Don’t fear the D word 

Dementia is a word that strikes terror in many.  And no wonder: newspapers regularly feature headlines that sensationalize the ‘misery’ of dementia ‘sufferers’.   Yet there is a growing number of people with dementia who are active as campaigners, and they reject such language as stigmatizing.  Instead, they call themselves people who are living with dementia.  In one survey more than two thirds said they were living well with dementia.

Does the way we talk about dementia matter?  Yes.  A recent survey of the general public by the Alzheimer’s Society asked: “if you had a physical symptom, would you see a doctor right away?”  60 per cent of the sample said they would.  However, asked whether they would see a doctor right away for a non-physical symptom, such as a memory problem, only 2 per cent said yes.  For many people, fear of discovering that they have dementia will keep them from talking to their GP.

It’s beneficial for people who are worried about their thinking to get it checked out as soon as possible.  They may learn that their symptoms aren’t caused by dementia.  Did you know that memory loss, the symptom most associated with dementia, can also be caused by other things such as stress, depression, infections, nutritional deficiencies and even lack of sleep?  Moreover, with around 100 types of dementia that can affect the brain in different ways, memory loss is not necessary the first sign.  The range of early dementia symptoms includes reading problems, difficulty judging distance, less fluency when speaking, and even becoming less kind and caring.  Because of this a diagnosis can take time to reach: other possible causes need to be ruled out.

Getting a diagnosis is worthwhile, as without it you won’t be able to get support to live well with dementia.  In Scotland everyone who receives a diagnosis is entitled to personalized support which, if their dementia is in its early stages, will be from a Dementia Link Worker.  Link Workers can help someone understand and adjust to their diagnosis, to plan for the future, and to get the support they need to live well with dementia.

That support can come from a range of sources, including other people with dementia, and opportunities to enjoy supported activities, from singing to sport.  Did you know that many of the things that help people to live well with dementia are the same as those that make it less likely someone will get dementia in the first place?  Physical exercise, eating well, staying within safe alcohol guidelines, stopping smoking, socialising and challenging the brain can all play a part.

Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia project offers free guide booklets on a wide range of dementia related topics.  You can request these from the Age Scotland Helpline: 0800 12 44 222.

Good Nutrition: the hidden issue

Nutrition is an important but often hidden issue for carers and their families. We hear from Lynne Stevenson BSc from Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition on how we can help provide better support for carers around nutritional problems and eating difficulties.


Good nutrition is vital for all of us, but particularly as we age and if we are living with long term conditions.

It’s also crucial for carers, who need to know about good nutrition for the person they are caring for as well as to look after their own health and wellbeing. In a recent survey Carers UK found that 60% of carers worry about the nutritional intake of the person they care for. That is why Carers UK/Carers Scotland are working in partnership with Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition to improve understanding about nutrition and caring.   This partnership provides carers with the information and resources on nutritional care for themselves and the person they care for.caring & nutrition photo

The following titles have been produced through the partnership to help provide better support for carers around nutritional problems and eating difficulties.

  • Eating well with COPD
  • Eating well with stroke
  • Eating well with dementia
  • Eating well with cancer
  • The importance of eating well for carers
  • The role of good nutrition when caring for someone
  • Understanding the nutrition gap and how it affects the person you care for
  • Speaking to your GP when you are concerned about the nutritional intake of the person you care for

You can find out more information by visiting the Carers UK website on or the Nutricia website. There is also the opportunity to learn more through an e-learning module.  Like Age Scotland, Carers Scotland and a whole host of organisations working on behalf of older people and carers do so much to highlight the importance of nutrition, and that is why we have been pleased to work to develop these publications to help ensure people have the information they need for good nutrition and healthy living.

download                      carers

Ticking off Munros in your 80s

Keeping active in later life can significantly improve your physical and mental wellbeing. We hear from Kathrine Payne Ramblers Scotland about one of their members Pak Yeong Berry, one inspirational lady ticking off Munros in her eighties.


Many people assume that mountaineering is purely the preserve of the young, but for one Stirling octogenarian, life in the hills has begun in her eighties.

And now that she’s discovered hill-walking, Pak Yeong Berry’s only regret is that she didn’t start sooner.

Pek Yeong Berry, credit Ben Dolphin

Pek Yeong Berry with her fellow ramblers. Photo: Ben Dolphin

Since joining Stirling and Falkirk District Ramblers last year, Pek Yeong has already climbed several big hills, including three of the ‘Munros’ – Scottish mountains over 3,000ft. And she’s got big walking plans for the future.

