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.

 

 

 

“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.

Directed by North Merchiston

As part of 2016’s Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival, and with support from Scottish Care, Documentary Filmmaker and Photographer Duncan Cowles worked at North Merchiston Care Home in Edinburgh to create a collection of short films directed by residents. From this coming Monday 20th March a film a week will be released to the public. We spoke to Duncan to find out more about this fascinating project.


Can you tell us a bit about Directed by North Merchiston?

Directed by North Merchiston is a project that was inspired by one of my previous films Directed by Tweedie where I attempted to get my Granddad to make a film, and I helped him to do it. With this new project I wanted to try and take that idea into a care home and work with the residents on making some short films.

One of the biggest issues for older generations today is loneliness. I wanted to give the residents of North Merchiston Care Home a voice, and ultimately provide them with both an audience and platform so that they could say whatever they wanted and create memories for their families. So instead of me coming in with my camera and making films about the people living there, I wanted the residents to think of themselves as the filmmakers and what story they’d personally like to tell.

The result is a series of five short films. I think each one of the residents has really enjoyed the process. Some were slightly reluctant initially, but once we got started admitted that they were having a laugh, and were glad they’d agreed to take part.

Some of them have spoken about how they’ve appreciated me simply coming in and spending time with them, and taking an interest in their lives. I think this will ultimately be one of the most valuable outcome of the project; the enjoyment that they’ve all had taking part. Hopefully that comes across in the films.

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The five residents that Duncan worked with to produce the short films.

Any favourite moments from the project?

Watching the footage back with the participants, and asking them about what bits they liked the most, and the things they would like to be focused on in their films, was really touching for me. For example; Edith who’s 90 years old, talked about how her Grandmother used to say to her when she was a wee girl, that the best thing in life was that: “It was nice to be needed”, particularly as an older person. Then deciding with Edith that the film could focus on that and be a little tribute to her Grandmother, I could see meant a lot.

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Edith’s film “It’s Always Nice To Be Needed” is released on the 3rd of April

Definitely on a personal level, having the honour to get to know these people as they’re in their later years, has been amazing. As a 26 year old I, like many others, still have a lot to learn about life and all of its ups and downs. These people have experienced it, they’ve been through so much, and listening to them talk about it, how they’ve coped and what they think and feel looking back over it all, is just staggering. It’s an education going into a care home, and it really makes you reflect a lot upon your own life, circumstances and future.

Why are creative outreach projects like Directed by North Merchiston important?

Everyone is creative, whatever our ages, and the chance for care home residents to take part in a project like this can offer all sorts of benefits. I’ve been going in and out of the care home for the past two months and seeing a positive change happen immediately in front of my eyes. Something like this isn’t necessarily a very public facing activity, but is equally as important as it’s making a difference to people directly.

Initially we did a really small screening of the films for friends and family in the care home. The hope is that the films will take on a life of their own, as we share them to a wider audience. It’s really important that older people’s voices are heard by other generations, and often that doesn’t happen.


You can catch the first film May: This is Your Life here.

Find out more about Luminate by visiting their website

 

No one should have no one at Christmas

On the 5th of December, Age Scotland launched their ‘No one should have no one at Christmas’ campaign to raise awareness of loneliness and social isolation among older people over the Christmas period and beyond.


Loneliness is a problem all year round but nearly 65,000 older people in Scotland say they feel lonelier at Christmas. Cold weather in winter months can prevent some older people from getting out to socialise and the emphasis society places on spending time with family and friends at this time of year can intensify the feeling of having no one.

So what can we do about it?

As part of our campaign ‘no one should have no one at Christmas’ we are encouraging everyone to think about what they can do to address and prevent loneliness in their local community. It can be anything from checking in on an older neighbour to see if they would like a cup of tea and a chat to volunteering with a local group or charity that supports older people.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon helped kick off our campaign, joining us for an intergenerational Christmas tea party at Port of Leith Housing Association. The tea party was the culmination of a project organised by the Pilmeny Development Project where young and older people have been learning about each other’s lives and taking part in social activities together.

The First Minister joined pupils from Drummond Community High school and tenants from the housing association to play pass the parcel, take part in a Christmas quiz, and chat over some mince pies.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP said: “Dealing with loneliness and isolation can be incredibly difficult, but at this time of year it’s especially heart-breaking to see that so many older Scots will spend Christmas alone. Age Scotland’s work to ensure that ‘No one should have no one at Christmas’ is vitally important, and everyone can play a part.

“By reaching out to older people in their street or community – by taking them out, doing a good deed or simply having a chat – people can have a hugely positive impact on the wellbeing and happiness of an older person.”

The First Minister also kicked off our #EndLoneliness pledge by pledging to drop in on an older neighbour over Christmas. We are now calling on everyone to share what they will do to end loneliness in their local community.

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A great example is little Evie who made Christmas cards at nursery and asked her mum if she could give them to people who wouldn’t be getting any this year. Evie and her mum headed down to their local day care centre in Prestonpans and spent some time handing out cards and hugs and making new friends.

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Many of the individuals at the day centre do not have any family and would likely not receive a Christmas card this year and Evie’s kind gesture went a long way.

