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Oomph! Wellness

How to create a dementia-friendly garden

By | Care Home

As we welcome the warmer weather, kicking off our Oomph! Nature workshop and some fantastic summer trips, we get expert advice from Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert at Wyevale Garden Centres – one of our popular trip destinations – on designing a garden for those living with dementia.

Gardening can be great for the mind and body. Just being outdoors brings great benefits on our health. And, for those living with dementia, gardening can be hugely beneficial for keeping the brain active. It can help create a routine, stimulate the mind and the senses, and provide a great feeling of purpose. But planning a garden for those living with the condition can be slightly different to designing your usual plot at home, and there are some extra considerations you’ll need to make. Below, you’ll find my expert advice on how you can create a garden that those living with dementia can enjoy.

Make it safe and accessible

Make sure that the garden is kept secure, with high fences and locked gates to ensure that it is a safe space. You can grow climbing plants like wisteria, honeysuckle or English ivy along these surfaces to make the space bright, beautiful and less intimidating.

Pathways and surfaces should be non-slip to reduce the risk of injury from falling. You should also keep these surfaces all one colour where possible, as contrasting flooring can look like steps to those living with dementia, which can be another safety hazard.

Try to keep pathways wide enough for wheelchairs and for at least two people to walk side-by-side. You should plan to avoid steps where you can. As a more accessible alternative, you can use ramps with a gentle incline. You could also place signs along paths and pavements to make the garden easier to navigate.

For older people, especially those living with dementia, certain activities and movements can be more difficult, which means bending down to plant seeds and to weed may not be as easy. Raising flowerbeds and vegetable patches from the ground means they can still do their usual garden activities from standing height.

When choosing plants, make sure to avoid those that could be harmful if eaten. It’s also best to stay away from any prickly or pointy species that could hurt someone if they were to hold them.

Attract local wildlife

Having animals like birds nearby can improve mood and have a calming effect on those living with dementia (Care UK). Try to design your garden to attract more local wildlife like bees, butterflies, birds and even hedgehogs.

You can easily add some bird baths and bird feeders to the garden to attract more feathered friends, but you can bring a whole range of wildlife to the space by picking the right plants. Trees are great nesting places for birds, and fruit trees have an added benefit of providing sweet produce, too.

Pick low lying plants, shrubs and hedgerows to give hedgehogs a cosy nesting place. Then, pick flowers that are rich in pollen, like lavender and sunflowers, to attract bees and butterflies.

Create a sensory experience

For those living with dementia, sensory experiences can help keep the brain active, so try growing plants that can stimulate their sense of touch, sound, smell, taste and sight. These include:

  • Touch: I’ve previously mentioned that you should try to avoid thorny plants, but there are so many other species that can add a more tactile element to the space. The soft leaves of lamb’s ear feel silky when rubbed, which can have a great calming effect.
  • Sound: Attracting wildlife can add some great sounds to the garden, like soothing birdsong and gentle buzzing. But, bamboo and tall grasses, like greater quaking grass, can provide some interesting sounds when moved by a light breeze.
  • Smell: I’ve already mentioned that lavender can be great for attracting bees and butterflies, but its delicate scent can really help to relax the mind.
  • Taste: Herbs like rosemary, thyme and mint might all carry some lovely scents in the breeze, and are completely edible, too! And don’t forget about fruit bushes and trees, which can grow some tasty produce for everyone to enjoy. Just make sure you choose varieties that are safe to eat, as those living with dementia may not be able to differentiate between edible berries and those that could be dangerous. It’s also best to stay away from fruits that can cause a choking hazard, such as cherries.
  • Sight: Growing a mixture of plants can really help to stimulate the senses, so try to pick contrasting coloured petals and plants with bright leaves.

By following these few tips, you can easily create a safe and stimulating garden for everyone to enjoy.

Exciting research project to investigate Oomph! effect

By | Community

Introducing… Shiva Shangari Manoharan

We are excited to be match funding a PhD studentship with Bournemouth University. This will investigate the physical and psychological effects of Oomph! in older adults. More details are coming soon, but in the meantime, let us tell you a bit more about Shiva, the student who has been chosen to carry out the research…

A registered nurse striving to enhance healthcare one step at a time. She was born in Singapore and later graduated from The University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Nursing. After graduating, she pursued her nursing career in Singapore and UK. In line with her great passion for the profession, she has great interest in research and believes that research drives change in our environment. To further her knowledge in research, she studied in King’s College London where she graduated with a Master of Science in Implementation and Improvement Science.

