Living active, living well

Jim Ferguson’s life was completely changed when he became more active. He met with our Chief Executive Brian Sloan to spread the word about how getting active can improve your quality of life, even for those living with a chronic condition. 

DSC_0598Jim is a former local councillor who volunteers with a number of groups affiliated with Age Scotland and has given regular, valued help to our Community Development team. Jim was referred to a physiotherapist by his GP after being diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. When he was a young boy he had contracted pneumonia and this left an infection in his lungs. As he turned 30 medics removed lobes within his lungs and now, at 75, he is living with the long term consequences of this.

After a few weeks of physio, Jim was asked if he’d like to be ‘prescribed’ a regular exercise class that would give him the support he needed to help his breathing moving forward. Jim jumped at the chance and was referred to Live Active Leisure in Perth.

Jim began his regular Referral Classes and a simple 12 week programme followed that is designed to help inactive adults with any of the following: depression or other mental health issues, weight problems, high blood pressure, muscular / skeletal conditions, neurological conditions and pulmonary conditions – including COPD, like Jim.

“I was sent to Live Active Letham and started the classes with young Marcin – he’s a great guy! I really did get a lot of encouragement and I feel I was pushed just a little bit more every time. It was a huge benefit being part of a class that worked to my level but that was small enough for us all to get the attention we needed to move us on.

“When you can’t breathe you’re restricted in lots of things; it’s that simple. As you get older you have less physical strength and finding a way to start things off at a suitable ability level and work from there is a great thing. It’s made a huge difference to my quality of life and that means it’s also a very good thing for my mental health. “I’m passionate that people keep mobile and as fit as they can at all ages. It’s about mind and body – you have to keep it all going!”

If you want to know more about get fit options in your area, call Silver Line Scotland on 0800 4 70 80 90. If you live in Perth and want to get active, visit

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 or visit our website

Food for Life Scotland – Bringing Generations Together

Good food is at the heart of happy, healthy communities, bringing people of all ages together. Soil Association Scotland’s Food for Life Scotland (FFLS) programme works to transform food culture and put good food on the menu, in the curriculum, and in all the places people live their daily lives.

In late 2015, FFLS set up an intergenerational project in Edinburgh which focuses on two settings – Inch View Care Home and Liberton High School. Both venues come under the management of the City of Edinburgh Council and both already have a commitment to good food through the Food for Life Catering Mark award.

When the idea of an intergenerational project was introduced, the school and the care home were enthusiastic. Both were keen to use the journey of their food –‘from soil to plate’ – as a basis for learning, sharing, and celebrating together.

Inch View polytunnel

Building a wheelchair-accessible polytunnel at Inch View has been one of the key projects. Volunteers helped with the construction and pupils from Liberton built its doors as part of their Craft Design & Technology work. Produce will be used in the home’s kitchen as ingredients for residents’ meals and scraps will also go to feed the home’s chickens.

Inch View chickens

As part of a dementia prevention project, Inch View decided to create a recipe book which involved residents reminiscing about childhood memories of food. The school’s art department ran a competition with S2 to design the cover, and pupils are now planning to produce the whole book, including illustrations.

In March 2016, a daffodil lunch was held at Liberton High School. Pupils from the school’s Food for Life Action Group worked with their school cook to look at nutrition for older people and consider what dishes they might like to eat. Pupils designed invitations, menus, prepared the tables and cooked up a fabulous range of dishes for their special guests from Inch View. Three generations sat down to eat together, sharing their experiences and getting to know each other.


Future events being planned include a strawberry tea and harvest event in autumn, as well as the on-going sharing of produce grown in Inch View’s polytunnel and the school’s raised beds. One pupil from Liberton has been inspired to consider a career in catering and another pupil who has expressed an interest in care work has been offered work experience at Inch View.

The project has been a real team effort, it’s a great example of generations working together and celebrating through food.

To find out more about Food for Life Scotland, please visit or email

Scams: Let’s end the stigma and end the silence

Guest blogger Peter Kirwan, Communications Officer at Neighbourhood Watch Scotland, calls for an end to the stigma surrounding being a victim of scams.

