Ensuring older veterans are supported with sight and hearing loss

As people get older, sight and hearing may be affected as part of the natural ageing process. Sometimes though an older person will have worse problems with sight or hearing than might otherwise have been the case because of their military service.

Veterans who were exposed to loud noise from small arms fire, artillery, engines, other machinery or explosives are at particular risk of developing hearing loss. Research has found links between sight loss and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There is a wealth of support available specifically for veterans with sight and hearing loss but unfortunately many are missing out either because they are unaware it is available, or because they don’t realise they count as a veteran.

Anyone aged 65 years and older who has done and received pay for at least one day’s service in the UK Armed Forces is classed as an older veteran. That includes national servicemen, reservists and merchant navy who have supported a military operation.

Age Scotland has combined forces with Action on Hearing Loss and Scottish War Blinded to raise awareness among Scotland’s veterans of the need to act swiftly if they are having problems with their hearing or vision. Getting the right support in placer can make a massive difference to someone’s quality of life.

Isa, age 88, first experienced sight loss problems in her mid-eighties. She said:

“It came on quite quickly. I just couldn’t see. It was as though there was something on my eyes, and I was rubbing them to try and get rid of it.”

A couple of weeks later she visited her GP and was referred to the Royal Alexandria Hospital, which diagnosed macular degeneration. A quick medical referral gave her answers about the causes of her condition, but little else. “After the hospital treatment I didn’t see anyone, and I was left to cope alone.”

The council sensory impairment team visited Isa and referred her to Scottish War Blinded. Over the following year she was visited by an Outreach Worker and benefited from home visits from the charity’s local rehabilitation officer, who provided guidance and a CCTV reader that enabled Isa to continue her hobby of knitting.

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Then Scottish War Blinded’s Hawkhead Centre opened in Paisley. “At first I thought it wasn’t for me, I told them I was too old. Now the Hawkhead drivers come and pick me up and drop me home again each week, which is great.”

She is involved with “everything”; from yoga, to art and crafts activities, to social music groups. “Around the house I’m fine, but I’m not confident to go outside on my own other than to the shop across the road so I love going to the centre. It’s smashing.”

With support from the centre’s Rehabilitation Officer she has also benefitted from equipment, including cup levels that enable her to make a cup of tea at home, and a talking watch to keep track of the time.

Getting the right support in place can make a huge difference – but sometimes it’s tricky to know where to start. Age Scotland have worked with Action on Hearing Loss Scotland and Scottish War Blinded to produce a new publication to help veterans find the support they are entitled to. You can download the guide below or request a free copy be posted to you by calling the Age Scotland helpline on 0800 12 44 222.

Download ‘Combating Sight and Hearing Loss – Advice for older people with a military service background’.

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Action on Hearing Loss Scotland’s Hearing Forces project, Age Scotland and Scottish War Blinded are members of the ‘Unforgotten Forces’ Consortium which is a partnership between 15 leading organisations led by Poppyscotland which is delivering a range of new and enhanced services to older veterans.

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Help Age Scotland become Edinburgh Airport’s chosen Charity for 2019!

We have some very exciting news – Age Scotland has been shortlisted to be Edinburgh Airport’s chosen charity for 2019!

If Age Scotland wins this partnership, funds raised by Edinburgh Airport will enable us to significantly develop our Community Connecting service, which works to draw older people from the isolation of their homes.  The service typically offers support and encouragement to older people who’ve lost a sense of purpose and social interaction since retiring, or through bereavement – helping them to take small steps initially to re-engage with others in their community, improving wellbeing.  We match individuals to activities based on their needs and preferences, facilitate introductions, and provide encouragement until their confidence grows. This important service helps individuals integrate back into their local community which significantly reduces feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

The partnership would also help us to raise awareness of Age Scotland as an organisation and the range of support we offer over 50s across Scotland. Our mission is to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow older. From our Independent Living Programme to the Age Scotland Helpline, from dedicated Early Stage Dementia and Older Veterans projects to our work with employers to create Age Inclusive Workplaces, we are doing a lot but with this partnership, we can do so much more.

Between now and the 10th of December Edinburgh Airport staff are being asked to vote for the charity they want to support during 2019 – and the charity with the most votes wins. This is a fantastic opportunity for Age Scotland as an organisation and we need your help to win.

It’s really easy.

Work for Edinburgh Airport? Please consider voting for Age Scotland.

Know someone who works for Edinburgh Airport? Encourage them to vote for Age Scotland.

No connection to the airport? You can still help! By sharing our social media posts across your network you can help spread the word about this fantastic opportunity. We’ll be working to gather support across Twitter, Facebook and Linkedinso please keep a look out.

Thank you for your support!