She is currently embarking on an exciting PhD studentship that is match funded by Bournemouth University and Oomph!. This PhD aims to investigate the physical and psychological effects of the Oomph! intervention in older adults living in care homes in the UK. This is a crucial project as studies show that a large number of older adults living in care homes lead a sedentary lifestyle. The Oomph! intervention focuses on not only keeping the care home residents physically active but also gives equal importance to their psychosocial health. The ultimate goal of the Oomph! intervention would be that care home residents have a good quality of life. This programme of work represents a new collaboration between Bournemouth University (Professor Jane Murphy), Solent University and ukactive (Dr James Steele), Royal Bournemouth Hospital (Dr Divya Tiwari), and Oomph! (Ms. Parita Doshi).

“As a registered nurse with Masters in Implementation and Improvement Science, I am eager to develop my research knowledge and skills at a Doctoral level. The exciting aspect of this would be meeting and working with older people in the community.”

How to drive inclusion in care home activities

By | Care Home

Last week brought us 2019’s Dementia Action Week, giving us time to reflect on this year’s theme of inclusion. Craig Taylor-Green, a Regional Wellbeing Coordinator at Oomph!, gives his thoughts on how care homes can ensure that all residents are involved in wellbeing activities.

As I write this, I know that there may be care home staff up and down the country scratching their heads as they attempt to inspire residents to take part in an activity. What does it take to ensure all residents have the opportunity to not just take part in an activity, but to take part and reap the benefits of health and wellbeing related outcomes which can have a positive impact on their mind, body and soul?

My focus is on the ‘adaptation of activities’ and steps we can take to increase the likelihood of positive engagement between resident, activity and carer. Our goal is to have a failure free environment! It’s a tricky balance ensuring activities are achievable – in order to avoid frustration and disappointment – but also challenging enough to avoid patronising or boring residents.

For us to stand a chance of success at ‘including’ all our residents, we need to have in place…

Life Stories & Wellbeing Plans

We need to know the person – it is absolutely crucial that as soon as someone moves into a care home, we start developing their life story. This in turn will allow us to create individual, meaningful wellbeing plans, full of activity ideas which can then be facilitated & adapted. We stand a much better chance of succeeding by including someone with an activity they love, or previously had a passion for, and our understanding of a person’s journey with dementia enables us to be more responsive to their needs. Gathering life story information can be a daunting task but it is pivotal.


Ask yourself: ‘What motivates me?’. It might be one thing today and another tomorrow! It’s exactly the same for a person living with dementia – their needs and what motivates them will most likely change through their journey – so we must understand what might be relevant and meaningful for that individual at that time. What works one day, might not work the next. Hence the CQC KLOE ‘responsive’.

At the same time, it is important to present people with the opportunity to try new things. If a person declines to take part, then that’s fine, but please do not give up! One day, you might be surprised as when they engage with the unlikeliest of activities. Additionally, the idea of leaving the room to go to a group activity might be a scary thought for some residents. This should not be a barrier! With good planning, we can still ensure someone can live the fullest life they can live within their environment, whilst taking steps to try to build up their confidence to socialise outside of their rooms.

Adaptation of activities for someone living with dementia

So how do we break activity and exercise down for people living with dementia? Whilst it may be difficult to determine exactly what stage someone may be in their journey with dementia the following principles may apply:

Early stages

In the early stages, it should be possible to facilitate a meaningful, structured, goal orientated activity that focuses on the whole task. We may find that it is possible to focus on all of the elements, from start to finish and that the person’s interest may be maintained throughout the whole task (especially if it is something they are passionate about). A person may also have the capacity to follow instructions, and may benefit from linking with outside organisations to integrate into the community for these activities.

IDEAS: Structured activities may be boardgames such as scrabble, sports games such as bowling, structured arts and crafts, mastermind quizzes, group discussions and aqua aerobics

Middle Stages

As a person progresses through their journey with dementia, with potential consequences on their thought processes and language, this may impact their ability to follow the ‘structure’ of an activity. Their familiarity with the routine or objects used may still be in tact, with makes it beneficial to focus on the ‘steps’ and not the activity as a whole. Shorter activities may be appropriate, or 1:1 sessions that promote a safe environment where the person feels confident to express themselves. It may help to repeat instructions. The important thing is that the person still has the opportunity to accomplish something – and constant enthusiasm, excitement and acknowledgement of doing a good job by the carers should stimulate and motivate.

