Older People’s Champion: what’s in a name?

Guest blog by Cllr Elaine Thornton-Nicol, Older People’s Champion, Scottish Borders Council


When I was elected as a Councillor in 2017, I had been employed for 16 years in the voluntary sector, the last four specifically managing services aimed at improving the lives of older people, so I suppose I was the best choice when Scottish Borders Council was looking for nominations for the Older People’s Champion.

This role is ambassadorial, authority-wide, non-political and an honour.

There is no budget line attached to this role so there is no cost to the council.

When I agreed to the nomination, I asked for a role descriptor, because there was no point in me bumbling about the Borders hoping I am doing what is expected of me.  Bizarrely enough, there wasn’t one, but one was provided very quickly.

At this point, please remember I was newly elected and had little knowledge of the machinations of my own local authority, let alone the others.  I assumed that every council had an Older People’s Champion.

I thought I would be able to join the network of thirty-one other champions, some of whom would be in their second term, who would be able to share their knowledge and offer opportunities to take their learning to the Scottish Borders.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.  There are some who have the role but the councillor with the title is not proactive.  Some authorities claim to have an Older People’s Officer, but no description of what they actually do.  Others again have nothing and no one specifically tasked with ensuring that the voices of Older People are heard at every level.  I have to thank Simon Ritchie of Age Scotland and Diana Findley of the Scottish Older People’s Assembly for supporting me on this journey of discovery.

I see my role firstly as a listening one.  The best people to shape and inform Older People’s services are the older people who will use them.  Their voice must be heard.

I work with officers across the council to feedback on various issues and concerns that older people have raised. And I must say they are listening, supporting and, where possible, acting.

There is an aspect of this role that involves sitting in meetings.  It could be anything from listening to third and voluntary sector organisations as they try to learn to work more closely, commenting on proposed services, helping others to understand the need to find out what older people need, want, miss and, let’s be very truthful – don’t like.

I’ve been involved in a range of activities in my role so far. These include, among many others:

  • Exploring the creation of an Older People’s Directory for the Borders
  • Organising dementia training for every elected member of the council
  • A seat on the Borders Community Transport Service Board
  • Supporting the council on campaigns aimed at older people, including Flu Vaccine uptake

I am the face of the Council to Older People, and I am proud of that.  I want to be the best voice I can be for them.

At every Council meeting, my fellow councillors are used to me referencing an older person in my speeches.  I want us to keep our Older People at the forefront of our minds when discussing and debating services.

My role also entails supporting the Council on campaigns relating to Older People – recently I had my photo taken receiving my flu injection to encourage the uptake and thus hopefully prevent illness

If there was a network of thirty-two elected members who were proactive Older People’s Champions for their local authority, listening to our Older People, feeding through to Councils and the Minister for Older People and Equalities, imagine the knowledge and information base we would have.  How much faster we could respond.

So here is my challenge to everyone in Scotland –

  • Contact your local authority
  • Ask if they have and Older People’s Champion
  • Ask to meet with appropriate officers if they have no OPC and share the role descriptor I use
  • Encourage them to use this opportunity to put Older People at the heart of what they do
  • Push them towards that network that can share skills, knowledge and learning.

This is the chance to take the first step on what I know will not be a short journey – change is not easy for any of us.

And lastly, please remember, an Older People’s Champion is not necessarily an Older Person – they could be as young as me!

Age Scotland is calling on every Scottish Local Authority to appoint an Older People’s Champion. For more information, please contact the Age Scotland Policy & Communications team on 0300 323 2400 or email communications@agescotland.org.uk.


Day out in the Scottish Borders

Morag Halliday, Development Officer, and Martin Munro, Legacy Officer, recently visited two very different groups in the Borders, where change has recently been a major factor

Hawick Senior Citizens Association

Hawick Senior Citizens Association’s Evergreen Hall is tucked away on Dovecote Street overlooking the River Teviot – but you will have no trouble finding the group with the clear shiny new sign that the group has just put up.  This is just one of the many recent changes that the group has undertaken – which together with larger structural changes for warmth and weatherproof – have created an inviting flexible space that is in constant use by the local community.

Evergreen HallWe were welcomed by the large friendly group into the newly insulated and plastered hall, to see phase two of the renovations which included new colour co-ordinated chairs, window and stage curtains that Age Scotland has helped fund.  We were fortunate to visit just before lunchtime on a Thursday – which is when  the Social Group meet for a nourishing and enjoyable lunch followed by a cup of tea and a blether.

Evergreen Group, HawickThe enthusiasm and energy which we witnessed over our meal – as we heard of the dances, indoor skittles and various events and activities the committees and volunteers run – was infectious; as were the inventive ideas for the usage and hiring of the hall and other fundraising ideas that have kept the group running since the 1960’s.

