Improving Later Life

Blog from our newest AHP National Consultants, Jenny ACKLAND and Yolanda STRACHAN.

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It’s harvest time already! Jenny and I joined Age Scotland six months ago in February, when actually the weather wasn’t that bad and you could see some green shoots starting to come through.

It has been a great summer and an even greater six months since being in post and we are delighted to have this opportunity to tell you a little more about our role and some of the work we have been harvesting.

Partnership Working

Ours is the fourth of the Allied Health Professional (AHP) Consultant posts to be created within the third sector. For those who are uncertain, third sector comprises not-for-profit organisations and is sometimes also known as the voluntary sector. We also have AHP colleagues working with the Care Inspectorate, Alzheimer Scotland and the Alliance Scotland.

Our posts were created by the Chief Health Professions Office at Scottish Government. Those of you who know your Reshaping Care for Older People will recognise the context for these posts; of ’building partnerships with third sector organisations in order to develop new community driven models of care which help older people maintain their independence’ (and a better quality of life) wherever possible.

Our passion is older people and it might surprise you to know that here at Age Scotland ‘older’ encompasses everyone from the age of 50 years upwards. I love this definition of ‘older’ because it widens the scope of our role and the kind of projects we can look at to increase the awareness of our AHPs and the contribution they make to the health and wellbeing of older people especially in the areas of public health information and prevention.

Raising awareness is a significant part of our work and it can take many forms.  Everything from contributing the AHP perspective to responses to consultations emanating from Scottish Government to helping with broad enquiries coming through Silver Line Scotland, Age Scotland’s Information, Friendship and Advice Helpline for Older people.

An equally important part of our role is to provide our AHPs with information about the support and resources that Age Scotland provide for older people. Having that knowledge base about the kind of supports available in their areas and nationally from third sector organisations is vitally important for helping AHPs meet the aspirations of their patients for life as they would have it and to petition for service change on that basis. Age Scotland has over 900 member groups. These are organisations big and small who are out there working to ensure that older people enjoy a better later life. Have a look at Age Scotland’s website and the resources available and then please do come back to myself or Jenny if you would like to know more.

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One of my favourite questions when I meet other colleagues and professionals is ‘What is keeping you busy today?’ It can often be too much to explain an entire work plan but asking people to tell you where their energies lie on a particular day can be really satisfying for them and you. This is the question I used when I first joined Age Scotland to try and understand the many different roles of the people working here. Jenny and I ‘sit’ with the Policy and Communications Team This is a very lively group of very talented professionals whose role is to campaign on behalf of older people.  I use the word ‘sit’ loosely because one of the flags Jenny has been flying very strongly for us since arriving here is the work on Understanding Sedentary Patterns and how these contribute to ill health. We are soon to take delivery of a prototype of a standing desk, currently being built by one of our Men’s Sheds. If you haven’t heard about Men’s Sheds you might want to take a look here.

We also work closely with the Information and Advice Team, again who represent an incredibly diverse skill and knowledge base, contributing to health information projects where we can and recruiting in the expertise of AHP colleagues as needed. You may get a call from us!

badgeSo…  What has been keeping me busy today? …… I have been meeting with my colleague and health information writer to discuss her findings from a scoping exercise on older people and mental health. I’ll be using this information to represent Age Scotland and our AHPs on a short life working group at Scottish Government looking at psychological services for older people. There are many reasons why our older people have poor access to and uptake of these services so it would be really wonderful to make progress on this issue.

I have been following up with some of our AHPs on articles they have written for Age Scotland Advantage magazine. One of the things that has pleasantly surprised us since being in post is the discovery that people are genuinely very interested in who the Allied Professions are and this is a great way to highlight the very practical help and advice that AHPs can offer.

I have been continuing in dialogue with some of our NES career fellows on questions they have raised regarding co-production and achieving consensus following a visit here to Age Scotland.

Finally I have been scoping for future work streams. One of the things I find most enjoyable about my new role in third sector is the sheer diversity of the work being carried out to ensure that older people can love later life. This is an aspiration we all share as AHPs working with older people.

And what has been keeping Jenny busy today? There have been a few bits of work in progress that I can tell you about.

The former Scottish Pre-retirement Council and the former Tayside Pre-Retirement Council joined forces with Age Scotland in July this year and we have been asked to provide a health and well being input to their training days. Jenny participated in one of these training events herself last March prior to her own voluntary early retirement and she can hardly believe that she will be on the delivering end of this training come September.  Keeping well and active is very dear to our hearts and we are planning an interactive session that we hope will be interesting and of value for the participants approaching a new and exciting chapter in their lives

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An element of our workplan is to develop and evaluate practice placements for student AHPs. Our AHP Consultant colleagues in Alzheimer Scotland and the Care Inspectorate have developed contemporary placements for students in care homes and in the third sector in conjunction with NES.  We would like to learn from the experience of our colleagues and currently Jenny is arranging a meeting to debate and agree a way forward for some innovative AHP student placements in the third sector.

Jenny is representing Age Scotland on the dissemination advisory group associated with the Seniors Understanding Sedentary Patterns (USP) study being led by Professor Dawn Skelton at Glasgow Caledonian University. Part of our role on this group is to share information about the study and the

 health risks associated with sedentary behaviours – or prolonged sitting within our member groups and with our own staff. Dawn has organised a free webinar on 27th August to share information and you can register for this and other free informative seminars via the Seniors USP website

An interesting and very pragmatic consequence from this work has been the recognition that we ourselves in Age Scotland are very sedentary indeed … we are sitting a lot at our desks working on computers all day. We have been chatting a lot about how we can change this pattern and if we can possibly work differently and be a bit more active in our workplace. There is also a view that we need to be ’walking the talk’ in terms of being less sedentary if we are really trying to encourage and empower our older people to do the same.

UnknownThere is a real energy and enthusiasm to try and change how we work and every team in our office and wider has put forward a representative to be part of a group that will debate ideas to be more active and practically workable for their particular team. I mentioned earlier about the Mens Sheds initiative and we are so excited about the delivery of our very own custom made standing desk. Our CEO at Age Scotland Brian Sloan has very kindly championed and taken this forward for us with one our Mens Shed groups.  Mens Sheds have a core purpose of engaging and utilising the crafting skills of our older people and this group has designed and is actually producing a piece of furniture for our office that has the potential to improve the health outcomes for our staff – WOW!

For us this is co-production in its essence and it just can’t get any better than that!

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Finally, Jenny has been planning for – and what turned out to be a really fabulous day in the middle of August at the Scottish Parliament. Age Scotland had been invited to work in partnership with podiatry colleagues from the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists to share information about our work with politicians and visitors in the garden lobby. We had the opportunity with the help of our policy officers to engage and network with a wide range of people and it was a real joy to talk about the issues that are important to older people and the benefits of good footcare – and the real difference this can make to peoples independence, mobility and quality of life.

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