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Where can you find information for older people?

26th May 2016

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

Our golden years shouldn’t be a retreat from an active, fulfilling lifestyle, but as we get older, accessing useful information about topics we might be unfamiliar with can be a challenge.

From finding out about helpful local organisations to community hobby groups, to looking up how we go about comparing stairlifts to make moving around the home easier, it’s important that we know what’s available and where to find relevant information for older people.

Wellbeing

Much changes in your later years. Retirement, for example, takes you out of the structured daily life you’ve become accustomed to. Getting older can also bring with it ailments that reduce your contact with the outside world. People underestimate these changes and adjusting can be overwhelming but remember it’s also a time to celebrate your hard-earned freedom, take up interests that may have been neglected over the years or spend time with loved ones. To make the most of this time, being aware of your wellbeing is important and knowing where you can turn to if you want more information will ease concerns.

Naturally, there’s lots of information for older people and not all of it will be relevant in every case. Fortunately, there’s a strong network of state, local and charitable organisations that can act as a good starting point and will at least direct you to another group or resource for more specific individual queries.  

Offering a national advice line, Age UK is able to reach older people and the people who care for them, providing a point of contact for information over the telephone and transferring to local Age UK bodies to learn more about the services nearby. Online their dedicated Health & Wellbeing section covers a range of key topics including advice on coping with conditions and illnesses, discovering gentle fitness and exercise information for older people, and looking after your mind and body.

Safeguarding your mental health as you approach your later years is just as important as your physical health as Sarah, a Care Quality Commission expert, knows all too well having developed Many Happy Returns reminiscence cards to help those with dementia.

“Old age can be surprising, shrouded in mystery and full of challenges and difficulties for many older people, exacerbated by health and social care and benefits systems that are both labyrinthine and unfamiliar. And that's just the logistics!” she explains.

“Accessing reliable, relevant advice is not always easy, especially for the person who is unsure, anxious – or even in a crisis.”

During her mother’s ten-years of dementia, Sarah became her primary carer and recognised that the key to all good care is good relationships, kindness and meaningful communication. To this end she created Many Happy Returns ‘Chatterbox’ conversation trigger cards for older people with dementia and their carers. The cards have become a popular resource that people can use to prompt anecdotal conversations with loved ones, whether they have dementia or not. They can also be used to provide valuable insight into the person’s preferences, useful for carers and family members looking after them.

Sarah explains their purpose: “We need to encourage and enable them to stay independent for as long as possible. By understanding the person’s life story from their formative years we can get to know them while they are still able to tell us their stories. By learning about their everyday life experiences, it is easier to deliver care that matches their personal needs and preferences later on in their care, when they are unable to tell us.”

Subsequently, Sarah has developed a relationship-centred model called REAL communication – building on the acronym of Reminiscence, Empathic engagement, Active listening and Life story. She hosts REAL communication interactive workshops to help carers and nursing staff hone their communication skills. Her blog The Age Page offers another useful resource that gathers information about issues that affect older people.

Elsewhere online, the charity Independent Age covers a number of subjects that support wellbeing in your later years, as well as constructive advice. 

Practical Information

Finding reliable information and advice enables older people to access services and entitlements, consequently helping them to exercise greater consumer choice with informed decisions and giving them a better grasp on the policies and laws that may affect them. This is especially important in leading an independent lifestyle for as long as possible.

Whether you’re looking for care at home or financial and legal help, practical information is, as a rule, easier to come by. You could try referring to the BT Phone Book or Yellow Pages first, with these telephone directories featuring useful contact numbers for a range of services and organisations on your doorstep.

Look in the Yellow Pages or in the Community Directory section of the telephone book for local resources that provide services to older people, those with certain medical conditions or disabilities and people who need transportation. For serious medical concerns the obvious first port of call is your local GP, but if you’re just after general details, the NHS Choices website or GOV.uk (the Government’s online presence) has a wealth of health guidance to search through.

The Care Directory online receives its information from Grace Consulting and provides key information to help its older users make important decisions about the way they want to live their lives, in the environments in which they want to live them. The Care Directory also features a section on the Social Services available for older people, including how they carry out assessments, how to find your local department and arranging financial support for care. With a broader remit, the Money Advice Service provides general information online and through its telephone line about financial matters, including managing risk and budgeting. If you prefer to make enquires in person, your nearest branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau is there to offer advice or direct you towards the relevant organisation, helping you better understand your rights in a number of areas, such as legal, financial and consumer.

Community

When we get older, it can be all too easy to retreat from busy social situations or we may find that moving about to attend events has become complicated. Fortunately, many communities have an extensive network of groups and gatherings that welcome older people and some may even arrange transport, making it easier for those with limited mobility to join in.

Your regional or local newspaper or crier should contain details about groups that host meetings and when. Some will likely advertise their upcoming events in public places such as the GP surgery, a church, library or town bulletin board - so it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for what’s happening where you live. Whether you’re interested in social clubs, are seeking a specific support group or would like to volunteer in your area, community-based groups encourage older people to meet with others in similar situations and keep in touch with society.

You may be keen to pick up a new hobby in your later years and UK Hand Knitting, for example, has published a searchable list of knitting groups across the country for those wanting to pick up some needles and meet other enthusiastic knitters. As the industry association for yarn producers here in the UK, UK Hand Knitting recognises the value in coming together to share a common interest. They say: “People find knitting groups a great opportunity to get out and meet like-minded people in a relaxed atmosphere, either working on their own project or a joint activity such as a charity blanket. In my group, I learn so much from other knitters and crocheters.  What is really nice is that most knitting groups cover a wide age range as well.

“Isolation is such a big problem and getting out to any activity regularly is extremely important. We know that knitting is important to older people and is something many are still able to do as they get older so it is very important that we have as comprehensive a list as possible.

“Our list of knitting groups is a great place to start but we also have a list of local yarn shops who may have more information.  We also find that libraries are a great source of information.”

For mature men with a passion for tinkering, the organisation Men’s Sheds is bringing a sense of community to the solitary back garden shed. Men’s Sheds is a network of small groups of guys who gather together in free ad-hoc premises across the country to share their tools and creative building skills, where they can work on DIY projects of their own choosing in a safe, friendly space. It adds interaction to a leisure activity that might otherwise be done in isolation and enables members to pick up new tips through hands-on informal learning.

Learning

It’s never too late to learn something new! This could mean joining a specialist interest group to develop skills in an area that appeals to you, or undertaking a course in a subject you would like to know more about.

Age UK’s website can guide you towards a number of bodies who run training and education courses designed to be convenient and fun to follow. You may decide you’d like to be more confident using computers or could benefit from a course in botany; whatever it is, learning later on can help to keep your mind sharp and your outlook positive.

Another great way to soak up new knowledge at your own pace is through audiobooks. Based in the UK, the charity Listening Books has thousands of fantastic audiobooks to choose from and they all can be accessed easily in three different formats: MP3 CDs, internet streaming and downloads.

Claire from Listening Books explains how they can help provide information for older people, saying: “We help those with illnesses and disabilities, as well as those with age related frailty, to access books.  For many of our members, reading provides a form of escapism, gives access to knowledge as well as relieving the isolation which can happen to many of those who can no longer get out and about as easily as they once did.

“This is the time of life when many people have retired and have more time to take part in activities that interest them.  For some, this can be difficult to do if they are unable to get about as they once did.  But there are lots of ways to take part in activities without age/illness being a barrier, and it’s particularly important to make people aware of all the ways that they can take part and enjoy retirement.  For some who don’t have family to support them, it’s incredibly useful to know who to turn to for advice and support.”

Image Credit: el rollo (flickr.com)