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.

 

 

 

Quality of Life on the Isle of Shapinsay

Toni Giugliano, Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement & Campaign Officer, recently headed to Orkney as part of his work around quality of life in later life in partnership with Stirling University. 


Earlier this month the Quality of Life Project took me to Shapinsay in Orkney. It was a unique opportunity to gather the views of older people about what makes a good life in later years in a rural and remote part of the country.

I was humbled by the extremely warm welcome I received by the organisers and participants. I was picked up from the ferry terminal in the community electric car and whisked along to the “Boathouse” – a fantastic community space where we were protected from the ultra-strong winds (which locals told me were not, in fact, that strong at all!).

In total, eight residents took part in the discussions, which explored several themes, including health and wellbeing, the importance of a close-knit community, relationships, care, transport, personal independence and the role of older people in society.

Below are some statements that came out of the discussions:

“Befriending services are a lifeline – even if you have a close family, often you feel like you don’t want to impose on them. You want to be independent, and a befriender won’t pass judgement.”

“Pass times are so important once you reach a certain age – they give you a focus, a purpose in life, a reason to be on this world.”

“As you become older, you enter a different category. You are likely to become slightly invisible.”

“Many people who once had a social status during their working life tend to lose it once they reach a certain age.”

“Older people still have a lot to contribute to society.”

“There should be incentives for volunteers to take on home care visits and spend some time chatting to people. The home visits you get only last 15 minutes – it’s just not enough. You want to get to know a person and have a chat with them. With the current system they just don’t have enough time to do that.”

“The cost of the ferry is too much; it’s not affordable. Other islands (local authorities) get a better deal”.

“We’ve had to fight hard on this island for the services we have. We need to stay on the ball and continue to do that if we want to keep them.”

It was particularly interesting to hear about the work of the Shapinsay Development Trust and the activities and services it runs to improve the lives of people on the island, including social activities to combat loneliness and isolation. The Sew Shapinsay project, for example, is a great social activity bringing many people together.

The Shapinsay focus group discussion, like all other focus groups that have taken place across the country, will soon be analysed by our researcher teams (who themselves are older people). The project seeks to: (i) explore what older people believe the essence of a good life is; and (ii) lobby decision makers to improve policies that support older people as they age.

Whilst in Orkney I took the opportunity to visit the Age Scotland office in Kirkwall to discuss the Scottish Government’s Social Security Consultation and how the proposed changes are likely to impact older people. We received a number of responses which helped shape our submission. For more information on this, see the relevant pages of our website.


The Quality of Life Project is funded by the Life Changes Trust. To find out more about the project, visit our website.

Age Scotland launches Let’s Get Moving!

Let’s get moving is the latest campaign from Age Scotland aiming to promote the benefits of activity to older people by telling the stories of people from across Scotland about what they do to keep active and their motivation to keep doing regular exercise. 


Keith Robson, Head of Charity Services for Age Scotland, commented, “We all know that that we could do with getting more exercise, indeed, in a recent survey the charity conducted, we found that only 55% of respondents were getting the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.  Instead of telling people off for not doing exercise, Age Scotland is taking a different approach and telling the stories of what people do to keep active and why.

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We’ve heard from 81 year old ladies who can plank for a minute, grandads taking part in Walking Football and hundreds more.  Whilst all the people who we spoke to knew the benefits of activity include helping to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia this was never the first reason they gave for taking part in an activity.  Being social, keeping up with the grandkids and feeling a part of a community were more often quoted reasons for being active. So Age Scotland will be focusing on promoting these stories to encourage more people to get moving, and in doing so, get more people loving later life.”

Sandra White MSP is backing the campaign: “The importance of physical activity in older people cannot be understated. Be it to maintain a healthy body and mind or to combat loneliness, making sure we remain active is key.”

“Being the Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Older People, Age & Ageing I am acutely aware of the difference staying active can make in later life. Local support groups who work to promote and maintain physical activity with older constituents, as well as across all age groups, are important in these efforts.”

“As such I warmly welcome this scheme and wish it every success”

Anas Sarwar MSP commented “The Lets Get Moving Campaign makes clear that, whatever your age, keeping active is good for your health and quality of life.  The Scottish Health Survey published last week shows we still have much to do on issues like exercise and tackling obesity, so I congratulate Age Scotland on getting the message out there that there are simple things the great majority of us could do to be more active.”

Miles Briggs MSP also backs the campaign; “I commend Age Scotland for launching their Let’s Get Moving! Campaign and wish it every success.

“There is a mass of evidence that shows that physical exercise can help prevent a wide range of health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia, and can boost mood and confidence. It is really important that all sections of society and people of all ages, including our elderly citizens, are encouraged to exercise and are aware that even gentle activities like short walks can make a real difference to their health.

“I hope Age Scotland’s campaign will persuade many older people to consider taking up a new sport or rediscovering a physical activity they used to enjoy doing.”

Alison Johnstone MSP commented “There needs to be a greater promotion of the many benefits exercise can have for older people in Scotland. Not only that, we need to do better in explaining simple ways that exercise can be incorporated into peoples’ lives with little or no cost. It’s understandable that many Scots, old and young, struggle to exercise when transport policy in this country has continually prioritised private cars over public transport, walking and cycling.”

Willie Rennie MSP also backs the campaign; “No matter what your age is, keeping fit and active should always be at the heart of anyone’s lifestyle. When people get older, being active can be more difficult, but it is precisely for that reason that older people should be encouraged more to live an active lifestyle.

“Campaigns such as this one from Age Scotland are exactly what is needed to help older generations to keep moving.”


To find out more about the campaign visit our website.

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Early Stage Dementia Training kicks off!

Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Project is funded by the Life Changes Trust to support the charity in developing dementia awareness training for our staff, member groups, volunteers and partners.  In her guest blog, Training Officer Gwen James gives us an overview of what our member groups told us they want to know about early stage dementia and the training that has been developed as a result.


 

Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia Project is well under way!

The first part of the project was to travel around Scotland to find out how much people know about early stage dementia. We visited many of our member groups, spoke to colleagues from other organisations, and gained some valuable and varied feedback.

Common themes from our consultations were that many people would like to know how they can reduce their risks of developing dementia, and that people would like to find out more about the support available both for those with a diagnosis, and for their friends and relatives.

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Gwen James (centre) visits Age Concern Orkney to deliver training.

As a result of this feedback we have started working on information resources. These will be available as publications and online. They will cover a variety of areas relating to dementia, from the signs and symptoms to how to live well with a diagnosis.

We’ve also developed training about early stage dementia. All of Age Scotland’s staff and volunteers have been trained, and we are now offering the training to our member groups and partners across Scotland. Initial feedback has been extremely positive and has already contributed towards making Age Scotland better at supporting those with early stage dementia.

Our training covers the following areas:

  • What is dementia?
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Reducing the risk
  • Communication hints and tips
  • Diagnosis and living well with dementia
  • Staying independent with dementia

We have arranged a number of training sessions across Scotland, which are free of charge for our members and partners to attend:

  • 19th April – Dundee
  • 4th May – Aberdeen
  • 10th May – Falkirk
  • 18th May – Dumfries
  • 25th May – Inverness
  • 8th June – Perth
  • 16th June – Stirling

We are also happy to travel to our member groups and partner organisations to deliver free training.

If you have any suggestions or contributions for the project team, or if you are interested in receiving training with your group, please contact us by emailing ESDteam@agescotland.org.uk or calling us on 0333 32 32 400.

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