IDEAS: Movement to music, dance, reminiscence and expressive arts could help a resident to express themselves

Later Stages

Fact and logic continue to deteriorate rapidly during later stages and – while emotions and feelings may sometimes be jumbled up, they do remain intact, making it incredibly important to ensure all engagement with residents is driven by positivity. A person may now enjoy sensory stimulating activities and those which follow repetitive actions, using visuals to stimulate engagement. For example, the sensory aspects of a baking task could be: kneading the dough (but not with a cake baking goal in mind), tasting or smelling the ingredients where safe to do so, tasting or smelling the cake when baked.

I often found in my experience as an Activity Coordinator, that the incredible rewards from breaking through with someone in their later stages of dementia were second to none. Do not underestimate the benefits of including that person!

IDEAS: Movement to music, carpet balloon games, pairing and organising clutter drawers, quiz games such as finish the sentence, sensory stimulation such as scent bottles, folding laundry and gentle massage (if qualified and safe to do so).

Final thought

Not all superheroes wear capes! If you are currently working in a care home, know that you are part of a great team of people putting the lives of others at the forefront! You have the power to make an impact on a person’s life that in turn will impact another and another and another and – whilst thinking outside the box is greatly encouraged – sometimes it’s the simple steps that can make a difference.


Photo from Park View Care Home

Making wishes come true at blackpool tower ballroom

By | Out and about

A special Oomph! trip enabled Lostock Lodge Care Home to make a wish come true for one of their residents as part of the Country Court Care ‘Make a Wish’ initiative.

Residents at the care home in Lostock Gralam have been discussing what they would wish for, Bill said how much he enjoyed weekends in Blackpool with his wife and he decided he would love to go back to Blackpool Tower Ballroom. The team at Lostock Lodge Care Home thought that this would make a great day out, so he and three other lucky residents were sent a personal invitation.

Bill and wife Anne were regular visitors to the world-famous ballroom dancing venue and enjoyed both the dancing and the organ music synonymous with the ballroom. Bill’s daughter Alison explains…

“He loves to dance so much, he and my mum went there regularly for weekends and danced in the Tower Ballroom. I do know he was particularly looking forward to the organ music which he loves, he used to be a keen keyboard player himself.”

The Lostock Lodge residents were treated to a delicious afternoon tea and enjoyed watching the dancers on the dancefloor. Much to Bill’s delight there was an organist playing live and Bill took to the floor for a short spin around the dancefloor too.

“Our ‘Make a Wish’ initiative has enabled us to make out trips and outings much more meaningful and personal to each individual, Bill had a fantastic day” said Katy Viner, Customer Relations Manager at Lostock Lodge Care Home.

Oomph! are working in partnership with Country Court Care to take residents out on regular minibus trips to a wide range of local destinations, including Blue Planet Aquarium, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and the Sloane Square Christmas lights.

Belong partners with Oomph! to adopt ‘whole team’ approach to wellbeing

By | Community

We have partnered with Belong, a leading UK care organisation, to extend the wellbeing and activities programmes in place across its seven care villages.

The partnership has seen Oomph! roll out its Wellbeing Leadership programme to 50 household leads and Experience Co-ordinators, as well as providing resource packs to promote a more diverse and creative approach to activities.

Belong’s Chief Operating Officer, Stacey McCann, said: “Enabling people to lead the lives they choose is fundamental to our vision and we are always striving towards a more person-centred approach.

“ At Belong, we promise a varied programme of activities and exercise for all our customers and recognised that we needed to get the whole team on board to deliver this, and to ensure our provision is adapted to each person’s choice and ability.  Oomph!’s programme offers a refreshing approach that goes way beyond exercise and has given us the opportunity to enhance the way we involve all our colleagues in creating meaningful experiences for our customers.”

As well as training, the programme also includes a series of skills workshops, including Oomph! Create, which has been designed in partnership with The Lightbox Gallery, who provide specialist art programmes for older adults. The workshop focuses on building skills in three different artistic mediums – painting, collage and sculpture, while further workshops will focus on culture, nature and sport.

Feedback from Belong colleagues has been excellent, with one support worker, Belong Wigan’s Gina Bamber, commenting: “The training sessions were really fun and informative, encouraging us to take a fresh look at the way we think about activity on the households, and to drive best practice as a result.”

Taking a whole-team approach to activities, Oomph!’s training focuses on ensuring every member of Belong has the skills to provide fresh and varied exercise and activities that residents love. Emphasis is also placed on creating person-centred plans that are sustained and recorded, so that providers can demonstrate to the regulator that they are meeting and exceeding activity requirements.

