News Opinion

Activities are central to excellent care

Jo Blackburn, Care Director at The Orders of St John Care Trust

Our hobbies and interests are a large part of who we are. They build our sense of self, connect us to other people and help give our lives meaning.  Therefore it’s important that as we get older we don’t give up on the interests that define us.

At The Orders of St John Care Trust, we support over 3,500 residents in 72 homes and 14 extra care housing schemes across Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, West Sussex and Suffolk.

But coming to live at one of our homes doesn’t mean you stop doing all the things you enjoyed in the past. In fact, we aim to expand people’s horizons and give residents more opportunities than ever before to try new things or fulfil long held ambitions.

Activities are central to excellent care and are one of the most important considerations to get right. They should be personalised and go beyond expectations, whether they stimulate the mind, trigger creativity, build social interactions or help residents stay active.

A dedicated member of staff

Each home has its own dedicated Activity Co-ordinator, who arranges a varied programme of events. They take time to speak with the residents and their families, to find out about their interests and tailor activities to suit them. These range from gardening in our outdoor spaces, painting and crafts, to knitting, reading or film screenings in our homes’ cinemas.

But as well as day-to-day activities we also organise bespoke trips and larger events like tea dances, garden shows, and carol services, to bring together residents from several homes to enjoy community days.

We have found that meaningful activity is also particularly beneficial to our residents living with dementia. And by understanding people’s life stories, we can tailor activities to suit individuals. In the same way, the themed areas and ‘destination zones’ in many of our homes give our residents a whole new dimension to their lives, the right activities encourage greater independence and contentment.

The sound of music

We also work with partners on initiatives to help build relationships between residents, carers and the wider community, and a music pilot is having exceptional outcomes for one of our homes in Gloucestershire.

‘A Choir in Every Care Home’ is a national initiative led by Live Music Now, with Sound Sense and Canterbury Christchurch University, aimed at supporting music and singing in care homes.

As a lead partner in the project, we have run an 11-week pilot at Monkscroft Care Centre in Cheltenham. It’s a relatively large home and the programme has brought people together from across the four households and strengthened the sense of community among the 80 residents.

Professional musicians come into the home and run interactive and creative music sessions. As well as singing together, residents are encouraged to play instruments and create their own sounds. The combination of live music and movement is something that many people haven’t experienced before. It’s so stimulating. Sessions are lively, full of energy and fun and every member of the group is able to engage and get involved.

The pilot scheme at Monkscroft Care Centre is part of an evaluation study being run with The Centre for the Arts as Wellbeing at the University of Winchester, in order to gather evidence on the impact of live music on the moods of residents and staff.

We’ve found music to be a powerful way to help care for and support people living with dementia. It seems to reach parts of the brain that other things can’t. It makes residents feel good, can help them express how they are feeling and help residents reminisce about a particular era.

Lasting impact

As well as improving our homes and the lives of residents, the best activities have a lasting effect.

The music sessions at Monkscroft Care Centre have seen us expand the knowledge of our care teams. Having developed a common language through music, our carers are encouraged to use music and the techniques they’ve learnt in their care of residents to help sooth them if they become agitated or connect on a deeper level. That is excellent care.


For more information about The Orders of St John Care Trust’s work visit

Twitter @OSJCT





Edel Harris





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