With commitment and enthusiasm like this it’s clear this group will continue to run and run…

If you would like to find out more about the group’s activities or get involved contact George Brown,  Tel No: 01450 373829 email: george.brown732@btinternet.com

Find out more about Age Scotland’s work in the community

Galashiels Men’s Shed

Galashiels Men’s Shed has been set up in record time by a hopeful bunch of people who sat together last November with the enthusiasm and commitment to create a place where men could come together share skills and interests, pursue hobbies and pastimes and have time for coffee and a chat.    Gala Mens ShedIn January this year they started operating from just one small room – making bird boxes and planters for a new sensory garden for people who are blind or partially sighted.  But it soon became apparent interest in the group meant this room was too small and they persuaded the local council to give them a local premises which had been earmarked for demolition.  Gala Mens shedThe group then took ownership of the premises in May this year and the Shedders have been working tirelessly to create a working space and socialising area, when we visited there were over a dozen men, some painting the building and some busy making their workshop benches.  Already they have a range of products that they have produced including garden chairs, bird tables, bird and bat boxes, and are also repairing bicycles  – and the local council has commissioned them to create planters for a common area in the Town Centre.

Its early days but this band of men – with ages ranging from 18 to 82 – with support from the Volunteer Centre Borders – have proven they have the drive to take things forward with an official launch event planned soon.

If you would like to find out more about the group or get involved contact: Nigel Sargent at Volunteer Centre Borders, Tel No: 0845 602 3921 email:  n.sargent@vcborders.org.uk

Find out more about Men’s Sheds on the Age Scotland website.

Back to the 80’s – golf style

A group of intrepid time travelling golfers are holding a Charity Golf Day in support Age Scotland.  Participants must use clubs from at least 30 years ago and also dress the part in the finest 1980’s apparel.  They were put onto Age Scotland by Daniel’s Gran May Kinghorn who is the organiser of Age Scotland member group Duns Senior Citizens. Daniel tells us more

Vintage Golfing gear from Age Scotland's Charity shops

Vintage Golfing gear from Age Scotland’s Charity shops

With less than a month to our event starting, the boys have now all got their sponsor forms and are pinning down family and friends for donations to help support our event and raise as much money as possible.

We have all now rummaged through parents and grandparents garages and wardrobes to find Pre-1980’s equipment and clothing, with lots of Plus4s and Pringle Diamond Jumper lined up to wear on the day.

We still have couple of spaces if anyone is interested in joining us in our old school clothing and wooden clubs on the 5th of April.

Some of the boys have already been out to try there old clubs at the driving range and early reports suggest there could be some fun and games on the day with Pogo Patterson struggling to find the sweet-spot of modern clubs let along wooden headed ones.

More Golf bargains from Age Scotland Charity Shops

More Golf bargains from Age Scotland Charity Shops

If you fancy throwing them a few pound notes and 1/2p pieces, you can support them and Age Scotland here. We look forward to hearing more about and seeing the pictures afterwards….

Find Age Scotland charity shops here.

Tackling the taboo

As the saying goes you cannot get pregnant when talking about sex and equally you will not die from making a will. Colin Darcy, Age Scotland Enterprise’s Insurance Manager reports.

The friendly Afore Ye Go team,

The friendly ‘Afore Ye Go’ team in Newton Stewart on 4th September

Death and dying are topics we naturally shy away from but it is something we all need to face up to, as like taxes, it is inevitable. At Age Scotland Enterprises we speak to lots of people every year who do exactly that and are helping people to tackle this taboo by running a number of events called ‘Afore Ye Go’, which tackles some of these issues. There have been three events with seventy attendees so far in Hawick, Stranraer and Newton Stewart and all have received very positive feedback.

Mrs D who attended an Afore Ye Go event in Glasgow said: “I had always put off thinking about such things – it seemed morbid. But going along to the event was great. It wasn’t downbeat; it gave me really practical advice. I went away and took some of that advice by making some decisions and plans that actually lifted a weight off my shoulders.”

Solicitors for Older People Scotland, one of Age Scotland’s Affinity partners, will deliver a short presentation covering topics such as Wills, Power of Attorney, Advanced Directives, which might sound a bit daunting but are effectively documents which will help clarify people’s wishes and instructions when they either lose capacity or are no longer around. Other topics discussed are pre-paid Funeral Plans which can help freeze funeral prices at today’s prices, no matter when the plan is required. An easy way to save yourself money but also to help your family out at a time when they need it most, when you aren’t here!

Age Scotland Helpline will also talk about the services they can provide across a wide range of topics ranging from what benefits you can claim to how you can get a handyman.
Interested in attending these free seminars, the remain ones for the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway are:

We’re holding Forward Planning Open weeks at our offices in October:

The will also be events in the Scottish Borders

  • Peebles, 19th November
  • Galashiels, 13th February
  • Coldstream, 10th April

For more details contact Ian Howie on 01557 331346.

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