“In the whole of the United Kingdom you are the one and only Big Winner of the Bank Cheque for 20,500.00”

“There’s over £1.4 million pounds at stake and you’re a guaranteed winner”

In the UK we lose billions every year to scams just like these with half the people living in Britain having been targeted at some point in their lives. Often scam mailers are persuasive and target the more vulnerable members of society who are added to a “suckers list” when they have responded to one scam. Once on this list, they are targeted by yet more scammers and may receive up to a hundred letters a day.

Today I want to ask you to help end the silence and the stigma around these scams.

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland

End the Silence

Many of these messages tell the reader they are in line for some huge windfall (through inheritance, lottery, a get-quick-rich scheme and so on) but to claim this they must pay a fee or give bank details. Crucially they often advise the person reading them to “tell no one,” claiming that other people would be jealous or try to steal from them.

Widow Ann McCorquodale was conned and then bullied into spending £40 a week on useless vitamins from a company called Vitamail. She was told that she was guaranteed a pay out of £10,000 but to participate in the prize draw she needed to make a purchase from them. There was, of course, no prize. Over the weeks that followed she received more letters assuring her it was on its way. In total she spent £6,000.

So how did this go on for three years?

A key part of how Vitamail got away with this is that they persuaded her not to discuss the letters with friends or family. This is typical in such cases.

“I didn’t tell a soul about what was going on, not even my family, it was my secret. I felt horribly guilty.”

We need to talk with our friends and family about these scams to uncover the cases where this is going on so that what happened to Ann doesn’t happen to others. We need to end the silence because it only helps the scammers.

Stop the Stigma

When having these conversations with friends and family, it’s important to make it clear that you will not be angry or think them foolish. A lot of people targeted by such scammers feel ashamed at being “taken in” by the first scam and worry about the reaction of friends and family. This increases their isolation which is exactly what the scammers want.

““I feel so stupid and ashamed that I could have been sucked in by this scam

So that people like Ann do not become repeatedly targeted in this way we need to change the climate in which scams are discussed. The reason people like Ann feel ashamed is simple: society openly shames people like them on a regular basis.

Wherever such scams are discussed there is always a vocal minority of people who cannot believe that they would ever fall for such schemes. In their minds, whoever does deserves their fate. This leads to comments like this (and far worse) which are all too common on social media.

Social Media

We need to stand up and challenge this message everywhere we encounter it.

Further information

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland has recently produced the latest edition of our Safer Communities Safer Scotland booklet. You can download a copy here

This contains, amongst other things, information on how to stay one step ahead of scammers who may try to contact you by phone, email, post or at your doorstep. If you’d like a print copy, these are free for registered Neighbourhood Watches. Registering a Neighbourhood Watch is also free. Go to our website, click join and follow the instructions.

For more information on spotting and stopping scams

To report fraud:

Follow Neighbourhood Watch Scotland: Please consider following Neighbourhood Watch Scotland on Facebook and Twitter

Neighbourhood Watch Scotland

What is the Help for Heating fund?

In their guest blog, RSABI tell us about the “Help for Heating Fund”, launched in December 2014, which aims to alleviate the effect of fuel poverty amongst people who have depended on land-based occupations.


It is widely recognised that rural fuel poverty is consistently higher than the national average with older people being particularly vulnerable. Energy efficiency improvements can help make homes more comfortably and affordably warm.  However, in many rural communities where properties are typically older, harder to treat or lie off the gas grid, they alone cannot lift people out of fuel poverty in the context of rising fuel prices and low fixed incomes. 

RSABI recognises that during the Winter months many households will be inadequately heated, with many people will be worrying about paying their energy bills.


The Help for Heating Fund has been set up to help alleviate the effects of fuel hardship for those who have depended on the land but are now unable to work. The application is simple and the charity has made cash available specifically for this fund, with help coming in the form of a fixed grant of £300 for successful applicants.

