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.

 

 

 

5 reasons that volunteering while studying might just be the best idea ever…

Studying at university or college is a huge task. Between lectures, seminars, tutorials, labs, reading and writing reports it can feel that there’s just not enough time to cram it all in and that’s before you even start studying for exams, working part time, socialising or making time to speak to your family.

However, there are some reasons that you still might want to consider volunteering while studying:

  1. It can help you gain valuable and transferable skills

There are many skills that are transferable to all kinds of jobs across every sector. Taking on a volunteer role can be to develop and practise these skills.

A couple of these key skills include communication in all its forms (writing, speaking on the phone etc.) and team working skills.

  1. Getting experience

So, you have the skills you need to land that job. Great! Now all you need is to be able to demonstrate them. In a really competitive job market having practical examples that you can use in an interview are more important than ever. Being able to talk about how you have recently used these skills in a voluntary capacity could set you apart from other applicants.

  1. Meet new people and get involved your (new) community

Volunteering can be a great opportunity to meet people. This can be especially helpful if you are living in a new place. It can also be a nice way to find out more about the community that you are living in and be actively involved in it.13645078_1204367659594797_8972420390861312461_n

  1. Do something worthwhile

Studying can be stressful and for many volunteers their role is a welcome opportunity to do something different and a good way to get away from those stresses and focus on something else for a couple of hours. Feeling that you are doing something worthwhile can be a great confidence boost and this can also help to combat stress.

  1. Find out about yourself

Volunteering is a wonderful way to have a go at doing something new. You might discover something that you are great at, a potential future career or find out about a cause or an issue that you care deeply about.

Age Scotland has had many student volunteers in recent years and they have often told us that volunteering has helped them secure a job or helped them to decide what they want to do when they finish their studies.

If you are concerned about not having enough time to fit volunteering in, it’s good to remember that volunteering can be really flexible. There are roles that require a couple of hours every week, but there are loads of others that involve just a one off activity (for example supporting at an event), just volunteering during holidays or roles that can be worked in when you have time.

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If you are feeling inspired to have a look for a volunteering role you can find out about volunteering with Age Scotland on our website here: www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/get-involved/volunteer/

If we don’t have a role you fancy or would suit you, you can find out about all sorts of volunteering opportunities across the whole of Scotland on Volunteer Scotland website here: www.volunteerscotland.net/

Beyond Volunteers Week: Volunteering Matters

Cat Campbell, Age Scotland’s Information and Advice Volunteer Development Worker reflects on Volunteers Week and how we carry its’ message forward.


This week I saw the following tweet from Volunteer Scotland:

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And I thought what a great – and important – message to round off Volunteers Week. As you may know, Volunteers Week, this year running from 1st – 12th June; is a UK-wide celebration of what the thousands of volunteers across the country do for charities and other organisations, and the benefits that being a volunteer can bring.

Volunteers Week was extended by 5 days this year in order to include the Patron’s Lunch, and we had a wonderful 12 days celebrating and thanking our volunteers. But it doesn’t stop there. At Age Scotland we recognise that, like many organisations across the UK, we simply could not do what we do without the incredible support and enthusiasm so kindly gifted every week by our amazing volunteers.

Some of our volunteers make calls every week to isolated older people who then have the opportunity for a friendly chat, a laugh or someone to listen. Others help keep our shops functioning or support our fundraising events; raising money so we can support local older people’s groups. Others facilitate training sessions for people approaching retirement so that the attendees can make the most of later life. Age Scotland could not accomplish all of this (and more!) without them.

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And it’s not all about us! It has been proven that volunteering is good for you. A recent study by the University of Exeter and National Council for Voluntary Organisations found that volunteers live longer and have more satisfying lives. It can also give you a sense of purpose and makes a great addition to a CV. It can enable you to use your existing skills or learn new ones.

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Age Scotland is proud to be part of the Scottish Volunteering Forum, which aims to bring people and organisations that are passionate about volunteering together – increasing awareness, sharing understanding and raising uptake.

In 2015 the forum published a really interesting document: ‘Why volunteering matters, the case for change’. It encourages people to ‘be the change’.  We need to move volunteering in people’s consciousness from something that is nice to do, to something that is essential for the wellbeing of individuals and society, if the number reaping the benefits is going to increase.

Volunteers’ Week is a great opportunity to thank volunteers but that shouldn’t stop just because the week is over.


