Why integrating with your community could be your best asset

United for All Ages states that all people should be respected and valued; there should be spaces where everyone can share activities and experiences, whilst living alongside each other in communities – and it’s something we strongly agree with.

Research from United for All Ages found that 9 million people suffer from loneliness in the UK. 4 million of these are older people, and 1.2 million say they always or often feel lonely.

This needs to be addressed, and as a sector, we can work together with our local councils to ensure our residents feel happy, secure, and – crucially – an important part of their community.

The happiness of our residents should always be our priority – as it is for their loved ones; who have often found the decision of choosing a care home to be a difficult one.

We believe one of the key ways to help increase resident happiness is with the integration and social interaction amongst others, and we’ll discuss the ways you can encourage this.

Remove ‘retirement’ from retirement villages

Retirement villages bring many benefits, and there are currently 730,000 retirement housing units in the country (it’s recommended that this increase to 1.7 million to meet the demands), but there is actually a growing case against them.

At our recent roundtable discussion, we discussed this topic, with the general consensus being that instead, developers should focus on building villages that encourage integration.  This could include housing for families, a crèche, and a care home. That way, a variety of ages are living amongst each other, and care home residents don’t feel so isolated from the rest of the population. 

With integration in mind, these villages should include open green spaces such as parks and golf courses, with plenty of tables and benches to encourage people to sit and chat.

Create community hubs

The creation of these villages is a great first step towards integration, but there are other things we can be doing to make sure that people mingle with each other – and the key thing we should be focusing on is creating a ‘hub’.

The Children’s Commissioner for England has proposed that schools open longer to make their facilities available to the wider community. Hosting classes and sporting events enable the whole community to develop new skills and build relationships with each other, regardless of age.

The Youth Sport Trust’s Active Across Ages initiative sees 10 primary, secondary and specialist schools collaborate with care homes, community groups and day centres. The aim is to improve the physical, social and mental wellbeing of all participants, whilst providing volunteering opportunities and encouraging the community to develop relationships with each other.

As an example, some of the volunteers met up with their elderly counterparts to understand what kind of activities they’d like to take part in; and then they set up those classes in response to this.

However, schools aren’t the only place equipped to be a community hub. Friends of the Elderly are instead, looking at how care homes can be the central meeting point – and that’s where you come in.

If you’d like to introduce more activities into your care home, then reach out to local groups and see if they’d be interested in hosting their meetings at your home. It could be anything from a card-playing group to a book club. Having them come to you – even if it’s just once a fortnight or once a month – can really encourage residents to join in, and start socialising with their local community.

Alternatively, there may be local yoga teachers or entertainers who would be interested in holding classes at your care home – and it’s worth seeing if there would be the possibility of opening these classes up to non-residents for a small fee.

You could also consider arranging your own events – summer fetes and BBQs on your grounds can be a real draw for the community – not to mention the loved ones of your residents! 

Havering Care Homes host BBQs in their gardens as a celebration for residents, their families, and the staff – and they also invite entertainers in for a song and dance.

Having a central hub – regardless of whether it’s at your care home, a local school or even at the community centre – that has services, facilities and activities available for everyone, is a great way to encourage social interaction. For your residents in particular, it can help them to stop feeling so segregated from the rest of the population.

Reach out to local charities

There are several charities out there whose main goal is to ensure the elderly feel happy and included – especially if they are unable to get out and about.

For example, Magic Me has an arts and ages programme that focuses on connecting Tower Hamlets schools and care homes through a network of freelance creative artists, including dancers, musicians, drama specialists and more.

They even run a Cocktails in Care Homes project, providing residents with opportunity to socialise over a drink or too – something which they may not otherwise be able to do. 

Alternatively, Alive runs a range of interactive activity sessions in care homes, encompassing everything from tai-chi to poetry, storytelling and therapeutic horticulture. Following these sessions, homes have noticed that in the long-term, 93% of their residents had a more positive outlook; which just shows the benefits these interactive events offer.

Speak to residents to see what they enjoy doing, and then see if there are any charities or volunteers in your area that can help.

Why integration can improve your occupancy rates

The most important thing for residents (and their loved ones), is to feel happy and safe in their environment.

Social activities that encourage residents to socialise with each other – and others in their local community – contribute towards this in a great way.

Hosting regular activities and events could even be the reason why future residents choose your care home over a rival one; helping to increase your occupancy rates, and in turn, your profits. 

Final thoughts

Our number one priority should always be the wellbeing and happiness of our residents, and creating an environment where social interaction amongst each other – and your community – is encouraged, can really help with that.

However, we understand that these activities can easily be forgotten when you’re juggling the general day-to-day running of your care home. However, if you can invest some of your time now in setting up these events, then you can take a step back later, safe in the knowledge they’re running smoothly.If you’d like any consultative advice – whether it’s how to encourage integration amongst your care home and the local community, we’d love to hear from you. Alternatively, for the latest news in the sector, head on over to our blog.

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