Autumn Voices: exploring creativity in later life

Age Scotland are grateful to be receiving proceeds from the sales of a new book, Autumn Voices. The book has been published as part of a project exploring how ageing relates to writing and other forms of creativity. We hear from the book’s editor; author, dramatist and lecturer Robin Lloyd-Jones.


Three years ago, for the first time in our history, there were more people over the age of 60 in Scotland than under 18. This trend is increasing. The percentage of elderly people in the population of Scotland becomes greater each year. robinOur economy will not survive unless we stop regarding our elderly citizens as a burden and start seeing them as potentially productive and useful people whose maturity, greater life experience and insights are valuable assets. A society that is better for older people is better for people of all ages. To address the problems and the opportunities of the elderly is to benefit the welfare of our society as a whole.

This was my motivation for undertaking the Autumn Voices Project (funded by Creative Scotland). When I began the project, in 2015, I was 80, and 83 when it ended.  During this time I interviewed twenty Scottish writers ranging in age from 70 to 92 about their later lives and their continuing creativity. The majority of these men and women had made for themselves a benign circle. That is to say their creativity contributed to their health and wellbeing, and their health and wellbeing, particularly their mental health, was an important factor in maintaining their creativity.

It has certainly been my own experience that to forget self in a worthwhile project is like a tonic. Being completely immersed in what you are doing, having the mind fully engaged, having a purpose in life, waking up with something to look forward to, and knowing that you are still doing something useful to, and valued by, society – these things contribute massively to a happy, healthy and fulfilled old age.

These twenty autumn voices represent a total of over 150 years of varied, fascinating and colourful life experience since passing the age of 70. They are certainly proof of the saying: ‘You don’t grow old, you become old when you stop growing.’ I learned a great deal from them – not only about creativity in later life, but also about successful ageing.

Many of those to whom I spoke thought they had become more accepting and more tolerant not only of self, but of others. This, they reported, had opened the way to being able to forgive. Instead of huge amounts of mental energy being tied up in feelings of hatred, annoyance, suspicion and other negative feelings, it became available to channel in creative directions.  They spoke, too, about having a new relationship with time and about a heightened appreciation of everything around them. As hunger sharpens the appetite, so age had intensified their awareness of the beauty and wonder of the world, of love and of blessings.

One thing they definitely did not accept was the negative stereotype of the elderly – the self-fulfilling prophecy of old folk as people whose useful life is over and who no longer have the physical or mental capacity to be productive or creative. We live in a culture that is still learning how to age. Through their writing and their example, the remarkable men and women I was privileged to meet are at the frontier of this learning process.

Autumn Voices (Edited by Robin Lloyd-Jones, PlaySpace Publications, June 2018) can be ordered through the project website: www.autumnvoices.co.uk

Running for Kate: Annie’s tribute to her late grandmother

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Meet Annie Armstrong from Edinburgh – one of Age Scotland’s wonderful long-standing supporters.

Annie’s grandmother Kate was her biggest inspiration. Kate actively encouraged all of her granddaughters to live life to the full and loved hearing from Annie and her sister about their latest adventures, particularly Annie’s time living in New York.

When Kate sadly passed away in August, aged 92, Annie knew she wanted to do something special in her memory and decided to take on the Edinburgh half marathon to raise awareness and funds for Age Scotland.

Speaking of her decision, Annie said: “My grandmother was a social butterfly and an enabler of fun in her granddaughter’s lives. As a close family, we have always been there for each other. But this isn’t the case for every elderly member of society – and that’s why I want to run the Edinburgh Half raising money for Age Scotland.”

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Annie has always been an advocate of Age Scotland’s work and has a particular interest in our Helpline and Community Connecting programme. Our helpline provides information, friendship and advice to older people, their families and carers. This could be anything from help with a practical problem to having a friendly chat with someone who needs to hear a friendly voice. Our Community Connecting team work to ensure older people can access information about what organisations are available locally and assist them in accessing these services. This is a vital part of Age Scotland’s work as feeling integrated in the local community can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Annie says “I’ve always supported Age Scotland and I think the work that the charity does is unparalleled in communities.  I am delighted to be taking on this challenge for such a worthwhile cause.”

Annie says her grandmother Kate still inspires her and shapes how she lives her life today. This year she has been on a trip to France for ski-ing and music festivals, lived and worked in New York (and enjoyed training with stunning Manhattan views!) and has now signed up to take part in the Norway Midnight Sun half marathon in June.

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Annie has now moved to London but has always wanted take on a half marathon in her home town. The route of the Edinburgh Half Marathon has stunning city and costal views and has been voted one of the fastest routes in the UK by Runners world. Annie told us:

‘Being an Edinburgh native, I’ve always wanted to run a half marathon in the city. The fact that the course is primarily downhill and flat is also an attraction! Training has been impacted slightly by a move down south and a new job, but I’m enjoying running and can’t wait for the race’

We are delighted to have Annie’s support and so inspired by the enthusiasm she has for our work with older people in Scotland. We wish her all the best for her remaining training and fundraising and thank her for choosing to run for Age Scotland in memory of her lovely grandmother Kate.


