With experts on hand, we explore the impact of community engagement and outdoor events in care homes.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of outdoor spaces in enhancing the quality of life for individuals residing in care homes. These outdoor areas, once overlooked, are now being reimagined as vibrant hubs of community engagement and interaction. As we delve into the significance of outdoor events within care home settings, it becomes evident that these spaces are not merely extensions of indoor facilities but integral components of holistic care.

Community engagement initiatives and outdoor events play a pivotal role in fostering a sense of connection, purpose, and wellbeing among residents. Whether it’s a garden party, a nature walk, or a horticultural therapy session, these activities offer invaluable opportunities for socialisation, physical activity, and sensory stimulation. Moreover, they provide residents with a chance to reconnect with nature, reminisce about past experiences, and create new memories in a supportive and nurturing environment.

This article seeks to explore the multifaceted benefits of community engagement and outdoor events in care homes, with a particular focus on the role of outdoor spaces. Through expert insights, we aim to shed light on the transformative potential of these initiatives in enhancing the overall wellbeing and quality of life for older adults.

By understanding the significance of outdoor environments and the importance of meaningful engagement within them, we can pave the way for innovative approaches to care that prioritise connection, inclusion, and empowerment. As we embark on this journey of exploration, let us unravel the profound impact of community engagement and outdoor events in nurturing the body, mind, and spirit of those in care home settings.

Randal Southall, Director at Furncare explained, much to your joy, that creating and maintaining a beautiful outdoor environment needn’t be as daunting as it sounds. “In fact, some might argue that your garden doesn’t even need to be beautiful. It just needs to be outside!”

Getting residents to engage with the garden and use outdoor spaces can be difficult. The well documented physical, social and emotional benefits of spending time in the fresh air count for nothing in the minds of many residents.

That’s why furniture plays such a vital role in encouraging your residents to venture outside. Randal explained that residents who snack, dine or drink outside spend up to 80% longer in the fresh air – and that’s good for them. “That simply won’t be possible if you don’t have the right garden furniture for them to use. Comfortable companion, lounge and dining sets are key, but they must be well constructed, and the upholstery and cushions need to be practical, water and stain resistant and fire retardant of course. Ideal outdoor furniture from Furncare includes the comfortable Alder 3 Piece Lounge Set and Austin 4 seater Dining Set,” Randal explained.

Similarly, we all know exercise is good to build or retain mobility, so encouraging gentle strolls around the grounds is important. Be warned though; if there are no obvious places to rest once in the garden, no amount of persuading will get a resident outside. Randal said, “Benches, companion and lounge sets will change all that. Creating attractive resting places within a few minutes stroll of each other will make the world of difference. New for 2024 from Furncare is the Linden Companion Set, Linden Garden Bench and 2, 4 and 6 seater Avon Dining Sets – all ideal to rest and take in the sights, sounds and smells of the garden.”

To really make a splash with at-home outdoor events, look to introduce innovative or specialised outdoor furniture solutions specifically designed for use in care home environments. The popular Furncare Orla Circular 6 Seater Picnic Table is cleverly designed to provide easy access and legroom for up to six people, making it perfect for outdoor events. It has special large gaps built in between the seats to allow wheelchair users to join the party too. The Orla Table is incredibly stable and robust, and is made from Northern European Redwood which is FSC Certified sustainable wood, and is treated with a unique spirit immersion treatment. “A great way to include wheelchair users seamlessly into your outdoor gatherings and events,” added Randal.

Outdoor furniture contributes to creating a welcoming and homely atmosphere in care home outdoor spaces. In their prime, many residents will have tended their own gardens and cut their own grass, raised a family, gone to work and dealt with a myriad of domestic chores too. There would have been precious little time left to relax in the garden. Now settled in their care home, residents have earned their time in the sunlight. Randal explained how a sturdy companion or lounge set will enable them to play cards with friends or family, read magazines, write letters, knit, natter and generally enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. 

“Companion and dining sets also provide a welcome place for outdoor socialising, afternoon tea and communal dining – all invaluable for the residents whilst relieving some of the pressure on the carers. Even sitting there, taking in the birdsong, breathing in the smells of nature and watching the wildlife, is a welcome distraction and takes some beating,” said Randal. Ideal outdoor furniture from Furncare includes the comfortable Alder 3 Piece Lounge Set and Austin 4 seater Dining Set. New for 2024 from Furncare is the Linden Companion Set, Linden Garden Bench and 2, 4 and 6 seater Avon Dining Sets.

Getting residents to venture outside can be a significant challenge, even when the sun is out. They may actually want to, but are discouraged by the fact that all the comforting facilities indoors will be left behind. Residents should be able to see appropriate resting places from the care home doorway – a Furncare Linden bench or companion set for example. This will give them the confidence to take on the ‘first leg’ of a stroll around the grounds. Subsequent resting places should always be visible to help navigate a route and encourage venturing further out into the garden.

Care homes often host events or activities that involve interactions between residents and visitors, such as family members, volunteers, or local community groups. Outdoor furniture provides a welcoming environment for these interactions, allowing residents to socialiSe with people from different generations and backgrounds.

When the weather is fine, there are very few regular social activities that can’t be moved to the outdoors and undertaken just as successfully as indoors. Most are more enjoyable and beneficial ‘al fresco’. Whether it’s an organised seated exercise session or a spontaneous knit and natter with friends, all it takes is appropriate seating. Board games, cards, even crafting can all be easily facilitated with the right garden furniture.

Tea, snacks and meals can all be managed easily in the garden with the right dining sets too. Randal explained that the fabrics used in quality outdoor furniture are just as comfortable, and water and stain resistant as their interior counterparts, and must be fire resistant. “The Furncare Alder 3 Piece Lounge Set, Austin 4 seater Dining Set and the new 2, 4 and 6 seater Avon Dining Sets are ideal. And the birds will be grateful for any stray crumbs!” finished Randal.

The integration of community engagement and outdoor events in care homes has proven to be transformative, enriching the lives of residents in numerous ways. Beyond mere recreation, these initiatives foster a sense of belonging, purpose, and connection to the world outside the care facility. By bridging the gap between residents and their surrounding communities, they promote social inclusion and combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. Furthermore, the benefits extend beyond the individual to encompass the entire care home environment, fostering a culture of positivity, vitality, and holistic wellbeing. As we continue to recognise the importance of memorable experiences and comfort in outdoor spaces, investing in your garden becomes not only a moral imperative but also a practical strategy for enhancing the quality of life for those in care. Through ongoing commitment and collaboration, you can ensure that every individual, regardless of age or ability, has the opportunity to thrive and find joy in their golden years.