How to champion enriching activities for older people

Sunrise  |  March 19, 2019

Samantha Wells, Activities and Volunteer Coordinator at Sunrise of Virginia Water, considers the importance of activities in ensuring that residents in care homes live happy and fulfilled lives.

Having worked at Sunrise since August 2015, I know that there is nothing more rewarding than seeing our residents smile, laugh and have a good time at our warm and welcoming community. A big part of this is ensuring they stay active and busy – in fact, the words ‘I’m bored’ are banned at Virginia Water!

I am delighted to work alongside a lovely activities team, and we have worked hard to develop and run the Live with Purpose programme. This is a dedicated activities-based initiative that enriches the mind, body and soul of our residents, and shows just how important effective teamwork in organising events is.

Championing quality of life for all our residents is the foundation of this programme and has led to some exciting initiatives. The ‘Live with Anticipation’ part of the programme sees us organise a whole host of diverse trips throughout the year, with upcoming excursions to a local wine estate and a history of wheels museum lined up. In-house, there’s the chance for residents to show off their artistic skills with weekly arts and crafts sessions, which recently included a jewellery-making class, and to treat themselves at our very own shop.

What’s important is that these are all led by the residents themselves – we hold regular meetings where every senior has the chance to come up with ideas for trips, and the in-store products we source from suppliers are determined by residents letting us know what they’d like to see.

In fact, getting residents as involved as possible is at the heart of everything our activities team does. ‘Live with Learning’ involves quiz nights with crosswords tailored to the lives and backgrounds of our residents and the local area, whilst our bingo nights are run by the seniors themselves, with someone always stepping in as bingo-caller! In addition, ‘Live with Melody’ activities involve residents coming together to show their appreciation for music and enjoy the songs that bring back meaningful memories.

Considering what our residents want and giving them the opportunity to lead on activities and share their ideas not only ensures that our residents take part in things that genuinely excite and stimulate them but that they feel valued and appreciated. As word-of-mouth spreads across the Sunrise of Virginia Water community, the activities our residents have had an input in always end up being some of our most popular.

We also ensure Sunrise values the importance of community by forging strong links within the local area. Our memory care café is open to any local resident who wants to visit and learn more about supporting those living with memory loss, whilst our involvement in an upcoming local ‘Bake Off’ challenge for Comic Relief will allow us to benefit both charity and the people that live nearby. Recent events have seen the Deputy Mayor and VIP guests, as well as friends, family and neighbours join us for celebrations, and truly encapsulate just how valuable it is for our residents to benefit from a visitor with a friendly face.

Above everything, the key to organising successful activities at any care home is listening. At Sunrise of Virginia Water, we truly believe in letting our residents guide us and opening a dialogue between each individual and our team members. We want to ensure that we are keeping the mind and body of each resident active, and this just won’t happen if there isn’t a rapport established by a support network. Whilst trips and group exercises are popular, sometimes a resident asks for a 1-1 activity – and if that’s what they want, that’s just as effective! Getting to know every participant and having an insight into the lives, preferences and needs of each resident will ensure that every activity contributes to creating truly memorable and meaningful moments for all.