Creative Ageing: The Luminate Festival is back for 2019

Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing organisation, delivers a diverse programme of creative events and activities throughout the year. Their projects bring together older people and those from across the generations to explore our creativity as we age and share stories and ideas about what growing older means to all of us.

The biennial Luminate Festival is back for 2019, running from 1–31 May. Ahead of the festival, we spoke with Luminate Director Anne Gallacher

Anne Gallacher, Director of Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing organisation © Eoin Carey

Anne Gallacher, Director of Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing organisation © Eoin Carey

Why do we need a creative ageing festival?

Older people are very active in Scotland’s vibrant cultural life, and there are some wonderful arts projects and groups all over the country.  The Festival was set up to showcase this inspiring creative work – you can attend performances and exhibitions of work by older people, or take part in a workshop where you can try your hand at something new.  We also have a growing strand of dementia friendly events.  The Festival celebrates older people’s creativity in its many forms across the country, and we hope it will inspire more older people to take part in arts activities not only during May but also at other times of year.

What can we expect to see in 2019’s Festival?

Every year the programme is really diverse.  This year you can try clog dancing in Edinburgh; visit an exhibition by older artists in Easterhouse; join our massed community singing event in Aberdeen; take part in dementia friendly art workshop in Ullapool; or attend a social dance event for older LGBTI people in Glasgow or Inverness.  There’s also a film tour featuring some great films with ageing themes.  This is just a flavour of what’s on offer, and we hope there’s something for everyone!

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A Craft Café workshop in Govan

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s Festival? 

The Festival month is a real privilege for me.  I am lucky enough to travel around Scotland attending lots of Festival events, and meeting the people who organise them as well as those who attend as audiences or participants.  I am really looking forward to my travels and to the activities I will have the chance to take part in. Particular achievements in past years have been learning to crochet and learning to do a quickstep, neither of which I could do till I started in this job!  I don’t know yet what my new skills from the 2019 Festival will be, but I’m looking forward to finding out!

What creative thing do you love to do?

I have sung in choirs since I was in my teens, and it’s still something I love doing.  There’s something very uplifting about singing in a group of people, and I have made many good friends along the way. For the last five years I have sung in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus, and we have a busy concert programme across the year.


You can browse the full festival line up on Luminate’s website

Consultation – what’s the point?

Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement and Campaigns Officer, Simon Ritchie, spent 2018 consulting older people in Scotland on transport. He reports here on his findings.

“Is this actually going to change anything?”

As I toured Scotland asking older people for their views on transport, this question came up a lot. My task was to work with Transport Scotland, the transport arm of the Scottish Government, to make sure that older peoples’ interests were accounted for in the new National Transport Strategy (NTS).

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Simon Ritchie – Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement and Campaigns Officer

People had taken part in consultations before, they said, and it never seemed to change anything. However, as the consultation process went on, and after some reflection, I know the answer: yes, this will change things for the better. Let me explain.

Scotland’s population is ageing. The number of people aged 75+ is set to double in the next two decades. That’s great news – people are living longer, healthier lives – but as the demographics of our society changes, so too must our infrastructure if it is to remain fit for purpose. If the transport system doesn’t work for older people, it doesn’t work. Full stop.

So what works, and what needs to change?

Through a series of twenty transport workshops in every corner of Scotland, I and the civil servants I brought with me learned a great deal. Some findings were not surprising:

  • 2/3 of older people say they use public buses frequently
  • Reliance on cars is more prevalent in rural areas
  • The top three reasons for travelling are shopping, socialising and attending medical appointments.

Amongst the more striking findings were that

  • 1/3 of older people use public transport to commute to voluntary work – offering their valuable time, skills and experience to society.
  • 1/3 of older people say they’ve experienced difficulty getting to a medical appointment because of transport problems.
  • 1/2 say they’d use public transport more if services ran more frequently, and 1/2 of those living in rural areas say they’d take the bus if services ran later in the evening. Indeed, several older people who cannot drive said they felt under curfew in the evenings due to having no transport.

We now have a much better idea of what older people think about transport, and what they think should change. So how will this information and insight be used?

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Firstly – all our findings have been passed on to Transport Scotland in full. Already, many of the policy proposals we have put forward have been adopted into the draft NTS. From late 2019, the NTS will be the document that all levels of government should refer to whenever they make a transport-related decision. Age Scotland will hold them to it.

