Spread the news about talking newspapers

Janelle Scotland, Chair of the Association of Scottish Talking Newspapers and Lothiansound, calls for help in attracting new listeners.

borders talking newspaper

Photo courtesy of Borders Talking Newspaper

Talking newspapers record local news and distribute, free of charge, to people who cannot read print. Even the postage is free for registered blind and partially sighted people (thanks to the Post Office Articles for the Blind rules and regulations.)

There are 65 talking newspapers in Scotland. The Association of Scottish Talking Newspapers (ASTN) offers support and guidance to them and to any new groups thinking of starting up.  It organises training days, often specifically tailored to meet the needs of one group, and an annual conference attended by delegates from talking newspapers all over Scotland and associated organisations.

Despite the financial climate, funding for running or setting up talking newspapers does not seem to be difficult to find.  Perhaps this is because many of them exist in rural parts of the country where local businesses and clubs are most likely to help.

Raising awareness of talking newspapers seems to be the greatest difficulty.  Our potential listeners can’t read the notices in the library or optician’s waiting room so we have to rely on people like you to help us spread the news to others who may benefit from our service. ASTN encourages all talking newspapers to have a website.  This often attracts the attention of family and friends of blind and partially sighted people.

Last year, Lothiansound, an Edinburgh based talking newspaper, celebrated 25 years of delivering a weekly recording to hundreds of lsteners, mostly in the Lothians but as far afield as Malta. Their local MSP, Jim Eadie, secured a debate in the Scottish Parliament followed by a reception in honour of Lothiansound. Jim and three other MSPs, extolled the virtues of the talking newspaper service in Scotland and congratulated Lothiansound. If more MSPs would take an interest in their local talking newspaper, the ensuing publicity would help our cause.

Apart from a weekly CD of local news, Lothiansound has recently started to record a monthly CD of articles from the Scots Magazine. Copies of this can be request from Lothiansound on 0131 6612850 or by email to info@lothiansound.org.uk.

Email ASTN for information about talking newspapers in Scotland, whether a potential listener/recipient, or with a view to setting up, or volunteering for, a talking newspaper.

No question too big, no problem too small, no need to be alone

Jenny, Session Supervisor- Silver Line Scotland reports back from our Launch week:

Today was the official launch of Silver Line Scotland. The team had decorated the Helpline with silvery decorations and made Esther Rantzen a cake to commemorate the launch. We also dressed for the occasion in a variety of silver clothing, shoes and accessories.

Silver Line

We had a busy start to the morning with calls in the first few minutes of opening. The Silver Line is open 24 hours on 0800 4 70 80 90, but Silver Line (UK) manage the calls overnight from their centre in Blackpool, then Silver Line Scotland take the Scottish calls from 8am to 8pm on weekdays.

Esther came in to the Helpline at about 12.30 after meeting with press and photographers to speak about the service.  She chatted with the team about some of the types of calls that Silver Line had received through the pilot period and the types of calls the Scottish team have been getting this week.  We are all hoping that Silver Line becomes the first point of contact for older people in Scotland for any problem, question or just a listening ear which is summed up by our motto:

‘No question too big, no problem too small, no need to be alone’.

Age Scotland Helpline has been a trusted source of information for many years and calls have always been quite varied and unpredictable. We receive calls on subjects as diverse as care, housing, heating, benefits and everything else besides (‘How do I get my letter from the Queen when I turn 100?’, ‘I’m struggling to hear my phone ringing, what can I do?’)  but with the addition of Silver Line we have an extra dimension to our service.  Many of our calls this week have been from people wanting to chat, wanting to sign up to be a Silver Line volunteer, to have a Silver Line friend or just wanting to pass on their thoughts about the service.

Silver LineWe’ve had some great feedback on how excited people are that the friend service is available and how pleased they are that they can ring 24 hours to speak to someone.  We have still received our usual mix of calls about care, housing, benefits and older people’s rights, but we’ve also had people feeling lonely or isolated, or just wanting to get something off their chest.