What could you do to end loneliness in your local community? Share your ideas and plans with us on social media using the hashtag #EndLoneliness


Age Scotland works to eradicate loneliness and social isolation among older people in Scotland by supporting and developing local groups and projects and running a free helpline.

To support Age Scotland’s work in local communities, please text HUGS16 £5 to 70070 now to donate £5 or visit our Just Giving page to make a secure online donation. Thank you.

5 thing you need to take to a charity ball

Friday 11th November sees the return of Age Scotland’s Silver Shindig – our glamorous charity ball. As this fantastic night approaches, we’ve pulled together five things you need when heading to a charity ball.


  1. Your glad rags

As the name suggests, a charity ball is a bit more glamourous than your average fundraising event – not a running shoe in sight! Arriving at the Hub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile you will walk the silver carpet – yes silver – to have your photo taken before heading in to a Champagne Reception in the Grand Ballroom Foyer. So brush off that kilt, look out that little black dress and get ready to make your grand entrance.

  1. Your appetite

A glamourous charity ball requires an equally impressive menu. After a short introduction to Age Scotland’s work, out comes the first of three courses, along with selected wines. We won’t spoil the surprise by telling you the whole menu but you best bring you appetite, you won’t want to miss out.

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  1. Your Christmas list

One of the most exciting features of a charity ball is the charity auction. Here you will find one off experiences and gifts, things you literally cannot buy anywhere else. This year we have some incredible things on offer, from a Velodrome Experience with a GB Gold Medallist at the London Olympic Velodrome to a Pickering’s Gin Tour for 6 with a Limited Edition hand-signed collector’s bottle. Find something unique for a special someone this Christmas or perhaps just treat yourself!

  1. Your dancing shoes

What would a charity ball be without dancing? We have the superb ‘Corra’ joining us to put on a selection of music alongside a wonderful Scottish ceilidh that will have you dancing into the wee hours. Their name literally means rare or extraordinary and once you’ve seen them live we think you’ll know why! Not a dancer? Not a problem! Just sit back and take in the atmosphere of some traditional Scottish music with a twist!

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  1. A smug smile

This one may well be the most important. You can feel good about attending our charity ball because through attending this glamourous evening you are supporting Age Scotland’s work with older people and fighting loneliness. And all while having a ball! Well done you.


For more information about Age Scotland events, just visit our website or contact our Fundraising team directly on 0333 32 32 400 or by email at fundraising@agescotland.org.uk 

‘TeaSet’ – highlighting loneliness at the Edinburgh Festival

There are many ways to raise awareness on the effects of loneliness and isolation. Will Searle from Age Scotland’s Communications Team recently attended a play called ‘TeaSet’ in the Edinburgh Festival that aims to highlight social isolation among older people.


One of my favourite things about the Fringe is finding wee shows that have managed to cut past the hype of the huge behemoths everyone’s heard of and grabbed your attention. The team from Teaset did so by getting in touch with us at Age Scotland to see if we were interested in coming along to see their play. Simple and very effective!teaset

The play is a one-woman show performed superbly by Amy Malloy.  It tackles the incredibly difficult issues of loss, violence against older people and the heated debate of dying with dignity.  Using the medium of intergenerational interaction, Amy tells us how she came to meet Mrs A, an older lady, who is living in her daughter’s house.  Amy’s character, we never learn her name, is charged by Mrs A’s daughter to look after her whilst they go on holiday to the Carribean.

The story beautifully intersperses humour with the raw grief of loss that Amy and Mrs A have both experienced.  With the intimate setting of the venue, Pleasance That, you experience the emotion that Amy expresses so viscerally, whether as her own character or when she is voicing Mrs A.  You can feel the pressure as her eyes begin to well up and you really do forget that you’re in a show and not sitting opposite someone who is reliving a harrowing moment.

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As a member of the Age Scotland Communications Team, I’m regularly faced with the job of being one of charity’s press team and answering the press phone.  Journalists will call us for comment on the latest court case or issue that affects older people.  I’m reminded on a far too regular basis of the violence that is unfortunately targeted at older people.  This play tackles the difficult aftermath of how that can affect an older person but also someone of Amy’s age.  It highlights the importance of building safe communities for everyone but also how we deal with the effects.  Violence, when it happens to anyone, is something that needs to be managed in a sympathetic and supportive way to ensure that you can move on from that point and stop it from consuming your whole person.teaset2

I had a coffee with Amy along with the director and producer after the show and chatted to them about their experience of the show.  The show had a very personal element to Amy as her own Grandmother passed away last year.  It was heart-warming that the Teaset team were really concerned about the isolation facing older people and how they could use the show as a catalyst to spur people into action to make a difference.  As such, they will be promoting Silver Line Friends in their programme, a volunteer opportunity with Silver Line Scotland.  By donating just an hour a week you can transform the life of someone who feels they have no one to speak to.  It seems such a simple concept but it really does make a life-changing difference.

I would very much urge you to go and see Teaset, it’s on at 2pm, Pleasance That, 6-23 and 29-31 August.  And once you’ve done that, take the time to contact an older relative or friend.  Be it a parent, a grandparent, aunt, great uncle or an old acquaintance, in doing so, you may just make the difference in their lives.