With help from industry experts, we look at how to ensure your in-home activities are meaningful.

Engaging in activities that hold personal significance can bring joy, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose, fostering a positive environment, which is why it is essential to ensure your activities are meaningful. Participating in these tasks stimulate residents mentally and emotionally, which can help in maintaining cognitive functions, reducing feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety, and improving overall mental health.

Speak Like A Native, the UK’s specialist in delivering small group language learning for all ages, has recently brought its expertise to care homes. It is now running French and Spanish sessions in several care homes and receiving positive feedback from residents, activity co-ordinators and management.

Holly Taylor-Hall, Speak Like A Native’s Operations Manager, has been central to devising and developing this innovative programme and frequently attends the free taster sessions the company offers, as well as visiting partner care homes where the courses are up and running. “The best way to know that what we’re doing makes sense for the participants is to observe sessions and seek comments from those involved,” she said.

“It’s all about maintaining a close relationship with the activities co-ordinator,” Holly added, “and we do this by monthly check-ins, a quarterly observation and ongoing dialogue with the care home. It’s essential that we listen as each setting may be different and each group of residents will have their own specific needs.”

She explained how session includes an opportunity for residents to share with the teacher what they’ve enjoyed and what they’d like to do. This is then implemented in the following session so that the learning is always meaningful and tailored to the needs of the group. As Holly explained, this can only happen with flexible and experienced teachers and a programme that is built to move at the pace of those taking part.

“Our courses,” she said, “focus on topics, such as family, food, holidays, interests and are designed to give residents the opportunity to relate personally to them and talk about their own lives. Recounting memories and habits is strongly encouraged and it’s often easier for them to find comfort in these memories under the guise of a language lesson.”

“We also encourage visitors, family and friends to join the sessions and find that our residents are very proud to let others know that they are still learning something new.”

Speak Like A Native’s language programmes in care homes focus on both mind and body and take into account all abilities – not just language level – such as movement, memory and confidence. The role of the teacher is to get to know each resident so that within a group conversation will always be personal and meaningful.

“We have some participants who already speak French or Spanish, and this may be their only opportunity to practise something that means a lot to them. And then there are our groups where everyone is a beginner and they feel such pride learning something new. With language learning, progress is often a feeling of growing self-esteem by being able to do something you couldn’t do an hour before. Of course, there are lots of laughs along the way too,” added Holly.

Ana Ciobotaru, Home Manager at Austenwood Care Home explained how creating a fulfilling and engaging lifestyle for residents requires creating an activity programme that is personalised and stimulating by design: “Getting to know residents so that activities are tailored to their needs can help keep them entertaining and meaningful for all who take part.

“The involvement of family members and friends in the activity planning process enhances the personalisation of activities and strengthens the connection between residents and their loved ones, helping to improve wellbeing.”

Ana advises facilitating regular meetings with family members to ensure that residents will enjoy the activities planned for them. This also has the added benefit of giving family members and friends more opportunities to participate and provide ideas.

“Establishing open communication channels will keep family members informed about upcoming activities and allow staff to seek their feedback.”

It’s good to consistently ensure you’re aware of the effects your activities are having on residents, Ana commented: “It’s important that your lifestyle programme is regularly reviewed to ensure activities continue to be appropriate, and arguably more importantly, enjoyable for those taking part.

“Again, simply observing and speaking to residents is the best way to gauge whether activities are fulfilling and stimulating for them.”

Taking on board this feedback, in addition to themed events and/or seasonal changes to activities can help keep programming fresh for residents.

Ana sees that observing residents’ behaviours and moods after enrichment sessions can also be a great metric when reviewing programming.

Meaningful care home activities should also go beyond mere entertainment and strive to foster personal growth and learning opportunities for residents, empowering them to explore new passions, enhance existing skills and maintain cognitive function.

“Activities tailored to specific needs, such as reminiscence therapy for dementia patients, can help preserve memories, promote self-expression, and enhance overall wellbeing. By incorporating personal growth and learning into care home activities, we can transform these spaces into vibrant hubs of self-discovery and lifelong learning,” finished Ana.