You can support Annie in her efforts by visiting her Just Giving page.

If you’d like to find out more about taking on a challenge event for Age Scotland contact Stacey in our fundraising team on stacey.kitzinger@agescotland.org.uk or 0333 323 2400.

Haud the bus!

Age Scotland’s Policy Engagement and Campaigns Officer, Simon Ritchie, is working with Transport Scotland to gather the views of older people on all things transport. This research is taking place via a series of Age Scotland Network Meetings right across Scotland in two phases – Spring and Autumn 2018.  Transport Scotland is reviewing the National Transport Strategy, first published in 2006, to ensure it meets the needs of society now and for the next twenty years.  

18342285_1440445112689121_8800983467175109032_nOn Saturday 24th March I travelled across the country to Helensburgh on the Eastern shore of the sparkling Gare Loch. I was on my way to a meeting of Grey Matters, a local Age Scotland Member group for older people which works to connect them with their community and ensure they have an enjoyable and fulfilling life. I was joined by my Community Development Team colleague, Charlie Murphy, as well as Daniel Lafferty and Jonathan Inglis from Transport Scotland.  They wanted to hear from the group members about their experiences and perspectives on public transport – feedback which will directly shape the revised National Transport Strategy for the next twenty years.

Scotland’s original National Transport Strategy was published in 2006. It had five main objectives:

  1. To promote economic growth
  2. To promise social inclusion
  3. To protect the environment and improve health
  4. Make journeys safer
  5. Improve integration in timetables and ticketing.

These objectives were to lead to three strategic outcomes: 1) improved journey times and connections, 2) reduced emissions and 3) improved quality, accessibility and affordability of public transport.

While its objectives remain every bit as relevant today as they were in 2006, it’s fair to say the world has changed considerably in twelve years, not least in terms of technology, and Scottish Ministers have decided that the time to shape a new National Transport Strategy is now.

Since 2016, Transport Scotland have been working with stakeholders to produce a loose framework for a revised NTS, or “NTS2” as it is referred to. 2018 will be the year that flesh is put onto the bones and that’s where our Age Scotland Network Meetings come in – we will be facilitating these presentations and collecting feedback from 18 Network Meetings right across Scotland this Spring and Autumn.

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Helensburgh was the first of these meetings. Daniel and Jonny kicked the meeting off with a presentation in which they gave an overview of Scotland’s transport system over the past 60 years. This helped to contextualise our current transport system and also showed how rapidly things can change.

Up next were questions for discussion. Group members were asked to share and discuss their views on questions such as “Why do we think transport is a vital issue for older people?” and “what do older people need from our transport system over the next 20 years? 

There was no shortage of constructive opinions and suggestions from the floor. Matters which were discussed included stop-skipping on our railways, limited evening bus service provision, dangerous accelerating and braking on buses, connections to hospitals and disabled access on trains and buses.

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Age Scotland is grateful to Transport Scotland for working with us to ensure that the voices of older people are listened to in shaping NTS2. We are also grateful to our Member Groups for allowing us the time in their meetings to discuss NTS2. Our first Meeting on 24th of March was a resounding success and we hope for a great turnout and engagement at forthcoming meetings around the country.

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Working with Transport Scotland and most importantly of all, the older people in our Member Groups, we at Age Scotland are looking forward to playing our part in Scotland’s National Transport Strategy is the best it possibly can be for people of all ages – including older people who deserve an enjoyable, mobile and well-connected later life.


For more information please contact Simon Ritchie – Policy Engagement & Campaigns Officer at Age Scotland on 0131 668 8047 or email communications@agescotland.org.uk

 

Tackling isolation among older veterans

Loneliness and isolation can affect older people generally, but there can be additional challenges tackling it for veterans.  Often they miss social contact with other veterans, who understand their experiences, and with whom they can enjoy the bond of military comradeship.  Doug Anthoney from the Age Scotland Veterans’ Project visited a project in Motherwell that offers veterans just that.


A cold Friday morning and my taxi awaits by Glasgow Queen Street Station.  “Get in,” says the driver, “I got you a coffee.” If that doesn’t sound like an ordinary taxi, that’s because it isn’t.  David Gibson is both co-ordinator and a driver for Fares4Free: a charity that arranges taxis for veterans who are isolated and unable to get to important services, and one of Age Scotland’s partners in the Unforgotten Forces consortium.  Today we’re off to the Veterans’ Café at Kings Church in Motherwell: VC@KC for short.