To find out about volunteering with Age Scotland and what kind of roles we offer, visit our website or contact me at cat.campbell@agescotland.org.uk

 

Volunteers Week: Meet Roger!

As we continue to celebrate our wonderful volunteers during Volunteers Week, we’d like you to meet Roger. Roger is based in our Head Office in Edinburgh and since joining us as a volunteer has worked on a number of different pieces of work. 


Having taken early retirement, I knew that I wanted to put something back into society through volunteering with a charitable organisation. I initially volunteered with a developmental charity, but soon realised that I needed to be undertaking tasks where I could more effectively use my skills.

Age Scotland has given me the opportunity to play to my strengths and help people to
make the most of later life. I have so far been involved in writing lifestyle articles for the website, bringing the charity shop rogerwebpages up to date, converting factsheets into audio
format and updating the volunteer database. The availability of factsheets in audio format makes Age Scotland’s repository of helpful information more accessible to people with a visual impairment. It’s good to know that my work has helped to make the charity’s information base more widely available.

Age Scotland is a very worthy charity with friendly and helpful staff. Whether your preference is to interact directly with older people or to work behind the scenes, it offers a wide variety of opportunities for the volunteer. I derive great satisfaction from volunteering here, knowing that I’m making a difference to people in later life. It also helps to give a structure to my week, which I value very much.


To find out more about volunteering with us, visit our website!

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Volunteers Week: Meet Charlotte!

Today kicks off Volunteers Week – a chance for us to celebrate the fantastic contribution that our volunteers across the charity make. Today we’d like to introduce Charlotte – a volunteer in our fundraising department and older people’s champion!


Originally from Germany Charlotte grew up in Canada. As part of her community work requirements in Canada Charlotte spent several months volunteering in a senior health centre in Toronto.

It was there Charlotte began to realise how underappreciated older people can be in our society. The majority of older people Charlotte met there were hospitalised due to serious illness which left them unable to live at home, although mentally and emotionally they were just as capable as the younger doctors and nurses looking after them. This made their loneliness all the more difficult for Charlotte to bear with some residents having only the occasional member of family dropping off for a coffee, leaving the health care system to look after their family members health and happiness. This is inspired Charlotte to volunteer to make a difference to the lives of older people.

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Charlotte stated ‘In a fast paced world where success is measured on individual merit; the elderly are quite often left behind and undervalued. Add to this the trend of families living spread over cities and countries it results in the biological and original support network for older people slowly disappearing. This means more support is needed from local communities, something which Age Scotland is aware of and encourages through the support of its many member groups’

Since joining Age Scotland as a fundraising volunteer Charlotte has been the driving force behind her organisation supporting the charity in a number of ways such as taking part in sporting events and coffee mornings. Charlotte also has the opportunity to assist at ad-hoc charity events and will be volunteering at the upcoming Forth Rail Bridge abseil.

Charlotte (centre) and colleagues from Residence Inn Edinburgh who took part in the Edinburgh Marathon last weekend.

Charlotte (centre) and colleagues from Residence Inn Edinburgh who took part in the Edinburgh Marathon last weekend.

Charlotte’s family live spread across Europe and she wishes she could directly support her parents and grandparents more. Knowing she will be in Scotland for the foreseeable future, Charlotte feels rewarded that by volunteering for Age Scotland she can contribute to supporting older people in Scotland and is able to give back to the community she states has so warmly welcomed her and made her feel at home.


To find out more about our fundraising volunteering opportunities contact Stacey Kitzinger on 0333 323 2400 or at stacey.kitzinger@agescotland.org.uk 

She’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Quality Matters – Our 2016 National Conference

On Wednesday 16th March invited guests and representatives from over 300 Age Scotland member groups came together for our 2016 National Conference.

Attendees travelled from across Scotland to take part in the conference held at Perth Concert Hall. It was a fantastic day with much discussion about what we mean by quality of life in later life. Read on for a round up of the day. 


 

Morning Session: Care Homes, Creativity and Urban Planning

Our conference chair, award-winning journalist Pennie Taylor, kicked off the day by posing two questions to the room: When is life good? When is it not so good?MMB_1377

Answers ranged from thought-provoking to funny to poignant and it was clear that quality of life means different things to different people.

Here’s just some examples of the hundreds of responses we received:

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We were then joined by our guest speakers. First up we had Fiona Cook, Facilitator at my Home Life Scotland discussing quality of life in care homes. Fiona introduced My Home Life Scotland and its’ work to improve quality of life in care homes for those who live in, work in and visit care homes.

