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Bringing residents together
through old and new approaches to activity

Wellbeing is contagious. Bringing residents together for shared experiences spreads happiness throughout the home. Stimulating activity and meaningful engagement are essential to building social capital. Ben Allen and James Tweddle explain how to combine traditional activities with modern technology to benefit everyone.

Improving the wellbeing of care home residents is top of the agenda in the corridors of regulators, commissioners and thought-leaders up and down the country. However, achieving this can be a challenge for even the most efficient and motivated care providers and teams, due to the varying capabilities and needs of residents.

Beyond the tailored day-to-day support and care that each resident requires, finding new and exciting ways to engage individuals living with a wide range of conditions is the key to unlocking an outstanding service.

Nowadays, much focus is rightly given to personalised activity provision: ensuring all activities are tailored to the needs, interests and goals of individual residents. This is only part of the journey to individual wellbeing. Care homes are unique environments where large groups of individuals – residents, staff, friends and family – live, work, play and interact under one roof. In a group environment like a care home, wellbeing is contagious.

To help to spread the good and stop the bad, shared experiences can be very beneficial. Creating shared experiences not only helps to overcome any isolation that may be experienced by older people living in care homes, but goes further by cementing group dynamics – and building social capital – by bringing people together, sparking conversation and strengthening relationships. As a result, it increases the wellbeing of everyone in the environment, from residents to staff and beyond. And it doesn’t have to cost the earth either.

New and emerging technologies can be a vital resource for staff when thinking creatively about an imaginative and comprehensive group activities programme. Television is one such technology that can be used to enhance a wider, personalised, activities programme.

The power of entertainment

Top quality entertainment has always had the power to unite people and to form friendships around shared passions. With modern technology, it’s never been easier to bring entertainment into a care home environment. The challenge is to take this further, to leverage this content into wider activities and wellbeing, and to build much needed social capital.

The use of technology can bring a range of stimulating activities to care homes. To be truly personalised, these can be co-designed with service users and built around entertainment content such as sport, movies and the arts. Television and technology can engage people collectively and notably increase wellbeing. Television in particular can have a powerful effect. With an increase in available channels, and therefore variety of content, there is an opportunity for frontline staff to develop innovative new ideas on a wide range of fun and creative activities. These can be built around residents’ specific interests such as classic movies, entertainment, sports, arts and natural history content.

Whether it’s a sing-a-long to a classic Elvis musical, setting up a game of chair tennis after a Billie Jean King retrospective, or arts and crafts sessions inspired by the latest David Attenborough documentary, there’s entertainment to engage, inspire and stimulate every resident.

A traditional seated exercise class can be transformed by having Singing in the Rain on the television, a room full of umbrellas and a group of happy residents re-enacting the famous routines. By expanding on the offering of the traditional television, you are stimulating not just their bodies, but also their minds and their hearts. Crucially, you’re also much more likely to get regular participation and engagement and, by association, increase wellbeing and social capital within the home. You may find a member of staff has a talent for singing or a real interest in football that can be drawn out.

Wellbeing and dementia

For those residents living with dementia, cognitive and psychosocial therapies are proven to be highly effective intervention methods. For example, recent research has suggested that exercise therapy, music therapy and cognitive stimulation therapy can all be valuable interventions which lead to the improvement of the memory and quality of life of people living with dementia. On a care and support level, enhancing resident wellbeing is about meeting them where they are.

Activities focusing on reminiscence are, therefore, a crucial part of the mix. It’s the job of the activity co-ordinators to create immersive, sensory experiences and facilitate group discussion that stimulates residents physically, mentally and emotionally. Reminiscence should focus on the individual and their experiences, but classic scenes – Morecambe and Wise, Louis Armstrong, Jesse Owens, the Royal Wedding or the moon landing – open doors that are often otherwise closed.

The benefits of personalised, meaningful activity, to care home residents are well-documented. Creativity is required, but by using existing resources, technology and traditional activities, it’s possible to enhance the lives of everyone.

Putting it into practice

Leading care home provider, Hallmark, has teamed up with Sky and Oomph! to implement a wellness programme in several care homes across the country.

Activity sessions link gentle exercise and mental stimulation with content from popular television shows or movies directly via Sky. Whether it’s a sing-a-long to a classic musical, setting up a game of chair football to get residents in the mood for the next live Premier League match, or having a story-telling session inspired by a favourite movie or television series, there’s entertainment to suit every individual’s taste and interests. Activities are sure to get residents motivated and active. By using Sky’s content, sessions are designed to help residents build relationships with one another, increase their mobility and enhance mental stimulation.

Regular exercise improves cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness, bone and functional health and reduces the risk of unhappiness and cognitive decline. Hallmark is already noticing a difference to residents’ quality of life, with classes showing a proven increase in levels of social interaction and mental stimulation among those taking part. The use of Sky content during Oomph! classes has helped Hallmark’s residents lead an active and engaged life, and has had a positive effect on their health and happiness.

Ben Allen is Founder of Oomph! Wellness Ltd. ben@oomph-wellness.org @OomphWellness

James Tweddle is Sales Director at Sky Business. james.tweddle@sky.uk

To find out more about Sky and its connection with Oomph! plus the impact these can have on the wellbeing of residents and staff in a care environment sign in. Subscription required.

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