Ben Allen, Oomph’s CEO and Founder, said: “Oomph! is delighted to be working with the Belong team. It is a privilege to be an integral part of the organisation’s wellbeing provision. We will work in partnership to drive innovation and participation across the communities and are excited to be adding further fun and engagement to customer activities!”

Goal! Resident wish kicked off with trip to Notts County Football Club

By | Out and about

New Care has been getting out and about on Oomph! trips. One recent trip for The Grand Care Centre scored a goal with residents, who went to Notts County Football Club.

The trip was intended to build friendships between the male resident attendees away from the home, and fulfil one resident’s wish of visiting the location.

The group went out for a meal first, before enjoying a personal guided tour by sporting legend Les Bradd, Notts County’s all time leading goal scorer!

A member of staff at The Grand Care Centre commented, “The residents said it was a great experience, as many had played football in their younger years and it brought back lovely memories.”

Another member of staff said, “[It was a] fantastic day out. All the residents had a fabulous day. It was the first time two of the residents had been inside a football ground, but they were very interested and would recommend to other residents.”

Oomph! are working in partnership with New Care to take residents out on regular minibus trips to a wide range of local destinations, including Woolaton Park, National memorial Arboretum, Blue Diamond Garden Centre and Stonebridge City Farm. You can find out more about the partnership here.

Formula 1 fan and care home resident “thrilled to bits” to recieve photobook and momento

By | Out and about

Country Court Care homes have been going on regular Oomph! trips, and as a result of this, our drivers (or Conductors), are really getting to know the residents at the homes. A recent trip for Lostock Lodge has had an unexpected outcome for one resident, who has been gifted momentos after the home’s Oomph! Conductor, Bill, discovered her passion for Formula 1… 

Bill, Oomph! Conductor, commented, “On my last visit to Lostock, I spent a while chatting with Sheila and Brian Yates, and it turns out that Sheila is a keen Formula 1 fan and also a Lewis Hamilton fan. To surprise her, I filled a small photo album with 24 shots of Lewis Hamilton which I have taken on my many F1 trips to circuits all over the world. I also took along a small souvenir of a tiny relic of Lewis Hamilton’s leathers mounted on a lanyard.

The response was amazing, with tears of joy in her eyes, and her husband was extremely grateful. Sheila looks through the photos regularly and is still wearing the lanyard I gave her – it makes my efforts so rewarding.”

Sheila developed an interest in the sport on a trip to Austria, where she saw the Red Bull Headquarters.

Brain, Sheila’s husband, commented, “Sheila is thrilled to bits to receive these fabulous gifts. It was a very special moment for Sheila and she will treasure her gifts. She is absolutely delighted and can’t thank Bill enough, as he had no reason to go to all that trouble. Sheila has been through so much, that this is really special for her.”

Oomph! are working in partnership with Country Court Care to take residents out on regular minibus trips to a wide range of local destinations, including Blue Planet Aquarium, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and the Sloane Square Christmas lights. You can find out more about the partnership here.

5 Top Tips for getting your care home creative

By | Care Home

With the launch of our Oomph! Create workshop, Heather, from The Lightbox Museum and Gallery, has some top tips for bringing art into your care setting:

Enjoy the process of making rather than the finished piece.

It’s great to have lots of beautiful work to put up, but also the enjoyment that is created through making should not be underestimated. Not everything has to look like a Turner painting! It can be the first time they have spent 20 minutes sitting and painting, or the colours that they love, that make the artwork so good.

Use what you see.

Sometimes we have an abundance of one item that can be used in many different ways. For example, a kitchen roll tube can be used to make a multitude of craft projects, such as owls or puppets, or they can even be used to print with to make a lovely circle pattern. If you have a garden, you could use leaves and twigs to create nature inspired collages.

It’s not always about making.

Some people like to know more about the artists, rather than make themselves. Print out biographies and share some of your residents’ knowledge. One of them may have been to an exhibition or show that you are talking about.

Try to use good quality materials as far as possible.

If you want to paint, try to provide the best you can afford. There is nothing worse than painting in watercolours and the paper being too thin so it wrinkles! Use card if you prefer so that it has a bit of weight to it. Acrylics are good paints to use too, they make a nice block colour (but note that any mess can be tricky to wash out of clothes).

Create a gallery wall.