A few points to note – the Help for Heating Fund application criteria are simple: applicant households must fall within the Scottish Government’s definition of fuel poverty – over 10% of total income (which includes all benefits, disability or otherwise, and housing benefit, if received) spent on energy bills (or this would be the case if their home was heated to generally acceptable adequate levels). Applicants must meet RSABI occupational criteria – having worked full-time on the land in Scotland for at least 10 years and being no longer able to work owing to age, illness and/or disability.

Those in need of help, or others who may know someone who is sitting at home in the cold, are being encouraged to contact RSABI. Please call the RSABI office in confidence for more information (0131 472 4166), or visit the website


Who would care for your pet if you weren’t around?

At the Scottish SPCA, we care for every kind of animal, including those who sadly find themselves without a home when their owner passes away.

Giving owners peace of mind that their pets will be looked after should they outlive them.

Giving owners peace of mind that their pets will be looked after should they outlive them.

We understand how important pets are to their owners and that their love, loyalty and companionship make them part of the family.

Indeed, pets are often the only family many people have. We also appreciate how incredibly upsetting it can be for people living on their own to think there is no one to care for their pet when they’re gone.

That’s why we offer our free Forever Care service. Through Forever Care we’re able to give owners peace of mind that their pets will be looked after should they outlive them.
Signing up to Forever Care means that, if the worst happens, we will look after your pet and do all we can to find them a loving new home. We’ll look after them in our rescue and rehoming centres and must stress that we never put a healthy animal to sleep.

Recently, an elderly lady who had signed up to Forever Care sadly passed away, leaving behind her jack russell terrier named Mr Tosh.

We took Mr Tosh in and looked after him until we found him a new home. We’re sure Mr Tosh’s previous owner took comfort knowing we would find someone who would love and care for her beloved pet as she had.

It’s quick and easy to sign up to Forever Care. It’s also entirely free. You don’t have to leave a donation to the Scottish SPCA.

Our information pack has everything you need to know about our service. All you have to do is complete a short form and send it back to us in the freepost envelope we’ll provide.
While we ask for the most important information about pets such as their name and their age, some owners also provide extra details, such as their pet’s nickname or favourite food. It’s great to know these things as they can help a pet settle into their new home.

We always advise anyone signing up to Forever Care to ensure their next of kin or anyone else close to them is aware of their wishes for their pet. Everyone who signs up will be sent a Forever Care card to let people know they wish to use our service.

Last year we rehomed a staggering 6,248 animals to loving homes and we have rescue and rehoming centres throughout Scotland.

We’re proud to be able to give pet owners reassurance that their animals will be okay even after they’re gone. If you’d like more information about our Forever Care service, please call 03000 999 999 (option 4) or email

Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn
Scottish SPCA

STIs don’t care about greying hair and a few wrinkles

Guest Blogger Pat  Craig investigates the rise in Sexually Transmitted Infections in the over 50s.

Woman at PartyDid you wear flares, a bandana, go- go white boots or miniskirts? If so, you were probably witness to one of the most significant changes ever.

In 1961, the Pill became available on the NHS, and changed our sexual behaviour radically. Suddenly we could endorse ‘free love’, freed of the crippling anxiety over unplanned  parenthood which surrounded more traditional methods of contraception.

However, there was a price to be paid and it’s with us now.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in the 50+s have more than doubled in the last 10 years.

Almost 13,000 men and women over the age of 45 were diagnosed with an STI in 2009, double the numbers in 2000.  Chlamydia has risen by 95% in 9 years. Calls to the Family Planning Association (FPA) helpline, from older people worried about their sexual behaviour and STIs, have shot up by 30% in just three years.

Over 50s, single again, are dating using websites, dating nights and holidays as a chance to have sex and relationships. Add to this Viagra, which has extended the active sex life of many older men, and you have a ticking time bomb.

Many over 50s, relieved that contraception is no longer an issue, forget about the need for safe sex and condoms. If they were in a long-term relationship they may not have thought about them for years, far less bought them.

While the younger generation tend to think of STIs dispassionately, older people are more likely to feel embarrassed and fearful, or remembering the stigma of Venereal Disease (VD) are less likely to seek help or information. Add to this that most sexual health campaigns and clinics are aimed at younger people and you can understand their reluctance to seek advice.

