THE positive effects of group music-making were trumpeted at Saturday’s Health and Wellbeing Market in Wick.
Pentland Brass Band opened the event at the Pulteney Centre with an uplifting selection of traditional tunes and movie compositions from a mix of junior and senior members, while later there was an opportunity for the public to join in with the Caithness Handbell Ringers.
It was part of a busy day of activities organised by Caithness Health Improvement Forum with Caithness Voluntary Group (CVG) and Pulteneytown People’s Project. There were more than 20 stalls offering information on health and wellbeing services that can be accessed locally.
There are so many things about making music that are good for health and wellbeing.
Overseeing the musical performances was Thurso musician Katrina Gordon. She and Susie Dingle established caithnessmusic.com as a social enterprise to encourage group-music making in the county.
Research has shown that the many benefits of taking part in music include relieving stress, improving concentration, building self-esteem and boosting brain power.
“There are so many things about making music that are good for health and wellbeing,” Katrina explained after the conclusion of the brass band session on the upper foyer.
“I think the main thing is the effect that it has on a musician’s brain. There are studies that show that musicians’ brains actually have more grey matter in them than a regular person’s brain. It’s to do with the connections that fire up when you make music. It uses the connections in your brain to your language, your maths and your emotions all at the same time, every time you play.
“If you practise that little by little over decades and decades it actually changes the way your brain functions, so it makes you better at coping with life. Personally I’ve been studying for a master’s in mindfulness at Aberdeen University for the past four years and I’ve been looking at the way the mind works in relation to music-making, specifically the paying attention that happens, especially with children – it’s the training of their attention when they’re in rehearsals. You saw our junior band and how they were all focused.
“They’re having fun at the same time, so it’s very good training for their minds – and a well-trained mind is a happy mind. That’s what mindfulness is all about – being able to let go of the thoughts that you don’t want to hold on to.”
Pentland Brass Band is based in Thurso but covers the whole county. “This band will play anywhere so we’re up for galas, fêtes, birthday parties, whatever you want,” Katrina added.
We’re here to give practical help and advice on services and equipment that are available to people with hearing and sight loss.
Hearing and Sight Care highlighted some of the aids and adaptations that can make a real difference to the lives of people with hearing or sight loss. Hearing tests were also provided.
This year sees the 25th anniversary of Hearing and Sight Care, which has three staff supported by 10 volunteers.
Manager Deirdre Aitken said: “We were established as Caithness Deaf Care but now we’ve developed services to help people with a visual impairment as our ageing population tend to have either hearing or sight loss or a combination of both.
“It’s important that we promote what services are available locally so that people know they can access help about their hearing or sight at any time through their journey or diagnosis, and that the girls are trained and are willing to help.
“We rely on a team of volunteers as well. We work in Wick and Thurso and cover Caithness and north-west Sutherland. We have a large area, but we’re here to give practical help and advice on services and equipment that are available to people with hearing and sight loss.
“If people come into the centre they can chat about anything from an amplified telephone to a magnifying glass or get advice about lighting – just the practical aids and adaptations that are there and how people can access them.”
Pauline Gibson, sensory support worker at Hearing and Sight Care, demonstrated a set of simulator specs which give a sense of how a person’s sight is limited by retinitis pigmentosa, leading to tunnel vision.
“We use simulator specs to let people know the level of sight loss that their family member is experiencing,” Pauline said. “It helps their empathy and understanding of what their family member is going through.”
On the Wick Walking Group stall the focus was on the health and wellbeing benefits of walking as a group.
Walk leader Pat Groves said: “We meet every Tuesday afternoon at two o’clock at the council service point in Wick, hail, rain or shine, 52 weeks of the year. Anyone can turn up – it doesn’t matter if you’re not very fit. You just need a waterproof jacket in case it rains, and comfy shoes.
“Last week it was a nice sunny day and there were more than 20 of us walking. We’ve got about 10 regular routes that we do. We walk for roughly an hour and at the end we go to Wetherspoon’s and have a cup of tea or coffee and a chat, so it’s a sociable things as much as exercise.
“It’s a mixture of ages but it tends to be older people, men and women. Some are quite elderly but they do as much as they can, and if they can’t manage the whole walk then there are shorter versions that they can take.”
I think people have been suitably impressed with the Kia e-Niro.
The role electric vehicles can play in creating a healthier environment was one of the key messages to emerge from a Health and Wellbeing Market in Caithness.
Becky Fretwell, Inverness-based sustainable transport co-ordinator at Home Energy Scotland, brought a Kia e-Niro to the event at Wick’s Pulteney Centre and there was a keen demand for test drives in the zero-emissions car.
Becky reported that members of the public who were trying an electric vehicle for the first time were “pleasantly surprised” by the experience.
Speaking during a quick break between test drives, she said: “It has been non-stop since I got here. I think people have been really surprised that the car has the range that it does.
“I took the Kia e-Niro today, so that has a range of up to 282 miles. I was able to drive up from Inverness to Wick and do some test drives and at this moment I’ve still got just enough to get back to Inverness… although I am going to charge, just to be on the safe side! But there is actually enough left.
“I think people have been suitably impressed. We’ve been taking everybody out on test drives to Thrumster and they’ve been really happy with how it has been driving.
“They’ve been really quite surprised, I think, by how powerful the car is. People have this idea about them not being very powerful – you hear the comments about milk floats quite a lot. This is absolutely far from a milk float.
“It gives you the acceleration that you need to get past slower-moving vehicles, which is really handy in rural areas. And there are as many charging points between here and Inverness as there are petrol stations.