Sarah Clarke-Kuehn, Chief Operating Officer for Sanctuary Care, revealed how at Sanctuary Care, they go above and beyond the standard expectations of providing good quality care and support to ensure their residents live enriched and fulfilled lives.

“Our care is shaped around a defined framework. We call this Enriching Lives, a framework which is based on academic research that found that our residents and their families need to have ‘six senses’ met to feel fulfilled and content. These include a sense of security, purpose, belonging, significance, achievement, and continuity.

“We use this framework to tailor our activities programme and deliver truly person-centred care to each and every individual who lives with us.

“We have designed a questionnaire for residents, which enables our care home teams to get to know each of our residents closely as an individual. This questionnaire looks at what makes every resident unique, the people close to their hearts, their passions and dreams, and the continuity of living they need to feel content.

“This questionnaire forms an important part of the on boarding process for residents when moving into our homes and is continuously updated during review sessions with our residents and their family members.”

To ensure your home’s activity schedule is kept fresh and engaging for residents it is important that it is frequently reviewed and updated.

Sarah told us how Sanctuary Care’s activity schedule is continually reviewed to ensure it is kept appealing for residents and their needs are part of the ‘Resident of the Day’ process: “Our activity coordinators regularly evaluate how activities in the home are performing, assessing residents’ participation and exploring ways for activities to be tailored or improved.”

At Sanctuary Care they take a co-production approach to activity planning, with residents playing a central role in shaping what it is they want to see in the care homes. Sarah believes that this approach enhances residents’ wellbeing by creating a sense of continuity and enabling residents to feel engaged with who they were before moving into the homes.

“For example, one of our residents, Rita Chapman is a retired music teacher who lives in Ravenhurst Residential Care Home in Worcester. Rita is passionate about music and with the help of our team, was encouraged to set up a choir – The Ravenhurst Angels – with other residents who have gone on to perform shows in the town hall

“Organising the choir has given Rita a confidence boost, and as a result, she now often leads on activities within the home and has even volunteered at a local primary school,” Sarah added.

Gaining feedback and gauging how well-received activities have been is important to Sanctuary Care, so they offer a range of opportunities for residents to act as an ambassador for their home, representing the views of other residents by attending team meetings and offering feedback on a variety of matters, including activity programmes.

“For example, one of our residents, Edith Walker, is a resident ambassador at Hastings Residential Care Home. Edith takes great pride in visiting other residents in the home to check in on how things are going and to see if there is anything they would like or need from the team. This role also gives Edith a great sense of purpose, which we know is fundamental for an enriched life.

“Of course, feedback isn’t just limited to our resident ambassadors; all residents are encouraged to share regular feedback on activities and speak to the team about any ideas they have. This is done in formal chats and in review settings, as well on an ongoing basis and during informal conversations around the home,” finished Sarah.

Hannah Karim, Senior Care Expert Manager at Lottie understands that activities in a care home should focus on enhancing the lives of residents. To ensure a care home is offering meaningful activities, Hannah believes that activity coordinators should take the likes, dislikes and interests included in the care plan into account when planning activities.

At Lottie, they work with care homes across the UK to organise intergenerational activities that involve residents, their friends and family and the local community.

A most recent example of this is an intergenerational day hosted at Brookwater House Care Home in Enfield. Residents came together with their families, friends, and local beauty students to share their secrets to self-confidence with younger generations.

Hannah believes care homes should rotate their activities regularly, offering new and fun activities each day whilst also including residents’ favourite activities.

“At Lottie, we’re always looking for new and collaborative activities we can bring to care homes, working with residents, friends and family members and the local community.

“To ensure activities encourage personal growth, learning, and skill development, we prioritise individuality. Whether this is residents expressing themselves through art, sharing their own life experiences with younger generations, or trying something new – there are plenty of ways to offer meaningful activities,” Hannah said.

Ensuring that activities in a care home are meaningful for residents is vital for their overall wellbeing, mental health, social interaction, and preserving their dignity and individuality. It is an integral part of providing high-quality care that considers the holistic needs of each resident.