The FPA launched the country’s first ever campaign for the over 50s a year ago. They have also made available a free booklet: ‘People over 50: Relationships and sexual health’ which is available on line, on the helpline number or at any of their centres.

The FPA endorses the positive and fulfilling sexuality of the over 50s but also wants to get the message over that STIs don’t care about greying hair and a few wrinkles. If you are having unprotected sex an STI will find you attractive whatever your age.

So, if you are over 50 having or thinking about having sex with a new or different partner(s) make sure you have a sexual health check first.

The telephone number of your local clinic is in phone book

Sticks – help or hindrance?

Age Scotland volunteer Pat Craig guest blogs about the frustrations of walking sticks and how being the owner of one can feel like more of a problem than a solution. 

Older man with walking stick

Sticks – are they a help or a hindrance?

One of us was going down and I was determined it wouldn’t be me.

That’s the problem with sticks; they act like a beacon sending out a clear message that you need help.

It’s nice to be helped but all too often, you’re grabbed by the arm and hauled rather than offered an arm so allowing you to remain in control.

There was the time I was on a bus, stick safely folded in my handbag, desperately clinging to an upright, like an out of practice pole dancer. Action was called for so handbag opened I unleashed my folding stick. Despite nearly blinding another passenger – have you seen how quickly these things spring open? – my journey continued, unaltered until a heavily pregnant young woman gave me her seat. The view out of the bus suddenly seemed very alluring to many on that journey.

Buses are challenging. One-man operated are worst; drivers with tight schedules sometimes aren’t at their most patient. Pavements seem so low and baby buggies can be obtrusive. The only way to exit is to slalom down the bus grabbing each pole or support as you go tapping like Treasure Island’s Blind Pew.

Chances are if you’re using a stick, you’re handicapped to a greater or lesser degree but sometimes rather than easing the handicap, it just seems to exacerbate it.

Ever tried to balance a pint and a stick or a cup and saucer?  If you lean it against a seat or stool your stick will fall. Then you’ll have to scrabble around the floor to pick it up, all the while trying not to play footsie with complete strangers. Lay it flat on the floor under your seat and inevitably, someone will trip over it threatening to sue you for negligence as they go down.

Occasionally you get a break. Was the designer of the glass tables with the hollow legs in a very smart Glasgow hotel I had lunch in recently ahead of his time or was it simply chance? Whatever, they provided a perfect receptacle.

Sadly, there are no longer facilities to check in your cane along with your top hat. However, recently a charming young man in a mobile phone shop relieved me of my stick, putting it under the counter so that we could concentrate on the business in hand. His grandfather, he explained, used a stick.

He had insight, most of us don’t.

Needing a stick is not fun, OK if it’s temporary due to daredevil stunts on the piste, not so much fun if it’s arthritis or other permanent mobility challenges.

It instantly ages you, unless you’re very dashing or glamorous and if you’re not careful can pull you down both metaphorically and actual.

The only way forward is to embrace it.

A friend tells a very funny story of how he was stopped by a police car, lights flashing, on his way home from work. He’d been reported by a passerby who was alarmed that a visually impaired man, using a white stick, had just driven off from a car park. All became clear when he explained he worked with visually impaired people and was taking a stick to a client who’d left it a meeting!

TaxHelp for Older People: This can’t be right… Can it?

This guest post is by TaxHelp for Older People, a national charity offering free tax advice to older people on incomes below £17,000 a year. The Helpline number is 0845 601 3321.

Man with envelopes

“I pay tax every month, how can I owe that much?” is the cry we hear daily at this time of year as people receive their annual tax calculation (P800) showing an underpayment.

Last month we discussed how to check your calculation, and promised this month to help you through the process of challenging it where you believe that something is just not right.

There are three main reasons that you may want do this:

  1. The figures do not agree with your own.
  2. You think your employer or pension provider has done something wrong.
  3. You believe that HMRC has all of your information but has not used it correctly.

In theory the first is the easiest issue to resolve. Just contact HMRC on 0845 300 0627 and give them the correct information. The P800 will be re-issued. If there is still an underpayment you may want to consider issues two and three.