Showcase what you have been doing in your care home! You don’t need big fancy frames, you could have a pin board which changes regularly. It gives residents pride in their work and also means that their friends and families can see what they’re up to.

To date, 127 homes have participated in the Oomph! Create workshop, with 208 staff members taking part across the UK. 98% would recommend the workshop, and 77% said it was even better than expected. Our next workshop in the series is based on nature, encouraging residents to get outdoors and appreciate nature, as well as bringing the outdoors in – Oomph! Nature will be launching in March, so watch this space!

Partnership with Arthritis Action to improve strength, balance and co-ordination

By | Community

We have teamed up with UK Charity, Arthritis Action, to deliver exercise programmes designed specifically for older adults with arthritis.

For the first time, a collaboration between Oomph! and Arthritis Action has brought together experts in arthritis, with experts in delivering exercise programmes to older adults.

The new programmes have three levels of intensity, and target areas of the body commonly affected by arthritis: the hip, knee and spine. These programmes aim to improve participants’ strength, balance and co-ordination, with a focus on regaining, developing and maintaining physical independence.

Launching this month on various Oomph! platforms, the content will be available on the Oomph! app. Staff in community venues – such as retirement villages, sheltered housing, and day centres – that have been trained by Oomph! to deliver fun and engaging exercise classes, will now be able to view the programmes and use these to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis for class participants.

The programmes follow demand from Oomph! Instructors for strength and balance content, and equally the desire to provide relevant and fresh content that will improve the health of participants whilst still continuing to engage them.

Shantel Irwin, CEO of Arthritis Action, “We are delighted to have partnered with Oomph! to develop an exercise programme for people with musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions. Our aim is to build people’s strength and confidence to exercise safely, and are pleased to have been able to share our knowledge and expertise on arthritis and MSK conditions.

Oomph!, experts in delivering activity programmes to the elderly, are best placed to deliver this exciting new programme across their networks in the UK. We very much look forward to measuring the impact of this programme on participants and are particularly excited about building people’s strength, confidence and ability to get out of a chair and achieve physical independence.”

Ben Allen, CEO and Founder of Oomph!, “We are excited to be partnering with Arthritis Action to create content specifically focused around strength and balance for those with Arthritis. It is vital that we provide resources that Instructors value and that will have a substantial impact on the physical mobility of participants – the partnership provides the perfect opportunity to do this.”

Country Court Care gets some Oomph! for their residents!

By | Care Home

“Another great day! Buzzing atmosphere, happy residents, happy carers. Well enjoyed by all despite the cold weather!” One member of staff commented after a recent trip.

We have partnered with Country Court Care, a leading UK Care Group, to deliver awesome exercise classes and creative activities for residents, as well as engaging trips out.

A pilot project has been agreed where 4 homes have been embracing the exercise and activity training and 8 homes have been going out to local destinations.

Taking a whole-home approach to activities, staff in 4 Country Court Care Homes have been trained in our Wellbeing Leadership programme. This ensures that they are equipped with everything they need to create and sustain a person-centred plan of varied exercise and activities that residents love. The training is tailored to each home, and focuses on meeting and exceeding regulator requirements.

The programme also includes a series of skills workshops, including Oomph! Create, which has been developed in collaboration with The Lightbox Art Gallery & Museum in Woking. The workshop focuses on teaching staff the fundamentals of sketching, painting, sculpting and collage, and how they can practically apply these. Further workshops will focus on culture and nature.

One member of staff commented, “I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of Oomph! training and look forward to trying it with residents.”

Additionally, engaging days out to a range of destinations are running for 8 Country Court Care homes, with added value and variety to trip experiences created through partnerships with the National Trust and HQ Theatres.

The trips aim to connect residents to the people and places that matter most to them – Country Court Care trips have previously included unexpected locations, such as the Blue Planet Aquarium, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and the Sloane Square Christmas lights.

A member of staff said, “The driver is brilliant, he always gives that bit extra. It makes a huge difference having the transport all organised. The residents love getting out and enjoying fresh air.”

Alykhan Kachra, Managing Director at Country Court Care, said: “Both residents and staff have given very positive feedback on Oomph!’s exciting and fresh approach in our pilot care homes. We are delighted to see our partnership enabling activities and exercise that are meaningful and will enrich the lives of our residents”

Ben Allen, Oomph!’s CEO, said: “Oomph! are excited to be in partnership with Country Court Care – it is a privilege to be an integral part of the organisation’s wellbeing provision and we are excited to help ensure that residents at Country Court Care homes live a full life, for life.”

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