It’s been a busy week for the Helpline and we’re looking forward to it carrying on as Silver Line becomes more well-known and grows from strength to strength.

Clearing the way for a better winter

A kind donation of 100 snow shovels from the Wilkinson store in Livingston was gratefully received by staff and volunteers at the Food Train West Lothian last week.

Wilkinson Livingston initially contacted Age Scotland’s fundraising department to make the generous offer, which they wanted to donate to benefit older people in the Livingston area of West Lothian. Alison Payne, one of Age Scotland’s fundraising officers, made immediate contact with local Development Officer, Laura Dunkel, to get some help with finding a member group who could make use of the shovels.

Wilkinson Livingston donate snow shovels

Martin (Age Scotland), Lorraine Thomson (Manager, Wilkinson Livingston Store), David Stewart (Wilkinson Livingston Store), Linda Lockie (Regional Manager, The Food Train) and the two volunteers from the Food Train.

Laura said: ‘I thought of the Food Train immediately when I heard about this donation from Wilkinson Livingston. The Food Train provide a really valuable service in West Lothian – they deliver groceries to older people to help them to remain independent in their own home. This service is even more valuable during the cold winter months, when older people can be anxious about the risk of falling in snowy or icy conditions.’

Linda Lockie, Regional Manager at the Food Train said: ‘We’re just about to celebrate our third birthday so the shovels are like an early birthday present to us! The service has gone from strength to strength over the last 3 years, and has proved hugely popular, we now have over 160 members across the region, and over 45 volunteers. These shovels will mean our volunteers will be able to get out and about to our members even if we do get snow this winter. We also plan to offer shovels to our members so that friends, neighbours and family members can use them to clear paths and driveways for them. Winter can be a time when older people feel more lonely and isolated and our volunteers bring not only groceries but increased social contact to the most vulnerable and frail customer.’

The Food Train always welcome any new enquiries from people interested in donating their time to assist in their local community, by becoming volunteer drivers, helpers, shoppers and Extra Service volunteers.

If you would like to volunteer or know of an older people who might benefit from the Food Train’s service, more information can be found by calling 01506 413013 or visiting www.thefoodtrain.co.uk.

Don’t miss the bus

This Friday, 25th October, Age Scotland’s online petition calling for action to end isolation among older people will close.  Campaigns officer Doug Anthoney reflects on the campaign’s progress and next steps.

Still Waiting campaigners

In February we launched the Still Waiting campaign; which calls for action to stop older people becoming lonely and isolated due to lack of suitable transport services.  If you haven’t already signed our online petition, please don’t miss your chance to do so before it closes.

So far we’ve succeeded in putting the transport problems faced by many older people high on the political agenda.  38 MSPs signed up in support of the campaign; more than a quarter of the Scottish Parliament, including the leaders of each opposition party.  Many of these MSPs backed our call for action during a Parliamentary debate on Still Waiting .

The campaign was also reflected on by MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee during its inquiry into community transport services.  They agreed with us that it was unfair that older people who are unable to use regular bus services, due to disability, ill-health or geography, end up out of pocket while their peers enjoy free travel.

But we’ve not yet succeeded in convincing the Scottish Government to adjust the National Concessionary Travel scheme so that older and disabled people can use their bus passes on community transport services.  Ministers say that demand and costs could prove too great, given our ageing population.  We say that, given our ageing population, the cost of inaction is even greater as older people who become isolated from their community are more likely to suffer ill health and need residential or hospital care. 

Community transport services provide a lifeline for older people who can’t use mainstream buses, but themselves need a funding lifeline if they are to thrive and meet growing needs.  The Government is considering additional funding for community transport vehicles, which would be welcome, but won’t in itself secure the future of these services.  Including them in the National Concessionary Travel scheme offers a more sustainable, long term solution.

So please sign the petition before next Friday, and encourage your online friends to add their support.

Still Waiting campaign

More than Bingo

Age Scotland Development Officer, Laura Dunkel, recently visited Gilmerton 60+ group to award them with a cheque for an Age Scotland grant of £1938.00. 