Secondly – we are using our findings to shape our position on the Scottish Government’s new Transport Bill, which gives Councils more power to improve local bus services. So there is a broader use for this information.

And finally – consultation matters because older people’s involvement in policy development keeps government on its toes and older people’s interests on the agenda.

A huge ‘thank you’ to all who took part in the 2018 Age Scotland transport workshops around the country. It’s been worthwhile and we know that the Scottish Government is listening and acting. If Age Scotland is a vehicle for change, it’s older people who are in the driving seat.


For more information please visit the Age Scotland website or contact Simon Ritchie – Policy Engagement & Campaigns Officer at Age Scotland – at simon.ritchie@agescotland.org.uk or on 0131 668 8047

Networking, Inspiration and Celebration: Age Scotland’s fifth National Conference

2018 was Age Scotland’s 75th anniversary and through our ‘Speaking Up For Our Age’ project we learned a lot about the fantastic efforts of local and national older people’s groups and organisations in Scotland over the years. Looking back, a number of themes stand out as having been important to older people and continue to matter to us today. These themes – Homes, Health and Happiness – were the topics for discussion at our 2019 National Conference.

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Professor Rose Gilroy said we should demand better housing as poor housing has a detrimental effect on our welbeing.

We were delighted to welcome Age Scotland members and guests to the Radisson Blu in Glasgow for a day of discussion, networking and celebration. In the morning we had three fascinating presentations. First, we had Professor Rose Gilroy from the department of Ageing, Planning and Policy at Newcastle University, who shared how our housing stock has changed over the years and the impact it has on our wellbeing. Professor Gilroy went on to say that our housing options should not be determined by our age and that we need housing that works for all age groups.

We then had Dr William Bird MBE, Founder and Chief Executive of Intelligent Health, who spoke passionately about the difference being active makes to your physical and mental health. Dr Bird went on to explain how combining physical activity and being socially active can be life-changing and told us about the role of social prescribing in getting communities active.

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“Most people don’t become healthy for health’s sake. Combining physical activity and being socially active makes all the difference.” – Dr William Bird MBE

We were then joined by Dr Melrose Stewart, Lecturer at the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham who shared some heart-warming stories from her work on the award-winning Channel 4 TV documentary ‘Old Peoples Home for 4 Year Olds’. Dr Stewart spoke about how intergenerational practices not only encourage empathy and tackle ageism, but also make a big difference to our well being and encouraged all of us to foster intergenerational bonds in our communities.

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Dr Melrose Stewart was one of the experts that worked on the award-winning Channel 4 TV documentary ‘Old Peoples Home for 4 Year Olds’.

We broke for a delicious lunch and had a little unexpected excitement when the fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate! It didn’t dampen our spirits though and when we given the all clear by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service we returned for our afternoon workshops and a browse of the exhibition stalls.

The conference culminated in the presentation of the 2019 Age Scotland Awards. The Awards recognise and celebrate the exceptional commitment and contribution of individuals and organisations working to ensure Scotland is a great place to grow old in and we were shown a short film about each winner. It was wonderful to hear about the fantastic work going on in communities across Scotland. You can watch each of the films on the Age Scotland YouTube channel.

This year’s awards were presented by special guest Anita Manning who congratulated our winners on their efforts and also remarked what an incredible energy the wider conference had.

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Antique expert and TV Presenter Anita Manning joined us as a special guest for the Age Scotland Awards

This year’s conference was our biggest yet and it will be a tough act to follow. We would like to thank all our members, invited guests and speakers for joining us and making it such a fantastic day.


Find out more about becoming an Age Scotland member.

MILAN is a part of my life

As part of Age Scotland’s Speaking Up for Our Age project marking 75 years of older people’s groups and organisations in Scotland, Milan Social Welfare Organisation in Edinburgh organised a special event for members, staff and supporters to celebrate their history and their work today.

Milan means friendly meeting place and started in 1991 providing day care, educational and social activities and information advice for older members of the Bangladeshi, Indian, Mauritian and Pakistani communities in Edinburgh and Lothians.  The word is common to the languages of all four communities.   Over the years the charity has grown to also provide company and support to older people who are housebound and isolated, and a space for informal carers to have some quality time outwith their caring role.

