Care home activities - exercise

Care home activities: Which are best for the wellbeing of residents?

Fonthill House - Hertfordshire

Numerous studies have found that social interaction and creative expression are an important part of physical and mental wellbeing and can improve general health. People need meaningful engagement with the world around them for personal satisfaction.

Research by Age UK shows a clear link between organised activities and wellbeing. Groups of people with a shared interest and purpose are more content. The resulting engagement can also lead to physical benefits.

Dr Gene Cohen was known for his research in this area with The Creativity and Aging Study: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults. This research demonstrated that creativity:

  • Improves mood
  • Increases resilience
  • Boosts memory
  • Improves morale
  • Improves sleep
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Increases working vocabulary
 

Although these are examples of research amongst older people, creative activities benefit all ages. An example is The Great Create which is the latest project from The Prince’s Trust to assist young people’s wellbeing through encouraging organised creative activities.

However, it is important to put time into carefully tailoring the activities to the residents so that they will be successful and to focus on the purpose of the activity — whether it is to simply make residents laugh or to energise or relax them. Here are some ideas:

Relaxation

Massages

Reflexology and head massages are wonderfully relaxing and can help improve sleep. Hand and feet massages are also popular and can include a manicure and pedicure which can make residents feel pampered and special.

Many types of massage don’t require the subject to get out of their chair, so it’s easy for residents to take part even if their mobility is limited. Massages are known to reduce stress and help to relieve some of the physical symptoms and pains associated with aging. You can read more here from Age UK about the benefits of massages for older people.

Chair-based yoga

Yoga is fantastic for relaxation and can also improve strength and flexibility. Seated yoga is good for less mobile residents.

This video from popular YouTube channel Yoga with Adrienne is full of effective ideas for gentle chair yoga exercises that are particularly suited to older people. If residents don’t want to be left with only a video for instruction, you can easily take inspiration from a tutorial and devise your own routine.

Guided meditation

Guided meditation has a whole host of benefits to improve wellbeing such as reducing stress, increasing patience and techniques to manage chronic pain. There are many guided meditation exercises on the internet which only need to take a few minutes a day.

There are many guided meditation exercises on YouTube, elsewhere on the internet and on many popular apps, which only need to take a few minutes a day.

Art easel with orange glass full of paint brushes and green pot of chalks on a table in a care home

Arts

Creating

Making greetings cards is an enjoyable activity as residents can put their own individuality into designing them. There are so many variations of design using different craft materials and for different occasions. The cards also offer the residents an opportunity to send a card to a friend or family member, offering an uplifting form of communication which can be treasured by the sender and the recipient.  

Classes for teaching skills like mosaic making or printmaking can be challenging and rewarding and help improve concentration. The finished product will provide the resident with a great sense of achievement and an added confidence in themselves.

Even if residents don’t actively take part in the creative activity, just watching others can have a positive impact. This guide from the Social Care Institute for Excellence explains the wide-ranging benefits of creative activities.

Scrapbooking

This is a fun activity that can also help to boost memory and help to maintain and develop personal identity. Residents can stick photos, decorations and memorabilia in their own scrapbook which they can show to family and flip through whenever they like. It will also benefit the care home staff, helping them get to know the residents and their lives.

This story from Care UK not only explains why scrapbooking is so effective, but offers some top tips on getting started.

Garden craft

Creating items such as bird feeders for the care home garden will help form a sense of community and the residents will be rewarded seeing them in use. You can also centre artwork and craft activities around the garden, such as pressing wildflowers, flower arranging and making seasonal wreaths.

Garden-inspired activities have been shown to be particularly beneficial for care home residents with dementia, and there are some great practical ideas to be found here.

Feeling useful

People who are no longer working or who are injured and recovering can complain they no longer feel useful, that they have no value or purpose, and this can make them feel depressed. Including residents in helpful tasks can help them to feel included. Ask residents to help with laying the table, give them small cleaning tasks or ask for help folding laundry if they are physically able.

Exercising the mind

As well as feeling useful, residents will want to continue to challenge themselves mentally. News and current affairs clubs will keep them up-to-date with the world, while a computer club will teach them new technical skills.

Reading is known to enrich life and improve wellbeing and a book club or reading in a group is easy to set up. Sharing and talking about the book or poem adds a social benefit. Reading aloud has also been shown to boost verbal and visual memory.