Gilmerton 60+ Group

Gilmerton 60+ Group accept their Cheque from Laura Dunkel

The money will be used to buy equipment, such as board games, laptop, projector and an audio system, which will enhance the activities on offer for group members. This grant will also be used to pay for the food and drink at the group’s Christmas party at the local Waverley Inn.

The Gilmerton 60+ group runs on a Monday, Tuesday and Friday and consist of over 30 members who are collected from their home and brought to the group at Gilmerton Community Centre. At the group they have lunch in the company of others and enjoy a range of activities and games, such as bingo, dominoes, bowls, gentle exercise and arts and crafts.

Gilmerton 60+ group chairperson, Brian Mahon, said: ‘This grant will be invaluable help in purchase of computer equipment and in the running of our Christmas parties this year. As we rely on voluntary contributions, these grants, such as Age Scotland, are vital to improving this thriving club, which is run by care worker and administrator, Kathleen Manson and a team of volunteers.’

Laura said: ‘Its fantastic for us to be able to support the Gilmerton 60+ group. They work really hard running this wonderful group and the older people here really enjoy it. One lady told me that she looks forward to the group all week, and it’s the only time she leaves her house. Reducing social isolation amongst older people is really important to Age Scotland, and supporting local groups is a key way for us to do this.’

If you have a few hours to spare and could volunteer with the Gilmerton 60+ group, please contact the group through Gilmerton Community Centre on 0131 664 2335.

For information or advice about any aspect of the ageing journey, call the Age Scotland Helpline on 0845 125 9732. Help us continue to provide grants to help end isolation for older people by donating to Age Scotland.

Margaret’s not waiting any more

Last winter Margaret, who lives in Dumfries, became one of our case studies for our Still Waiting campaign for a better bus pass and to help end isolation for older people. .


Although living close to a main road with regular buses, she was unable to make use of them as she can hardly walk and, with severe osteoarthritis, can’t use a wheelchair.

She told us: “My bus pass is of virtually no use; I’ve spent most of 2012 sitting at home waiting to die.”

After we published the case study Dumfries and Galloway Council got in touch with us. They felt Margaret’s story painted local bus services in too poor a light. So Morag Halliday, our local Development Officer, took Margaret to meet them and, following this, the local Stagecoach manager visited her and found a solution to getting her mobility scooter on the bus. As you can see from the video – this is not easy, so we also arranged for a befriending scheme to provide a volunteer buddy for some journeys; previously she had had to spend a lot of money to have a professional care worker accompany her.

We are really pleased that Margaret’s story shows how we’re linking national campaigns to action in communities to improve the lives of older people.

Take action now and sign the Still Waiting petition for a better bus pass.

Are pensioners drinking themselves to death? (Tomorrow’s fish and chip paper)

Problem drinking in later life has become an epidemic, according to newspapers this week.  Doug Anthoney responds.

wine glass

New government figures show that last year almost 10,500 people aged 60 and over in Scotland needed hospital treatment for alcohol, one in three of all such admissions and a 62% increase in the last five years.  By contrast there were just over 8,000 incidents for the 35 and under age group.

We agreed that the high incidence of alcohol misuse among older people is of real concern.  Later life sometimes brings bereavement and isolation, which in turn can affect mental health and well-being.  Older people are more likely to drink at home, every day and on their own, suggesting that some use it as ‘self-medication’ to deal with life’s stresses; perhaps without an awareness of just how much they are drinking.

So what’s the solution? Families, health and social care professionals need to be aware of the issue, and be able to tell the signs of problem drinking from those of the natural ageing process.  We also need to ensure that older people can access the kind of social and support opportunities offered by Age Scotland’s member groups; from lunch clubs to Men’s Sheds.  But let’s try to keep it in perspective; it’s by no means an issue for every older person! You might be interested in the views of regular guest blogger Pat Craig on this issue.

Doug Anthoney is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Officer.  ‘Tomorrow’s fish and chip paper’ is off on holiday but will be back on 19th July.