important role in helping older people to Love later life and they should all be celebrated.


If you’d like to find out more about how to support the work of Age Scotland please do contact the Fundraising team on 0333 323 2400 or fundraising@agescotland.org.uk for materials and lots of support. You too can help everyone to love later life.

Visiting our Member Groups – A day out with Douglas

Age Scotland’s Events and Community Fundraiser Amy Telford tells us about her recent visit to some of our member groups with Community Development Officer for the East of Scotland – Douglas MacNaughtan. 


In my role as Events and Community Fundraiser, I’m really keen to get out into communities, meeting with supporters and volunteers, but also getting to know some of our wonderful member groups. Recently, I was lucky enough to spend a day out with Douglas MacNaughtan to do just that.

Amy - Age Scotland's Events and Community Fundraisers

Amy Telford – Age Scotland’s Events and Community Fundraisers

Age Scotland has over 1,000 member groups across the country and we offer a small grants programme that they can apply to annually. This could be to fund a day trip in the summer, for a group of older people who don’t get out of their houses very much; or it could be to help organise a festive party in a care home at Christmas, or even Halloween! We also provide small grants to fund things like equipment, or to help upgrade a facility that the group members use for their meetings.

However, another of the really important things we do for our member groups, is the direct support on offer from our fantastic team of Community Development Officers.

I met Douglas just over the Forth Road Bridge at Ferry Toll, where we started our adventure. Our first visit was to Age Concern Cupar. Douglas told me that we have a very close relationship with this group. Just last year, for example, Age Scotland provided the group with a grant of £1,248, to help buy some comfortable chairs for the day centre. Some of the members were finding it difficult to visit as often as they’d like, as the chairs needed replaced urgently.

Age Concern in Cupar

Age Concern in Cupar

Aside from being able to help the group with small grants, Douglas has worked very closely with them for a number of years – almost 20 in fact! He introduced me to Anne Ronaldson, who is the Manager at the day centre and has worked there for 21 years. It is clear that Anne and her team are doing a fabulous job and with limited funding too. Douglas helped them to organise an Open Day about a year ago, which helped them to increase their core funding; a great example of the important work our Development Officers do.

Amy, Bett and Marlene

Amy, Bett and Marlene

The group is for anyone aged 55+ and their oldest member is 100. They play dominos and bingo, and they hold “TV and ice cream” sessions and quizzes. I spoke to group member, Marlene Melton, who said: “It’s a great way to meet people and it’s the best thing I ever did coming here.” Her friend, Bett Ainslie, told me that she also loves coming along and has attended the group for over 17 years.

After having a lovely chat with Marlene and Bett, I went over to speak group member, Jane Russell, who was busy knitting a snazzy pair of socks. She was clearly a talented knitter because when I admired her jumper, she told me that she’d knitted that too! Jane lives on her own and she really enjoys coming to the day centre. She lost her husband two years ago, so it’s been great for her to meet new friends. She went on the group’s recent trip to Ireland, which sounds amazing! She has also really enjoyed that last two Christmas parties.

Jane knitting away

Jane knitting away

Douglas pointed out that I was having far too nice a time chatting, as we had to get to our second visit of the day. He took me to HayDays Fife, which was a whole new and wonderful experience. Look out for my next guest blog to hear a little more about that and also the third group we visited.


If you’d like to find out more about how to support the work of Age Scotland please do contact the Fundraising team on 0333 323 2400 or fundraising@agescotland.org.uk for materials and lots of support. You too can help everyone to love later life.

An extended Family

We went to visit Age Scotland member group Broomlands and Bourtreehill Age Concern.to find out more about what they do and how important it is for them to be able to provide transport for the community.

Age Scotland is calling for a long term strategy for community transport, backed by increased and more sustainable funding. This is necessary to ensure the lives of older people who are unable to access suitable public transport aren’t blighted by loneliness, and by the negative health impacts associated with it and have the opportunity to love later life.

Follow our Still Waiting Campaign

Find out more about the Scottish Government’s recent award of £1million grant money for minibusses.