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Blog: ‘Small steps, keep it simple’ - the prescription for wellbeing in later life

14 June 2023

On May 3, 2023, 69 delegates from Age Scotland member groups, academia, and older people’s services, gathered in Stirling for the first one-day Wellbeing in Later Life Symposium.

The event aimed to deepen understandings of the steps that individuals and groups can take for health and wellbeing in later life, and to connect organisations and projects that support older people to age well.

Fiona Cross, Age Scotland director of community services, set the scene by sharing data about Scotland’s stark health inequalities and the health and wellbeing impact of the recent pandemic. But her conclusion was positive: “Small steps can become good habits, and this can help keep us be healthy, happy, and independent as we age.” 

A Wellbeing in Later Life showcase was the day’s highlight, thanks to the wonderful organisations that shared their work in creative, fun, and interactive ways.

Lingo Flamingo taught Italian phrases, and famous Italian gestures.  Trellis got hands dirty potting herbs.   Scottish Ballet introduced their dance health programmes with simple movements.  Sharing a Story CIC and Dunbar Carers Group shared soup tips, recipes and poems from their Tales from our Kitchen Table project.

Sporting Memories played interactive sports reminiscence games.  Veterans Tribe Scotland showed how fun, quick and easy crafts can be with a windchime making activity.  Weekday Wow Factor got us moving and laughing together with activities including a musical arm-linking game.  And The Alliance introduced their work to promote wellbeing using digital technology.

The afternoon also featured the launch of Age Scotland’s Wellbeing Flower Resource which older people’s groups and services can use to explore and deepen the contribution they make to their members’ wellbeing. 

Dr Jitka Vseteckova introduced The Open University’s Ageing Well Public Talk Series, an incredible online learning resource for those who want to deep dive into later life health and wellbeing topics.   She also trailed Five to Thrive, an ageing well pledge campaign for individuals and groups, in partnership with Age Scotland, that will launch in September 2023.  For news about Five to Thrive you can subscribe to Age Scotland’s monthly Wellbeing in Later Life email.

To conclude, Symposium Chair Professor Alan Gow shared some of his work on brain health, which has shown that there’s no one big action you should take for your brain to age well but rather multiple tweaks to your routine, across areas including nutrition, physical activity, and life-long learning, give you the best chance of good brain health, and good health and wellbeing generally, in later life.

Alan gave a powerful analogy of how the British Cycling Team looked at little improvements that might be made to everything that influenced the team’s performance.  Getting these multiple ‘marginal gains’ resulted in an incredible winning streak for the team, a lesson we can apply to our own health and wellbeing in later life.

Read the full report of the Wellbeing in Later Life Symposium 2023