Mrs Farooq is one of the founders of Milan.  Born in India before partition, Mrs Farooq moved to Edinburgh in 1968 to join her husband who was an automobile engineer working with Ford. In the late 1980s she helped to set up Shakti Women’s Aid to support black and minority ethnic women and children experiencing domestic abuse and also started a number of Asian women’s groups in the city with support from the Council’s Community Education Service and other voluntary organisations in the city.

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Representatives of MILAN accepting the 2014 Age Scotland ‘Services for Older People’ Award

“We started women’s groups in community centres, in the Southside of Edinburgh and Leith Walk, and by managing those women’s groups we realised that there were older people who had nowhere to go.  The parents were living with the families of the women we were working with.  The name Milan means place for a meeting. We thought that there is a need for Milan – where the older people can meet.  At first it was for one day, then we made it three days.  The Tuesday and Wednesday groups are mixed groups but the Thursday group is especially for very old people and people who are vulnerable, who use wheelchairs, and need more comfort and patience.  It is a very good idea to have this group on Thursdays.”

Part of the success of Milan is that from the very beginning the charity welcomed older people from across the Bangladeshi, Indian, Mauritian and Pakistani communities.  Mr Choudhry first joined the Milan Thursday lunch club three years ago on the recommendation of his sister, and now attends three days a week. As well as being able to eat a hot nutritious meal, he enjoys the varied activities, the games, the information talks on keeping healthy, the group walks and the trips, but the biggest difference he finds is the company.   “We open our hearts and listen to each other”, he explains.  Before attending the lunch club Mr Choudhry sat in the house focussing on his troubles and feeling stressed.  One of the recent additions to group activities is a garden plot where members are enjoying growing vegetables and herbs such as coriander for cooking.

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Mr Miah, Mr Choudhry, Mr Kapoor, and Mr Masih enjoy playing dominoes when they meet on Thursday

Older members who are unable to attend events and outings are not left out either, thanks to Mrs Mirza, a Milan member and volunteer.  For the past 15 years Mrs Mirza has been writing about Milan’s activities for the charity’s newsletter which is distributed regularly to members. It all started with a request to write about the holidays to Bradford and Liverpool organised by Milan. Mrs Mirza speaks several languages and writes in English, Urdu and Hindi languages and enjoys putting her skills to use so that as many members as possible can keep up with the news at Milan and remain connected to the charity when they are unable to join in some of the events.  “I live alone. I have nothing to do, just watching television all the time.  It’s better to come here and talk with friends.  Milan is a part of my life.”

All members are full of praise for the staff and volunteers.  The main challenge the charity faces is their need for better premises so that they can expand, open up spaces to people on the waiting list and run activities every weekday.

Milan has so much to be proud of and celebrate and members, volunteers and staff did so in style on 30th August 2018 at their Speaking Up for Our Age event.  There was a history display and quiz, music, dance, tasty food including Lentil Dahl (the popular dish from the 1990s) and a minute’s silence in memory of past members.


To find out more about MILAN, visit their wbeiste or call 0131 475 2307.

To find out more about becoming an Age Scotland member, visit our website, email our Community Development team at members@agescotland.org.uk

Weren’t born on the same day as your partner? Unlucky.

Blog by Age Scotland Policy Officer Ashleigh de Verteuil


Pension Credit is an important top up benefit for older people who are on a low pension income. It is already a massively under claimed entitlement with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimating that 40% of those eligible for pension credit don’t claim it.

But now changes by the UK Government to the eligibility criteria will see more older people unable to claim and become poorer as a result.

This is the bit where you, and your dearest’s, birthday matters. If you’re what is called a ‘mixed aged couple’, in other words one of you is of pensionable age and the other is younger than their state pension age, you will no longer be able to claim pension credit. What, you mean you don’t have the same birthday and birth year as your partner? Weird!

To make matters worse, the basic Pension Credit rate for a couple is currently £248.80 a week, and the basic Universal Credit rate for a couple is only £114.85 a week.

And I hate to add further insult to injury, but Pension Credit is a ‘passporting benefit’. This means that it acts as a qualifying benefit for other forms of assistance, but as you won’t be able to claim Pension Credit until you both are of pensionable age then you can’t claim them. This includes cold weather payments, maximum help with housing benefit, maximum help with Council Tax Reduction and you’ll also be affected by the ‘bedroom tax’, will not have access to claim social fund funeral payments, and may not be entitled to the warm home discount.