“I loved walking Ben Chonzie, Schiehallion and Ben Lomond – and I’m looking forward to doing more Munros when the weather allows.

Pek Yeong Berry (RIGHT) 7 may Schiehallion - Copy

Pek Yeong Berry (RIGHT) at the top of Schiehallion

“When I climbed my first Munro, Ben Chonzie, it was muddy, raining and cold. It was pretty horrible actually, but it didn’t put me off.

“It’s all going well for me so far. I don’t think about my age much. I just walk. I hope to tackle more and more mountains for as long as I’m capable of doing them, until I can’t anymore.”

Pek Yeong, aged 81, is now a familiar face at the front of the pack on Stirling and Falkirk District Ramblers’ weekly walks. Her positive attitude and enthusiasm for life are infectious, and she is an inspiration to walkers of any age.

“The first time I went out with the Ramblers, I was worried that I would hold everyone back, but it was fine. I wasn’t the slowest, put it that way!

“The only thing that matters is your ability, rather than your age. I’m fortunate because I’m very healthy and I don’t have any past injuries. If you’re fit, you can do anything and my age doesn’t bother me at all.

“Walking is a great activity to get involved in. We’ve done a bit of everything: mountains, flat walks, all different difficulties and terrains. It’s all new to me and I like the variety, from leisurely to challenging.”

Pek Yeong Berry 25jun. bend double against the wind up bishops hill

Before joining the Ramblers, taking exercise had been difficult for Pek Yeong – as she was focused on caring for her late husband, who had Parkinson’s disease.

“Being a carer limited my opportunities to exercise but when I became a widow last year, a very good friend introduced me to the Ramblers. It was the first time I’d walked in an organised group, and I thought it was great.

“Joining Ramblers was one of the best things I could have done, especially at that moment. I joined the group for exercise and fitness, but also as I was widowed and it was something sociable to do. It’s better than playing bridge or some sort of indoors activity.”

It’s not just rambling that keeps Pek Yeong active these days. She also enjoys regular yoga and belly-dancing!

“I feel like I need exercise, and if I go on holiday for a few days I miss it. At the moment, I do cardio, pilates, yoga, belly dancing. I have classes every week day, sometimes twice a day. It’s important to my lifestyle because it keeps me fit, and it gets me out of the house.

“Going rambling on a Sunday is very pleasant. I feel like I’ve achieved something and there’s nothing going on near me on Sundays, so I’d just be on my own otherwise.”

Pek Yeong had done some walking in Malaysia before emigrating to Scotland in the 1970s, but it’s not until joining the Ramblers that she truly caught the walking bug.

She puts this down to company, motivation, and support that walking in a group can provide.

“For me, walking alone is nothing like walking with others. There’s something about being in a group that’s so much more enjoyable.

“The Ramblers is ideal. It’s friendly, and you can assess if the walks and groups are right for you before you join.

“After our walks, we always go and have a cup of coffee. It’s nice to have a chat with a very caring and friendly bunch of people.

Pek Yeong is excited about having future adventures with the Ramblers, and plans to embrace every opportunity that comes her way – weather permitting.

There is no stopping her drive to remain active, and she’s got a lot more walking (and belly dancing!) yet to come.

To find a walk in your area, go to: ramblers.org.uk/go-walking.aspx

Staying connected to live better with Parkinsons

Having a social life is not an optional extra – staying social helps us to stay well. And for the 11,000 or so people with Parkinson’s in Scotland this is particularly true.  We hear from Parkinsons UK in their guest blog on how they are supporting people in their communities.


Parkinson’s affects adults of all ages, but the overwhelming majority of people are aged over 65. Although often understood as a condition affecting movement, it impacts on every aspect of daily life, including talking, walking, swallowing and writing. Tiredness, pain, depression, dementia, compulsive behaviours and continence problems also have a huge impact.  

A lot of people find their Parkinson’s symptoms embarrassing. They report negative responses such as staring or being accused of being drunk. Mobility and mental health issues can also make it really challenging to get out and about.  

It’s no surprise that people with Parkinson’s become more isolated as their condition progresses, and that unpaid carers have limited opportunities to maintain their social networks.  

That’s why Parkinson’s UK supports over 40 local groups across Scotland, offering friendship and a range of activities to people affected by Parkinson’s. People tell us that they really want to meet with others in similar situations. Sharing experiences can “normalise” Parkinson’s and make it easier to enjoy socialising.  

Many of our local groups offer health and wellbeing activities. Exercise classes, dance, art and walking groups are popular, and we are looking at new ways to make sure that everyone with Parkinson’s in Scotland can access activities even if there isn’t a Parkinson’s group nearby.