Film nights with subtitles are inclusive and residents can talk about the film afterwards with their friends — much more sociable than watching TV alone. 

At Fonthill we host regular film nights as part of our weekly programme of entertainment, and they don’t necessarily have to be trips down memory lane. Recent years have seen hugely successful films that directly target the older market, such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet, and award-winning dramas rooted in history like The King’s Speech and Darkest Hour.

Puzzles and games

Board games

Board games and card games are a great way of encouraging social interaction and there are lots of old favourites. You can choose games which are suited to the residents. For example, Call To Mind is a game that has been designed for dementia sufferers.

Garden games

Spending time outdoors is one of the best ways to improve wellbeing. It is known to lower stress, heart rate and blood pressure. Garden games are perfect in dry weather as they encourage residents to get outside for a dose of vitamin D. Games such as boules, skittles, giant Jenga and ring toss are great fun, and many can be played from a sitting position.

Jigsaws

Many people love doing jigsaw puzzles so this will provide a genuine sense of enjoyment for jigsaw fans. Plus, jigsaws are good for mental health, stimulating brain cells and generating new connections. This is an ideal activity for small groups of two or three residents.

During the recent lockdown, jigsaw puzzles have seen a resurgence in popularity with people of all ages, as their many benefits have become more widely known.

Music

Music quizzes

Music quizzes are enjoyable and will also help stimulate the brain cells by triggering memories. You can also play music bingo where you show images mentioned in the songs.

This Name That Tune quiz on YouTube is a good starting point, and can give you some ideas to create your own.

Singing

Getting a group together to sing songs can be a really uplifting way to relax and smile. The choice of songs needs to be tailored to the residents as it is important that they are songs that they are familiar with or which bring back memories.

The recent BAFTA-nominated BBC documentary Our Dementia Choir showcased the benefits of singing particularly for residents with Alzheimer’s.

 

Live music

Research suggests that music can stimulate the body’s natural feel good chemicals. Live music sessions can enrich a residential home. Live bands are great for boosting a mood and energising! A harpist can provide music to relax to, while a percussionist could get residents involved in making music too.

Musicians can help residents to reconnect with the music that they loved when they were younger, and this directory provides a comprehensive list of care home entertainers performing in the UK.

Care home activities - exercise

Exercise

Exercise classes

Exercise is vital for a happier and healthier life. Trained instructors know how to involve all residents so that the classes are inclusive. Many classes can be done from a seated position. Tai Chi and pilates offer gentle exercise and help to reduce stress.

Tai Chi and pilates offer gentle exercise and help to reduce stress, and this chair-based pilates workout from the NHS is an excellent starting point.

Walking

Walking is known to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood and sleep quality. Being amongst nature has a positive impact on mental health, so walks outside in the garden or local parks or countryside is ideal. Regular gardening clubs in a care home are also great exercise and can be hard but satisfying work!

Dance

Dance activities are brilliant because residents enjoy the movement, the music and the social aspect. You can organise dance classes or simply hold informal dances or discos. Bringing in a pianist to perform live music can add to the experience.

This guide from the Social Care Institute for Excellence explains some of the benefits of dancing in care homes, and offers practical tips.

Sensory

Dough with added essential oils

Moulding dough is therapeutic as it is such a tactile, relaxing activity. You can make up batches using essential oils which will have the added benefit of a calming aromatherapy. There are many easy recipes to follow on the internet, such as this one

Lucky dip

A lucky dip with gift items that are also sensory – things like scented soaps or a hairbrush is a good way of stimulating the residents. You can also put objects in a sock and get the residents to feel the sock to guess what is hidden.

Tasting competitions

A blindfolded tasting competition is sure to encourage laughter. For older residents you can include potentially nostalgic foods like Angel Delight and then encourage them to reminisce.

Special trips out

Tea at the Ritz? Wine and canapes at 400ft? Weekly drinks at a manor house? It is important to have some special social events to look forward to on the calendar. The anticipation for an event planned well in advance is part of the fun. Without trips out to look forward to residents can get cabin fever characterised by combinations of sadness, restlessness, anxiety, boredom and irritability.

The team at Fonthill House understand this need to look forward so they organise luxurious outings which make the residents feel special — and this sets Fonthill apart from other care homes.

If you want to hear more about the luxurious activities programme at Fonthill House, look at our upcoming events.

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