The second issue is a bit harder to prove. It may be that your employer or pension provider has not operated PAYE correctly. For example, they may not have informed HMRC that you have started work, or if they did, have not operated the tax code HMRC have sent to them.

It can be quite tricky to spot a mistake, but looking for sources of income either not included in your calculation or tax codes or that are different from the coding notice issued to you (if you received any) are good warning signals.  If this is the case, HMRC should seek the underpaid tax from the employer or pension payer, not from you.

You will need to ask HMRC to carry out a regulation 72 investigation. If HMRC choose not to pursue the employer, they should issue you with a regulation 72 direction, which will give you a right of appeal.

The third issue is the hardest to prove.  If HMRC have made a mistake or failed to use information in their possession within a certain time, you can ask for the tax to be written off using their extra statutory concession A 19 (ESC A19).

This is not that useful for 2011/12 underpayments because HMRC has noticed the mistake within 12 months of the end of the tax year. But, if the underpayment is for earlier years, or if the mistake is continued over two or more years, it may still apply. There is no right of appeal against the final decision but you can still lodge a formal complaint.

Often it is difficult for the tax payer to determine where a mistake has occurred and it is wise to ask for both employer error and ESC A19 to be investigated from the outset.

Letters returned from HMRC can be very short telling you nothing, or conversely very lengthy and confusing. You may find it necessary to ask them to explain issues in more detail or to re-examine a particular point.

Don’t be afraid to continue pushing until you are satisfied with the response. And don’t forget, if you remain unhappy you are entitled to use HMRC’s complaint process, the Adjudicator and, if necessary, the Ombudsman.

TaxHelp for Older People: a yearly cycle

This guest post is by TaxHelp for Older People, a national charity offering free tax advice to older people on incomes below £17,000 a year. The Helpline number is 0845 601 3321.

Couple at computer

This is the first year that HMRC have been able to issue pay as you earn (PAYE) customers with timely end of year reconciliations of tax due and tax actually deducted by employers and pension providers.

These annual reconciliations (form P800) form an important part of the PAYE operation. The (mainly) computerised process involves the taxpayer, the employer/pension provider and HMRC. Over the last few years this has been a painful process for some, but we hope that as the system settles down into its proper routine the problems will start to diminish.

Changes during the year can sometimes be difficult to deal with on time, leading to the wrong tax being deducted. The annual reconciliation will inform the taxpayer what information HMRC holds and will tally up the figures, indicating whether tax is owed or if a refund is due.

If you pay your tax via the self assessment process you should not receive an annual reconciliation calculation. If you do, then something is wrong and you need to contact HMRC.

We are probably all familiar with the term ‘rubbish in rubbish out’ and it’s definitely a phrase worth keeping in mind if you receive a P800. There are many reasons why the collection of tax can go wrong and incorrect data is very high on the list.

The coding system that collects the tax is another major player. It can easily become quite complicated and even a slight time delay has the potential to disrupt your tax. Add to this multiple incomes that can start at different times of the year as you reach retirement and you begin to appreciate the problems.

So what do you do?

Check everything. Question anything that doesn’t make sense! Even if you are due a refund.

  1. Do you agree with the total income figure? Check this against your end of year certificates for employers and pension providers (P60s), certificate 975s from banks and building societies and dividend tax vouchers.
  2. Have you been allocated the correct personal allowance? Should you have the married couples’ allowance? If yes, has it been restricted to £3,648 (2011/12)? Is your income over £24,000? Yes? are you 65 or over? Yes? Then is your age related allowance restricted? Are you entitled to the blind persons’ allowance?
  3. Look out for adjustments. These often relate to underpayments of tax from earlier years. If there is one, do you agree that you had an underpayment? If yes have you enquired why the underpayment occurred? It might be HMRC or employer error and you may be able to appeal against it.

Even if you agree with the figures and an underpayment is due, do not automatically accept that this should come from you. It might be that the error was caused by your employer or pension provider, in which case you are entitled to ask HMRC to investigate or, if earlier years are involved it may have been caused by an HMRC error.

We will cover the details of this and other rights you have when it comes to underpayments in next month’s tax tips article.