North-east veterans with sight loss have been staying connected amid the health crisis thanks to a charity initiative.
With many of its social activities for older people with visual impairment still unable to resume, Sight Scotland Veterans has been searching for new ways to keep spirits high.
Using Age Scotland’s group phone call service, it has been able to help groups of friends stay in contact with one another.
RAF veteran Patrick Wire, who live in Turriff, had been a regular at the charity’s Inverurie lunch club until it was halted in March.
The 80-year-old, who has macular degeneration, has since been reminiscing with his pals – the seven Garioch Geezers – through the charity’s Comradeship Circles calls.
He said: “These calls are great and have helped to maintain our friendships.
“It’s so simple – they just give you a code to dial in and if you can’t manage it then they can ring you, which makes life a lot easier for some.
“You look forward to the call and it inspires you to think, which is good, otherwise you’d just sit and stare at the wall.
“As you get older you can’t get out – particularly right now – and my eyesight means I can’t get out on my electric scooter now.
“The majority of us in the group calls were in the RAF and we’ve found there’s a cross over between the camps we were on and people we knew.
“It’s fun to talk about your experience of being in the services.”
Elsewhere a Golden Girls fortnightly call has been set up to help four ex-servicewomen in Aberdeenshire, including Women’s Royal Naval Service veteran Dawn Nicolson, who lives in Huntly.
The 87-year-old, who has Retinitis Pigmentosa, said: “The calls are quite a good thing for people who may be a bit lonely, particularly these days.
“I think it’s an excellent idea because it gives you somebody to talk to and something to talk about.
“One doesn’t really realise how much you missed speaking to people.”
In October charity Royal Blind, and its sister charity Scottish War Blinded, relaunched as Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans.
Outreach worker Ingrid Penny, who helped set up some of these group calls, said: “Many of the older veterans we support often tell us they have experienced loneliness due to the impact of their sight loss.
“As we are still unable to run our social activities, some people are feeling this social isolation even more acutely.
“Age Scotland’s Comradeship Circles service has been brilliant in helping some of our Aberdeenshire veterans to maintain vital social connections through these restrictions.
“It’s particularly beneficial for those whose visual impairment or lack of access to technology means virtual contact isn’t possible.”
Age Scotland Comradeship Circles co-ordinator Rachel Connor said: “It’s brilliant to hear everyone asking after each other and having a laugh on the calls.
“These are a wonderful example of different organisations working together to be there for the people they support, and encouraging in such a challenging time.”