This month’s Guest Blogger is Stacey Kitzinger, Events and Community Fundraiser for Age Scotland. What Stacey has to say about the work of Age Scotland is particularly appropriate to the Autumn Voices Blog, because all the proceeds from the book, Autumn Voices, shortly to be published (in March or April) will be donated to Age Scotland.
At Age Scotland, we’re driven by a passion and a purpose to see older people leading fulfilled lives. We work to promote positive views of ageing, to help older people stay engaged, active and valued in their communities and to eliminate loneliness and social isolation. With an ageing population, our work has never been more important.
We are thankful to Robin Lloyd-Jones for choosing to support the charity through his publication ‘Autumn Voices: Scottish writers talk about their creativity in later life’. Fundraising and raising awareness is vitally important to the work that we do and we are grateful through this book to have the opportunity to achieve both.
100,000 older people in Scotland feel lonely most, or all of the time and 1 in 9 older people have not had a conversation with friends or family in a month. Age Scotland focuses on the impact of an ageing population and a loneliness epidemic in the core services that we offer, and which in turn your support will allow us to maintain and improve.
One of our core services is running our Age Scotland Helpline. A freephone Helpline (0800 12 44 222) giving information, advice and friendship to older people in Scotland, their families and carers, who are facing new and challenging situations in their lives. Worries about money, health, care and housing loom large and callers are guided through a confusing maze of rights and entitlements – most being unfamiliar with the systems of benefits, social care and support in later life. Highly qualified Helpline staff offer a listening ear, sensitive to the fact that many older people are lonely, with around a quarter of callers seeking companionship and conversation. Over 16,000 calls are handled annually and it’s evident from the effusive praise of callers that they are enormously grateful for the patience, kindness, knowledge and practical help given by Helpline staff in accessing services and financial entitlements.
“I would like to thank the gentleman who spoke to me. He was very patient and explained things clearly.” Age Scotland Helpline Caller
To proactively confront loneliness and assist people in moving from the isolation of their own homes to fulfilling interactions with others in their local community we offer a Community Connecting service. Dedicated volunteers’ research and facilitate opportunities for callers to our helpline to participate in community activities. Over a period of time volunteers offer support and encouragement to build their confidence in making social connections and engaging in their local community. Our experience, affirmed by the Scottish Parliament report, Age and Social Isolation, is that human interaction and relationships are vital to wellbeing and that having the support of others is enormously helpful in building confidence. Many of our regional member groups have opted into the initiative, encouraging and enabling older people to get involved in community activities and thus enriching their lives.
Alongside being involved in our community connecting programme we support over 1000 member groups nationwide in a variety of ways. We organise a network meetings, giving groups the opportunity to make connections and share experiences and learnings from each other that would otherwise have been unavailable to them. We have a team of Community Development workers who support our groups in a number of ways from assistance with funding applications to ideas on promoting the groups in the local area. By supporting these groups, Age Scotland assists in ensuring there are local, community led organisations that lonely older people can engage in.
“Since joining the group I have a new lease of life. We’ve made friends and the girls work so hard.” Marilyn Kennedy
Another area of our core work is our advocacy work at Scottish Government and local authority level which is bringing positive change, impacting policy and practice. Age Scotland successfully campaigned for a national strategy to tackle loneliness and isolation at the last Scottish Parliament elections. We are now working with policy makers to secure action to tackle fuel poverty, to bring improvements to care services for older people, including people with dementia, and in making sure that older people receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
Whilst the financial support of the book will go towards our core services and be used where it is needed most we also have a number of funded projects and initiatives running alongside these to support older people across Scotland in a number of ways. Our money matters project which ran for a year from February 2017 delivered roadshows across Scotland to older people on a wealth of topics relating to money, from benefits to pensions and legal issues. Further to this our veterans project in partnership with 15 leading organisations as part of the Unforgotten Forces membership offers veterans support and advice to ensure they can enjoy the best possible health and wellbeing in later life.
Our Early stage Dementia project aims to raise awareness of early stage dementia and the signs and symptoms of the condition. This funded project allows us to deliver dementia awareness training and provide information and advice resources that are suitable for people with dementia and their carer’s.
Finally the charity has two Allied Health Professionals who work with us on promoting health and wellbeing in later life, Jenny Ackland a former podiatrist and Yolanda Strachan a former Speech and Language therapist. Jenny and Yolanda offer training and workshops around staying active and well. One of the most popular of their offerings is our Body Boosting Bingo, pictured below, which is offered free to our member groups.
Picture: Body Boosting Bingo Session
Keeping active and having good muscle strength and balance is critical to our health and well-being. With this in mind, Body Boosting Bingo runs similar to a regular game of bingo but with a bit of a twist! Using a variation on the familiar rhyming bingo calls which are linked to an exercise or activity. For example ‘number 8 lift some weights’. The activities are based on research evidence and can be tailored to meet all abilities in a particular group.
Once again, everyone at Age Scotland would like to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting Robin Lloyd-James’s book and in turn supporting Age Scotland and our aim of a society free from loneliness and isolation and one where everyone can Love Later Life feeling included and valued.
Should you wish to know more about any aspect of the charities work or ways to lend your support please contact our Stacey on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0333 323 2400. We’d love to hear from you.