Fife Walking Group

Fife Walking Group

We also offer self management courses for people with Parkinson’s and carers. We’ve already run these in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh, and we’ll be expanding this year.  

Our Local Advisors provide confidential one-to-one information and support. For people who are isolated, this is a real lifeline. We also run an online Forum, a telephone Buddying Service, and are developing face-to-face peer support.

Lanarkshire volunteers

Lanarkshire volunteers

But there is more to be done, and not just for people with Parkinson’s. Making it easy for people to stay connected must be a policy priority. We need to tackle underfunding in social care and support services like befriending, buddying schemes, and day centres.  We need to make our communities as accessible as possible for everyone.  

And most of all we need to confront Scotland’s fears around aging and illness. It’s great to hear the Scottish Government talking positively about older people as assets, but too often this agenda focusses on those who are in good health. Older people who need support must not be “disappeared”. The voices and experiences of older, frailer people – including disabled people and those with conditions like Parkinson’s – must be heard.  

For more information on Parkinson’s support in Scotland, go to www.parkinsons.org.uk/support or phone our free helpline on 0808 800 0303. 

“Number six, cross kicks!” “Number eight, lift some weights!”

On 16th March we headed to the Scottish Parliament to launch ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ – a game of Bingo where each number relates to a move that encourages people to be more active!


What is ‘Body Boosting Bingo’?

Keeping physically active as you age is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can have a real impact on your quality of life, benefitting both your physical and mental health. Age Scotland’s  ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ contains a range of evidence-based strength and balance exercises such as squats or standing on one leg which participants do when the corresponding numbers is called. Of course after completing the move participants mark the number off their bingo card in the hope of winning a prize!

To launch ‘Body Boosting Bingo’, Age Scotland team members headed to the Scottish Parliament to host a few games with a selection of Age Scotland member groups and MSPs.

Visiting member groups joined us for some lunch in the Parliament before Age Scotland team members kicked off the game. Doug boomed out the bingo numbers in an excellent fashion, Jenny demonstrated the moves for each number with Yolanda showing the seated version, to ensure everyone in attendance could take part, even with the more challenging moves.

“Number six, cross kicks!”, “Number eight, lift some weights!” Some moves are self-explanatory but some require a little more explanation. “Fifteen, string bean!” sees our participants stretch their arms high as they can to get an all body stretch. “Two oh, do the tango!” saw MSPs Miles Briggs and Christine Grahame dancing at the front of the group. Everyone who took part were such great sports.

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Getting everyone involved!

The great thing about ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ is that it promotes light to moderate physical activity in a social context, allowing older people to socialise and keep fit at the same time.

Research shows that we gradually lose strength and power in our muscles and bones as we get older, however this can be reversed. Regularly doing just ten minutes twice a week of strength and balance exercises helps to maintain bone density and muscle power.  We are committed to promoting physical activity as a way for everyone to improve their wellbeing.

‘Body Boosting Bingo’ will be made available to day centres and older people’s groups across the country.


To find out more about ‘Body Boosting Bingo’ just call 0333 32 32 400 and ask to speak to a member of our Policy & Communications team.

Walk to live long

Could you or someone you know benefit from getting a little more active this year? Paths for All, Scotland’s national walking charity, explains how a simple walk can be the perfect activity to keep you happy, healthy and active in later life.


At Paths for All, we support over 500 Health Walks taking place across Scotland every week. From Kirkwall to Galashiels, all Health Walks are free, accessible, fun, and open to everyone! We’ve trained thousands of volunteers to safely lead these health walks in local communities. They are always looking for new walkers and volunteers to join, making it the perfect way to meet new people in your area whilst getting active.

If you’re unsure joining a Health Walk group is right for you, have a chat with the project coordinator and they’ll explain what’s involved and how they can support you.

The benefits of Health Walks are amazing. Here’s how some of our Health Walkers describe the social and mental benefits they have gained from taking part:

“It’s a rewarding experience, participating with a diverse, active and interesting group of walkers.”

“I do not walk on my own. I need the company and companionship of the group for encouragement.”

The physical health benefits are great too. Our infographic sums it up:

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It’s simple to find your nearest Health Walk, head to the Paths for All website and use our map to find a Health Walk local to you. If you’d prefer to speak to someone, you can call the Paths for All office on 01259 218 888 and we’ll happily tell you what’s going on in your area.

Walking is the easiest way to get active and enjoy the benefits, we can help you start sooner than you think – why wait to get all the benefits just by going for a walk?

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 www.liveactive.co.uk.