We were then joined by Andrew Crummy – Community Artist and Designer of the Great Tapestry of Scotland. Andrew argued that regardless of age, everyone is creative and has something to say, and went on to describe how art can bring communities together and improve quality of life for everyone.

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(L-R) Professor Greg Lloyd, Fiona Cook and Andrew Crummy take questions from the audience

Lastly Greg Lloyd – Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning joined us from Ulster University. Professor Lloyd provided a fascinating overview of how urban planning and our environment can directly impact our quality of life. He went on to consider how we may be able to play a more active role in planning in the future to ensure a better quality of life in later life.

Our speakers got the room thinking and we had many attendees posing further questions and ideas to the speakers and wider floor. You can watch footage from the live stream of the guest speakers and subsequent discussion here.

Afternoon Session: Workshops, Award Winners and Eddi Reader

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An attendee laughs taking part in the “Looking after you” workshop

After some lunch and further opportunity to visit our information stalls, many attendees headed into one of our interactive workshops. We had five in total on a range of topics
related to quality of life, including Men’s’ learning and well being, spirituality and looking after you.

 

 

Attendees then came back together to commence the Age Scotland awards. The awards celebrate individuals and groups that are doing great work for older people in their local community. It was certainly a tough year for the judges, with many quality entries. As our chief executive Brian Sloan said, we would love to have given everyone an award, but there can only be one winner!

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Eddi Reader presents Lynn Benge with the Volunteer of the Year Award.

Our winners are listed below. Click on the links to watch a 2-3 minute video about the great work they did that earned them the award.

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Award-winning singer and songwriter Eddi Reader joined us to present the awards and rounded off the conference with a fantastic performance that had the whole concert hall singing along.

It was a great day full of discussion and debate about what we can do collectively to improve quality of life for those in later life.

What do you think has the biggest impact on quality of life? What could be done to improve quality of life in Scotland? Tell us in the comments below!

All images featured in this post by Mihaela Bodlovic

Now & Next: Planning for later life with Age Scotland

Age Scotland’s chief exec Brian Sloan explains why to truly love later life, you have to be prepared, as we launch our new brand for those aged 50-65.


 

“You get training at every stage in life except for retirement”. This was the opening line by Helen, a volunteer who was running a Planning for Your Future workshop, and around the room you could see the sentiment resonating.

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You go to school to train for college or work. Once in work, you never stop training to keep abreast of health and safety, company policy or any of the myriad of ways that help you to do your job. Yet when you retire, you’re given your leaving present and off you go. For most people, this means going from a structured 40 hour week to absolutely nothing; you’ve looked forward to retirement for years, now off you go and do it. Yet retirement isn’t a thing you can just do, and that’s where Age Scotland can help.

In July 2014, the former Scottish Pre-retirement Council and the Tayside Pre-retirement Council joined forces with Age Scotland. Since then, we have been offering Planning for Your Future workshops aimed at the 50-65 age demographic. It might be a bit of a stretch to get your head around but an older people’s charity was after a younger demographic! Up until that point, Age Scotland was seen as a charity for the over 65s, but to truly love later life then you need to start planning well before then. So we gave the format a revamp to make it more interactive, relevant and thought provoking for today’s 21st century 50-65 year old and created Now & Next as the brand identity to speak to this audience.

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When I’ve been along to workshops, I hear so many people say they that they had hopes for retirement but were not sure how to achieve them. And whilst these workshops can’t promise to make your dreams come true, they can at least help you plan a course of action to achieving them. Whether it is financial, legal or health goals, if you only start planning the day before you retire you’re setting yourself up for a fall.

Helen is one of the volunteers that helps to facilitate the "Planning for Later Life" workshops.

Helen is one of our volunteers that helps to facilitate the “Planning for Later Life” workshops. Click here to find out more.

What’s more important is that planning for later life is not just about you. Living a balanced, happy and healthy retirement means you can improve the quality of life of those around you. Looking after grandkids, supporting your children or giving back to your community, later life should be the time you do what you want to do, so get on and plan it! If you want to know more about Now & Next visit our website, nowandnext.scot or watch Helen’s story (above). She’s one of the many volunteers who run our workshops, someone who has learned from the mistakes she made by not planning more carefully in advance and wants to help others step positively into their next life stage.


 

If you would like to find out more about Now and Next or the Planning for Later Life courses, just contact Stacey Kitzinger on stacey.kitzinger@agescotland.org.uk or call 0333 32 32 400.