Straight Talk
Ben Benson Breen • Head of Activities and Wellbeing • Oomph!

Ben Benson-Breen extols the virtues of getting your residents outside, to places they genuinely want to visit.

We all know the feeling in mid-winter, it’s cold and miserable outside, it gets dark in a few hours and it’s just easier to stay snug and warm indoors. That is totally understandable, however, once we get out of the habit of going out and default to doing what is safe and comfortable, a world of possibility is lost.

John, a care home resident and recent participant on one of our Out & About outings said it better than I can, ‘When people are living in a home, gradually their outlook can become diminished if they only see the four walls they are living in…it’s very easy to get nice and comfortable indoors; not want to go out.’

This is a sentiment echoed by participants in the Natural England 2016 report, Is it nice outside? ‘If you are out in the open, it brings a whole new perspective to how you feel, you are not in an enclosed space indoors where you are thinking “well, this is my world, that’s their world out there”.’

What we find is that for many people both living and working in care homes, there is an understandable temptation to settle for what is familiar and comfortable. Leaving the home can present many practical challenges – staffing, transport, knowledge of where to go, time to plan and organise – but the biggest challenge, as ever, is mindset and the fear of the unknown.

Unless we fully recognise the positive impact of keeping those in care connected to the outside world and support our carers to make this happen, it is easy for inertia to win.

However, when we get it right and keep people connected to places and communities that have meant something to them in their lives, magic happens.

A great example of this is Martin, he’s 94 and lives in a Surrey care home. He attended a recent trip to Brooklands Motorsport and Aviation Museum. An Autocar journalist for 40 years, who first visited the venue as a child, Martin is passionate about cars, but hasn’t written anything for many years.

The trip reignited his passion and got him writing again, ‘Motoring and writing about cars has been my life…It was a wonderful day. I haven’t actually written anything for a long time, so when this opportunity came up to start again, it was wonderful.’

Debbie Bailey, Activities Lead at Priory Court where Martin lives added, ‘Martin is absolutely passionate about automobiles…He’s started writing an article about his trip and he’s going to write some articles for us here at Priory Court too. I think that’s an amazing feat, I really do.’

Margaret, who doesn’t usually attend trips out due to anxiety, was enticed to participate because of her love for Kew Gardens. The day took her mind off a close friend’s illness and has helped build her confidence to consider other trips out.

In both cases, it was the appeal of a destination that they genuinely wanted to visit again that overcame the resistance and inertia to leaving the home. This created the potential for an experience which expanded their horizons, allowing them to restore connections to a place of personal significance.

Once people start having experiences like this there is a snowball effect within the wider community of the home. Going back to John, he said, ‘It’s a great talking point, when we all come back from the visit and sit down, we talk about what we’ve seen…when the others hear the stories they wish they were there too and there might be just a hint of jealousy!’

It’s these experiences that we want to encourage with Oomph! Out & About. We have created a full-service solution for resident outings – including transport, driver and a rich variety of local venues chosen by you, priced to be accessible to any service. Let’s work together to ensure everyone in care can stay connected to the places, passions and communities that matter most to them.

Ben Benson-Breen is Head of Activities and Wellbeing at Oomph! Email: benjamin@oomph-wellness.org Twitter: @OomphWellness

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