The UK’s care homes are filled with a wide variety of elderly people, many of whom want to continue living an active and vital life. One way to do this is to continue with old friendships or encourage new ones. The charity YOPEY offers care homes the opportunity to create new intergenerational friendships by having its young YOPEY Befrienders visit residents. But before we discuss YOPEY Befriender let’s look at some of the other ways care homes can help their residents to live an active and vital life…
There are so many ways that care home residents can achieve this, from exercise and physical activity to social activities, games, events and more.
From improving circulation, muscle tone and mobility to protecting mental health and stimulating social interaction for emotional wellness, keeping residents active and engaged is a vital part of care homes’ responsibilities.
Just some of the activities that care homes can set up and manage include:
One of the easiest and most effective exercises residents can do is walking. It’s low impact, can be adjusted to suit the pace of the slowest people so that the group stays together which helps stimulate conversation, and helps improve overall fitness including the cardiovascular system, muscle tone, posture and general strength. Make walks fun by setting destinations, for example to a particular garden, historical site or similar. And make a note of interesting things to find and discuss on the route – it’s as much about the journey as the destination!
If there is a pool nearby, arrange for swimming sessions where residents can have exclusive use of the pool or sections of the pool. Swimming is arguably the best low impact exercise of all, and helps strengthen the core, improves circulation and reduces the risk of osteoarthritis amongst other ailments. Swimming doesn’t always have to be exercise-based – a person having a leisurely swim at their own pace is extremely relaxing and gives them a good chance to chat to their friends at the same time!
Whilst not everyone will be able to wield a spade or shovel, or lift a bag of compost, everyone is able to plant a seedling or bulb, whether in the ground or in a raised tray of sorts. Gardening is extremely cathartic and peaceful, and the joy of watching something grow is exciting and stimulating, especially if the gardeners are able to pick fruit or vegetables and eat them at a later date. Gardening can be a very social activity or something that people can do on their own if they prefer. Gardens are ideal spaces for protecting both physical and mental health.
Stretching and flexibility exercises
A great way to build an overall group or individual health is to introduce fun and stimulating stretch and flexibility classes, for example, Tai Chi or Yoga. Whilst not everyone will be able to adopt the perfect ‘Cat pose’, most will be able to bend or flex to some degree – this really is a case of ‘anything is better than nothing’.
More importantly, these classes are social activities and there will be much fun and laughing, all of which is ideal for mental wellness.
In good weather, classes can be held in the garden!
There are many activities that help stimulate the cognitive senses whilst simultaneously bringing people together in social groups, which is good for emotional health and wellbeing.
- Reading – whether, in a Book Club or individually, reading is an exceptionally powerful tool for maintaining mental acuity. Additionally, if in a Book Club, the social engagement of discussing books, plots, characters and so forth is very stimulating.
- Arts and Crafts – there is a plethora of arts and crafts activities that can be set up and managed for groups of all sizes. Whether it’s painting and drawing or photography, knitting, sewing or scrap-booking, these activities stimulate creativity and bring people together with a common purpose.
- Boardgames – there are so many excellent games to choose from that test general knowledge, are simply fun to play in groups or can challenge people to solve puzzles and so forth. Game Nights are incredibly popular amongst people of all ages and are a great way of bringing people together.
- Films – whether it’s the latest blockbuster or a nostalgic Golden Oldie, Film Nights bring people together and stimulate discussion and debate, laughter if it’s a comedy and so forth, all of which promote mental and emotional wellbeing.
- Cooking and baking – one of the most stimulating and creative places is the kitchen, and with shows like Masterchef, Great British Bake Off and similar, there’s a real interest in trying out different recipes and dishes. Getting residents involved can have huge mental and emotional benefits, as well as yield a veritable smorgasbord of foods for everyone to enjoy.
- Dancing – music and dancing are a great way not only to get exercise but to connect with fellow residents, remember the old Dance Hall days, revive a love of music and share an evening’s entertainment.
Even for residents struggling with dementia, many of the above activities can help stimulate the mind and relieve frustrations.
For care homes, selecting from the above activities or adding, even more, is an ideal way to create a sense of community, companionship and creativity. Friendship is a great thing to encourage among residents both within the home between residents and residents, and residents and staff, but also external friendships with people in the local community. The charity YOPEY facilitates intergenerational friendships by recruiting, training and supporting young people – known as YOPEY Befrienders – to visit residents on a regular basis, and make genuine friendships, rather than visit occasionally to entertain residents at arm’s length – which is the normal nature of ‘relationships’ between schools and care homes.
Find out more about YOPEY Befriender’s contribution to helping your care home to enable its residents to live the best quality of life possible.
PS YOPEY will provide your home with an independent record of the visits to your residents by our young YOPEY Befrienders. Each YOPEY Befriender scheme lasts up to a year and care homes can ask YOPEY to keep the scheme going beyond this length of time. If a home is inspected by the CQC while it is having a YOPEY Befriender scheme, the home can ask the charity to provide it with a compilation of all its YOPEY Befrienders’ visit reports. YOPEY knows about a quarter of the homes it works with have shown these reports to the CQC and the reports have contributed to the homes being upgraded, most to Outstanding.