“A few people have been pleasantly surprised and are actually going to be buying an electric car as their next car, which is just fantastic.
“Everyone was commenting that they were having to keep an eye on the speed that they were going, because there are no vibrations in the car so it’s a much quieter experience.
“It makes for a much more comfortable journey. People feel much more relaxed. And because there are no gears, you’re not having to think about driving in the same way.
“There’s also the regenerative braking. When I drove up here today I only used the brakes once, and that was at Berriedale, just at the very bottom part where it gets really tight and winding. The rest of the time I was just using the regenerative braking, so that meant that I was taking my foot slightly off the accelerator and then putting it back on.
“I was getting the most that I could out of the battery, so that extended the range as well.
“There are no emissions, which is so much nicer for people, whether you’re a pedestrian or a cyclist. But just as importantly as a driver – lots of people don’t realise that when you’re driving you are exposed to the same fumes that everybody else is, but at much higher concentrations. People don’t think about that.
“There are 30,000 to 40,000 preventable deaths annually in the UK caused by pollution.”
Becky added: “The technology is improving to the extent where the price of batteries is coming down, so as each year passes the affordability of them is going to become much better.
“There are also a lot of second-hand electric vehicles out there and they’re holding their residual value very well, so it means you can feel secure in buying an electric car and that when it comes time to get a new vehicle you don’t have to worry.
“My biggest concern is carbon, as is the Government’s, but for everyday people it has to come down to price – that’s what they think about first and foremost.
“An electric car is 4p per mile to run whereas even the most efficient petrol car is going to be coming in at around about 12p per mile. That’s a big difference.
“You’ve got the saving from servicing costs as well. Electric vehicles have very few moving parts in them so it means that they don’t require as much servicing. It tends to be your brake pads, tyres, windscreen wiper blades… those are the types of things that need to be replaced.
“You don’t have oil changes, you don’t have spark plugs. A combustion engine has about 2000 moving parts in it. That doesn’t include all of your exhaust systems and everything else that can go wrong in it.
“An electric motor has one moving part, which is the rotor blade, and on top of that you’ve got very few other moving parts. Some electric cars have as few as 56 moving parts in them, so it just shows you where the savings come from the servicing.
“There are interest-free loans available up to £35,000 per car, and they are payable over six years from the Scottish Government. It just makes it a little bit easier for people that are thinking about a purchase.
“And there is still grant funding for domestic charge points, so you can charge your electric car at home as well.
“If anyone is interested in more information on the grants and funding available, please get in touch using 0808 808 2282.”
We’re trying to help people save money, save energy and just be that little bit warmer.
Home energy advice was also on offer at the Health and Wellbeing Market with the aim of helping householders to save energy – and money.
Michael Cromby, a home energy specialist with Home Energy Scotland, said: “The service we provide is aimed at giving people the advice and information that they may struggle to find themselves. We provide a free, impartial service which is Scottish Government funded but it’s aimed solely at being an advice service.
“We’re not selling anything. We’re basically trying to help people save money, save energy and just be that little bit warmer in their homes.
“As an outreach officer I go out to people’s houses. I may speak to them about their energy usage, I may look at their fuel bills, the electric bills, to see where they’re spending money, have a look to see whether or not I think they’re spending more than they should be, or maybe they’re not heating their house up to the recommended standard.
“I can carry out detailed, bespoke surveys which will look at their specific circumstances and see whether or not they’re using their heating system as efficiently and effectively as they should be, and whether there is a different heating system which could save them money and save energy as well.”
Michael is based in Orkney but his area also takes in a large part of the north Highland mainland.
“I cover the Orkney Islands, the whole of Caithness and west Sutherland and as far down as Helmsdale in east Sutherland,” he explained. “On occasion I will also go into Lairg and as far down as Inverness at times.
“We’re quite flexible as outreach officers – we will support the rest of the team. But generally, Orkney and Caithness is my main bread and butter.
“I think once people find out about the service there’s generally a positive reaction to the fact that it’s free and they’re getting knowledgeable advice from people like myself who have worked in this field for a number of years and know about the different ways in which people can actually save money.
“At this time of year people tend not to think about heating their home, because we’re coming into summer. But this is the time when people really need to start looking and getting heating engineers out to give them quotes and get ready for the autumn.
“They can speak to us, find out whether or not the quote stacks up, see whether the advice they’re given from a local heating engineer is suited to their house. We’re there as a safety net where we can actually support people through that process.”
Screening can detect a problem early, before you have any symptoms.
Members of NHS Highland’s screening awareness team took their health promotion message to the event.
Louise Benson and Jane Chandler were supported by Inverness and Caithness screening awareness volunteers at their stall in the Pulteney Centre.
Louise said: “Screening can detect a problem early, before you have any symptoms. Finding out about a problem early can mean that treatment is more effective. Screening can reduce the risk of developing a condition too.”
Jane pointed out that information about the following screening programmes can be found at www.nhsinform.scot:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening
- Bowel screening
- Breast screening
- Cervical screening
Jane added: “NHS Highland really appreciates the hard work of the screening awareness volunteers who get out and about in the community.”
The Health and Wellbeing Market was organised by Caithness Health Improvement Forum with Caithness Voluntary Group and Pulteneytown People’s Project. There were more than 20 stalls offering information on health and wellbeing services that can be accessed locally.
Event co-ordinator Yvonne Hendry, from CVG, said: “This was our third Health and Wellbeing Market and we would like to thank all the groups and organisations that came to the Pulteney Centre, especially those that travelled a long way to attend.
“The event again showcased the wide range of services that can be accessed in Caithness to help improve health and wellbeing.”
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