In 2019, Sanctuary Retirement Living launched their ‘Your Home, Your Life’ campaign. Part of the project involved replacing the traditional Activity Coordinator role with ‘Wellbeing and Inclusion Assistants’, enabling staff to take a more holistic approach to residents’ wellbeing. Here, Tracey Potter and Yasmin Cox, Wellbeing and Inclusion Assistants at Jazz Court retirement service in Scarborough, explain how their new roles have benefitted both residents and their colleagues.
Tracey and Yasmin’s role as Wellbeing and Inclusion Assistants means they put residents’ mental, physical and emotional wellbeing at the heart of everything they do. Tracey says: “We have different strengths and areas of interest, so we work well individually and as a team. We support and encourage each other, and we always aim to do our best for the residents and meet every aspect of their needs.”
Yasmin adds: “The role is flexible, so we’re able to offer personalised activities and events. Tracey’s background means she specialises in activities around mental and physical wellbeing, including running mindfulness sessions, mobility-improving exercise classes and a free ‘Weigh-In Wednesday’ healthy-eating group. I enjoy being creative, so my sessions encourage residents to socialise and meet new people in a relaxed environment, including crafts, knit and natter, and Friday night buffet and bingo evenings.”
A key part of their role involves listening to feedback and taking inspiration directly from residents. Tracey explains: “We encourage new residents to share their favourite hobbies, so everyone feels included. We also organise spontaneous ‘pop up’ activities to mark special occasions or following specific requests. We’ve also raised hundreds for residents’ favourite charities.” When residents wanted a baking group, they arranged to revamp a room with a kitchenette and began running weekly sessions. Yasmin says: “Our Residents’ Committee is really supportive of our work, and we always get residents’ input before planning anything new. That way, we know we’re offering the activities they want and we’re making Jazz Court somewhere they’re proud to call home.”
Everything Tracey and Yasmin do is about meeting residents’ needs, including ensuring residents with disabilities are equally involved in life at Jazz Court. They also help residents who prefer their own company to socialise in whichever way suits them. Tracey says: “Some people don’t enjoy group activities, so we’ll pop in for a cuppa instead. As well as giving them time to chat with a friendly face, it also means we can check their health and wellbeing, and let the care team know if support is needed.”
Jazz Court residents are encouraged to get involved in community life, both within the service and the local area. Pre-lockdown, Tracey and Yasmin planned daytrips out and visitors coming in, so residents could maintain links with their community. When residents began shielding, this became more difficult, so they had to think outside the box. Yasmin explains: “We realised residents were at risk of becoming isolated, so we spoke to Scarborough and Ryedale Carers Resource and they included us in a local school’s pen-pal project. Residents enjoyed sharing memories with their young pen-pals and it helped them to feel less lonely during a difficult time. It was such a success that it has continued since lockdown was lifted.”
The team’s other lockdown challenge was finding innovative ways to keep residents engaged and motivated. Yasmin says: “Our solution was to create socially-distanced versions of our usual activities and post them through residents’ doors, including crafts, quizzes, wellbeing information and poetry competitions.” Tracey adds: “We even organised ‘corridor bingo’, with residents sitting socially-distanced in their doorways and staff using walkie-talkies to share the numbers, so no-one was left out.”
The role requires a lot of multitasking and organisation, so Tracey and Yasmin are always planning ahead. They have already started working on next year’s project, revamping raised beds for a gardening club. Tracey says: “Neither of us expected we’d be wearing wellies and getting our hands dirty! It’s so worthwhile though – residents have already told me that they’re looking forward to growing their own vegetables and cooking healthy meals next year.”
As well as benefitting residents, Tracey and Yasmin’s enthusiasm and passion for their role has improved their colleagues’ wellbeing too. Yasmin says: “Other members of staff often join in with activities alongside the residents, and they’ve also had lots of training, thanks to the organisations that we’ve connected with, including Parkinson’s UK, NHS staff and Age UK.”
It’s clear that the new holistic approach to wellbeing and inclusion enables the team to work well together, giving residents the best possible experience of retirement living.