We asked activity coordinators across the UK to tell us their favourite ways of getting residents interacting and making friends, as well as the activities or events they would recommend to other activity coordinators to promote friendships.
These were some of our favourite ideas…
Joining a new care home can be daunting for a resident, and their family. Below are some brilliant ideas to help someone make new friends quickly.
When a new resident joins us we buddy them up with a long-time resident, always someone who has some of the same interests. They join in activities together, they go to meals together and the buddy will introduce them to other residents and staff. We also have a getting-to-know-you session with the other residents using a ball with different questions or our getting-to-know-you Jenga, which is always a hit, and can also help those with dementia to remember things as well as there are specific questions.
(Clare Philps, Mulberry House Residential Home)
When a new resident arrives, the wellbeing team finds out as much as possible about them and then tries to ‘buddy them up’ with an established resident with whom we hope they will have things in common. The team encourage these buddies to attend the same activities and to have lunch or coffee together. During our circle times, we use a ball with questions about life histories which allows us all to learn more about each other and this too helps to forge friendships.
(Sue Brown, Claydon House)
Take notice of who is bonding, how residents have an impact on each other, and the supportive friendships that are positive or benefit their wellbeing. When you notice that residents share common interests or ways of thinking, plan activities and conversations to suit them so they can participate together.
As an activity coordinator, I find that small group activities are the foundation to forge relationships, whether going for strolls in the garden, having refreshments and chatting or small discussion groups.
(Lorna Rowley, Hempstalls Hall Care Home)
At Peel Moat we already have lots of friendship groups and encourage groups to mix when we are playing competitive games. Some residents like to visit friends’ rooms for a chit-chat, watch TV and enjoy a cup of tea. We know some people like to be on their own, and this is fine, but we will always invite them to join if they wish. Friendships are so important and come in all shapes, sizes and ages.
(Dawn Milnthorp, Peel Moat Care Home)
We find that our residents are more comfortable in small groups for activities. An activity such as skittles or similar, where everybody is trying to achieve something, they tend to cheer each other on. They will also collect the ball and pass it to the next person. Sometimes a conversation starts at this point. We also have activities where two or three residents are working on a project together that they are all interested in. This encourages conversation and friendships. Staff will then encourage residents who have struck up a conversation to sit together at mealtimes to see if their friendship can grow.
(Liz Hewitt, Hengrove Lodge)
It’s crucial to really know your residents – listen, understand and note feedback from relatives and other staff. Then provide opportunities to complement different personalities. Offer activities that lend themselves to physical or verbal interaction with varying levels of difficulty or challenge. Problem-solving games help discover compatibility and grow relationships.
(Nikki Fletcher, The Rise Care Home)
A horse walks into a bar, the barman says “Why the long face”… Laughter, they say, is the best medicine, and what better way to make friendships than having a right good old belly laugh together. When first meeting others it can be daunting, and laughter can be used to break the ice in social interactions and provides us with emotional stimulation. An activity based around reminiscence helps to build things in common and you can find out a lot about someone through listening to their memories, stories and life history – that way we find common bonds, hobbies and interests that will help establish and build upon the relationship, but most importantly the friendship.
(Isabel Cummings, Haydale Care Home)
BEYOND THE CARE HOME
Our Day Centre is in a small town where everyone knows everyone! Many of our service users knew each other at school or in their working lives and are delighted to now reconnect. We’ve gathered photographs of local scenes and events to use as memory joggers and we find that one memory leads to another; conversations are sparked and long-forgotten events are brought clearly to the surface. We recommend encouraging families to send in photographs of places and people from their loved one’s past, around which conversations can be built. Sharing memories breaks the ice and fosters deep connections.
(Sue McFeely, Tewkesbury Day Centre)
We have provided opportunities to form new friendships by facilitating groups which involve the wider community – our monthly knit and natter group and a strong friendship with the local school. We set up a pen-pal scheme which involved regular interaction through letters with several care communities from all over the world – and as an extension of this, we joined Postcards of Kindness which led to friendships being formed with regular senders. Residents feel part of the world.
(Naomi Daglish, Woodstock Care Home)