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Here, in the second part of her blog, Helen Shields, business manager for retirement living at Bromford offers her thoughts on how health and wellbeing can be improved by making a few simple changes.

As we’re all aware public services such as the NHS are coming under increasing pressure so one of our aims is to introduce ways of helping older people stay as healthy as possible. As well as the obvious benefits for the individuals, this should also help take the strain off our health service.

Our buildings usually have three stairwells that are there in case of emergencies and as such are pretty drab. We see this as a waste of a good resource - using the stairs is a great way to keep fit, and it’s free! But nobody is going to use a drab, boring stairwell so we are looking at turning at least one of the stairwells in each building into a welcoming and inviting place by adding carpets, curtains and some nice fixtures and fittings. Hopefully this will make the schemes feel a bit more homely and encourage those, who can, to avoid taking the lift.

Also, wherever possible, we will ensure that there is a walkway around the outside of our buildings to encourage everyone to go for a walk and get bit of fresh air. This will also help in our quest to get everyone interacting with each other – there’s a good chance that a caterer on their break might want to get out of the kitchen for a few minutes and they could possibly combine their walk with a chat to one of the older people living there.

We have gyms on our sites too but the opening times of these can be really restrictive – especially when you think that we’re trying to encourage customers to be more independent. For example, we have a man living in one of our schemes whose wife has dementia. He visits her every day and doesn’t get back home until early evening – by which time the gym is closed.

In this day and age of claims I can understand that we have to be careful to ensure that our customers are safe but I also think that it’s so important that we give people choice. A buddy system could work well for a lot of people –this would mean that there would be at least two customers in the gym together at the times when staff are not available. With the right training and the use of care alarms those who choose to sign a disclaimer could even use the gym on their own.

Not only does this give people the option to use the facilities at times to suit them but it also fits into how we make sure we’re offering as affordable a service as possible – the more facilities are used, the better value for money they provide.

Wellbeing is not just about being physically active and we really want to make the most of our activity and wellbeing rooms.

We can’t afford to have lots of different rooms left empty for long periods of time. Our aim is to have up to three activities a day in each room by being clever with the storage. Cupboards can contain a whole host of equipment including art materials and a wash basin, Yoga mats and tables and chairs for functions and events.

To reach our goal of bringing interest and vibrancy to retirement living schemes we have to embrace every opportunity. We have ideas to offer a variety of activities to our customers including Reiki, wellbeing checks, counselling, mobile beauticians and chiropody to name but a few. Like everything else though, we’ll be led by the people who live in our communities. It’s all about allowing people to choose what they want to do and helping to facilitate that as best we can.

We want our retirement living schemes to be active and vibrant communities where our customers have control and choice over how they live their lives and we want to minimise the costs which will keep service charges down. Although you can never be sure what the future holds, with everyone’s help we are hopeful these ideas will create caring communities that older people are happy to be a part of.

If you missed the first part of Helen's blog, click here to read her thoughts on how we can all do our part in creating caring, active and vibrant communities.

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