What are your options? Well you can either wait until the younger partner reaches their state pension age, or they can claim Universal Credit in the meantime as way to boost your joint income. This will mean they’ll be subjected to Universal Credit conditionality, for example, needing to prove that they are a carer, or that they’re seeking work for 35 hours a week, or that they’re not well enough to work. If you decide not to claim Universal Credit, and have no other income then you would be £133.95 a week worse off, potentially for several years.

This move is hugely unjust. With pensioner poverty on the rise, 29% of people aged 75 and over living on or just below the poverty line, and fuel poverty likely to increase.

The Age Scotland freephone helpline, which provides free information, friendship and advice is on hand to provide support to people over 50, their families, and carers. The changes for mixed aged couples won’t be introduced until May 15th 2019 so there is still time to start the Pension Credit claim process. This is something we can help with, call our helpline advisors and they can give you a free benefit check to see if you’re getting everything that you’re entitled to. In fact they can help with just about anything, they’re very knowledgeable- and friendly.

I implore you to call them, the changes to Pension Credit are a few months away and they can talk you through any entitlements you may be eligible for in great detail and how to claim them

If you’d also like to share your outrage about these changes, then we want to hear from you too. Sharing people’s real life stories is the best way to bring forward change so do get in touch with us.

Our helpline is free to call, and is available Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm on 0800 12 44 222.

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Studying psychology and tackling loneliness: Meet Hannah

Forget the stereotype of students doing nothing but partying, every year thousands of students are engaging in community life, tackling social and environmental challenges, supporting local causes and volunteering. Student Volunteering Week (11-17th February) is a national celebration of the impact of student volunteers.

Meet Hannah – a 4th Year Psychology student at Edinburgh University – who volunteers with our Community Connecting service supporting older people to find and attend social activities in their local area.


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Being in your fourth year at university, you must have a lot on your plate. Tell us a bit about why you volunteer.

Volunteering is valuable to me because just a few hours of my time every week can make such a positive difference to somebody’s day. Knowing that your phone call has made someone’s day just a little bit brighter is so rewarding.

I volunteer because I think it’s so important to stay connected with groups of people that I wouldn’t necessarily come across that often as a university student. I think that elderly people in particular can feel quite isolated in society due to technology advancing so quickly and everything going online, so I think volunteering at Age Scotland’s Community Connecting service is incredibly important to me because it allows me to find clubs and activities for our callers online, that they wouldn’t have known about if they didn’t have access to, or weren’t able to use the internet.

What do you feel you’ve gained from volunteering?

Feeling like I’ve made a positive difference to someone has definitely added value to my everyday life. It is, by far, one of the most rewarding experiences I have. In the future, I want to pursue a career as a Clinical Psychologist, and volunteering at Age Scotland has highlighted to me how important it is for everyone, particularly those who are older and more isolated, to have someone that they can trust and talk to, which has led to me deciding that I would like to offer free clinical services to elderly people in the future.


Visit the Age Scotland website to find out more about our community connecting service or volunteering opportunities.

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Preparing for cold weather

Cold weather alerts are issued by the Met Office when the winter weather is most likely to significantly impact people’s health. The Met Office’s cold weather alerts are a way of warning about cold weather conditions in advance – so you can take extra precautions to keep safe and well.

Make sure you’re prepared with these simple steps

1. Keep an eye on the weather forecast. It’s good to know what to expect so you can plan ahead.

2. If bad weather is forecast, make sure you have everything you need. Order any repeat prescriptions in plenty of time and check you’ve got enough medication. Stock up on food to keep in the cupboards or freezer in case the weather makes it harder to leave the house.

3. Take extra care if the ground is slippery. Wear shoes with good grip and consider keeping salt and sand mixture handy to grit paths. You could always ask your neighbours for help to clear paths or driveways clear in bad weather – the vast majority of people are more than happy to help.

4. Try to avoid driving in bad weather if at all possible, and make sure you follow advice on driving conditions near you. If you do need to go out, make sure you keep blankets, some snacks, water and a shovel in the car in case you get stuck. Make sure these are easy for you to access – supplies aren’t much use if they are in the boot and you can’t get to them!

5. Cold weather can sometimes result in power cuts. Have a torch at home in case of a power cut (and don’t forget to check the batteries!) It’s also worth making sure any mobile phones, laptops or tablets are fully charged. You should report a power cut by calling 105.

For more information about keeping well in the Winter months, view our Warm and Well guide.

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