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Adapting Activities to the New Normal

Valerie Egan, Head Of Care, Borough Care

Since lockdown, care providers have had to think of new ways to ensure activities beneficial to residents’ health and wellbeing continue. As a care provider for older people, we’ve been prioritising the mental health of our residents just as much as their physical health. For the teams at our homes, it’s been important to create a sense of routine, along with keeping everyone safe, busy and having fun.

The current situation provides an opportunity to try different things and engage residents in new activities. While some activities can carry on as normal, we’ve having to change the way we do others, especially where they involve external people. Lots of residents enjoy live music sessions and joining in singing and dancing with the performers. While it’s not been possible to have people entertaining residents inside our homes, when the weather’s been good we’ve had musicians perform outside from a safe social distance. We’ve also had special virtual performances, which have really lifted everyone’s spirits. Singing and dancing are great ways for people to feel energised and uplifted so we’ve been keen to keep these activities going, albeit in a different format.

Creativity, in all its forms, can have immense therapeutic benefits for older people. This is especially important right now so we’re continuing with lots of craft activities. Two of our homes recently took part in a self-portrait project, entitled Collaged Citizens. The project was devised by Arts on Wheels, a company providing art activities to older people in residential care settings. The self-portraits appear as part of an online gallery of pictures created by people isolated, or socially disadvantaged, during the pandemic. It’s our company ethos that residents should continue to live life in colour and this project literally brought out everyone’s colourful side, as well as providing a welcome distraction.

Physical as well as mental activity remains important, with exercise sessions and games continuing. Participating in exercise and sport helps older people become stronger, reduces stress and boosts self-esteem; all of which are now more important than ever. While trips out and walks in the park aren’t currently possible, residents are still able to enjoy fresh air and exercise in the homes’ gardens. Research shows there are proven health and wellbeing benefits of continuing to get outdoors as people grow older so it’s important we encourage people to go outside. When the weather’s warm and dry, it’s a great opportunity to run outdoor activities, including gardening, games and exercise sessions.

Lockdown means some of our activities now revolve around keeping residents and their families connected, while they can’t meet in person. Photos have been taken of individual residents holding up personal greetings they’ve written to their loved ones. These pictures, which we’ve shared via social media and our website, have been a great way to reassure families. Cards have been designed, pictures created and messages compiled. Residents at one home were especially missing have a brew with family members. The home’s Activity Lifestyle Facilitator sourced tea bag holders, which residents helped construct and fill with a teabag that was sent to them in the post. Using WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype and social media have become important activities to stay in touch.

With uncertainty surrounding when, or even if, things will return to a pre Covid 19 state of normality, we will need to continually adapt our activities programme to fit what we face in the future. The one thing that remains a certainty is the importance of regularly hosting a wide range of different activities for our residents to enjoy. The health and wellbeing benefits of activities are enormous and their value shouldn’t be underestimated.

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