On the way we pick up Rosie, a nurse who supports veterans with health issues to attend the café for their first few weeks.  Today she’s off-duty however, and going because she’s a veteran herself.  We also collect a veteran who has been isolated and is going to the café for the first time.  As we drive it becomes clear that David’s service goes far beyond transport: he is a listening ear, information source and problem solver for veterans.  “Sometimes veterans wont’ share their problems for a long time,” he says.  “It’s only after you’ve been driving them for months, even years, that you’ll have built up the trust for them to tell you.”

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More than just transport; David offers a transport: listening ear, is a source of helpful information and a problem solver for veterans.

We arrive at the Café, and it’s buzzing.  There are over 40 veterans; some young, but most older.  I talk to one who did national service.  “I feel a bit guilty, not really a veteran like the others,” he says.  Julie Muir, who co-founded the café in 2015, says this is not uncommon.  “We had a man here who had served in military air traffic control; and he didn’t feel entitled.  We persuaded him that of course he was a veteran, and helped him get his service medal.  He and his family were so chuffed.”

Julie and her husband Scott left military service in 2002, but found resettlement hard and support structures inadequate.  “We thought, if we struggled with no debt, no kids, and no health problems, then how much harder will it be for veterans who face such problems.”

The café had a slow start.  “Initially there were more volunteers than veterans,” says Julie.  Attendance really picked up when they learned about veterans’ housing that was being built.  “We got a list of the houses and popped round with hampers for the veterans.  Now we have around 20 regulars, and there are about ten for whom it’s the only thing they go to.”

So why does it work? “We’ve learned that a military-style environment is the last thing you need,” says Julie.  “Some served for a few days, some for 22 years.  No one gets treated any differently, and all feel they belong.  We don’t make distinctions between the services.  Everyone looks out for each other, and there are no cliques.”  It also helps that it’s a café. “For some of the guys, they really don’t want to go near a bar!”

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“No one gets treated any differently, and all feel they belong.  We don’t make distinctions between the services.  Everyone looks out for each other, and there are no cliques.”

The café is a hub for veterans’ services, including Unforgotten Forces partners such as the Armed Services Advice Project and Defence Medical Welfare Service.  It’s also about helping veterans’ families, including in some instances respite time for veterans’ carers.  “We’ve got new funding and plans to expand,” says Julie.  We want to offer more activities such as gardening and cooking.  Many of our veterans feel they’ve got a lot, now they would like to give back.”


To find out what the Veterans’ Project can do for older veterans, and for clubs, groups and services that would like to work with them, visit www.agescotland.org.uk/veterans.

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Ending Isolation in Scotland – Glasgow Loneliness Summit

It has a reputation as one of the UK’s friendliest and most welcoming cities. So you might be surprised to learn that two thirds of Glaswegians have experienced loneliness.

Not only are they reluctant to talk about it, but it’s a growing problem. Nine out of 10 residents think they’re more likely than ever to be lonely as they get older.

These figures were revealed by the Campaign to End Loneliness ahead of today’s Loneliness Summit, held at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall with the city council. Following the Scottish Government’s new strategy on tackling loneliness and isolation, it’s a chance to address this modern epidemic.

After an opening by Poet Laureate Jackie Kay, speakers will include Age Scotland’s Senior Policy Officer Derek Young and Tressa Burke of the Glasgow Disability Alliance.

Of course, loneliness can affect us at any age and no matter where we live. But we’re more likely to be affected as we get older due to retirement, bereavement, loss of mobility or long-term illness.

Around one in 10 older people in Scotland feel lonely most or all of the time – a staggering 100,000 people throughout the country. One in six haven’t spoken to a friend or neighbour in a week, while forty per cent say the TV is their main form of company.

This is having a devastating impact on mental and physical health, increasing risk of death by 10 per cent and exacerbating heart disease, blood clots and cancer. Our recent research with the Mental Health Foundation found that a quarter of older people have experienced depression as a result of loneliness.

So what can we do about this? There is still a reluctance, especially among an older generation to seek help. They often fear being a burden on family and friends, with almost a third saying they just need to cope by themselves.

The Scottish Government’s strategy – the first of its kind worldwide – is an important first step. It acknowledges that a lot of the expertise and potential for tackling isolation already exists in our communities and organisations such as Age Scotland, with its 1000 member groups around the country.

But there are more concrete steps to take, such as investing in accessible and affordable transport, maintaining community hubs, and identifying those most at risk. And we can all play our part by reaching out to friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbours, creating a compassionate and inclusive society where nobody is forgotten about.

Starting those conversations is key, and we hope events like today’s summit will highlight the problem and encourage people to talk about it.

Watch our twitter feed for more updates from the event throughout the day.