We spoke to two of our partners to discuss why using activities and exercise to focus on wellbeing through is so important for mental health in older adults
Today is World Mental Health Day and to raise awareness for such a crucial issue for the provision of outstanding, person-centred care, we spoke to two of our partners about why wellbeing through activities is so important to improving mental health.
For those who are moving into a care home it can be a challenging time, filled with anxiety, change and uncertainty of what the future holds, and equally for those living in a care home setting who might have been doing so for a number of years, there are the same challenges to maintain positive outcomes for mental health and overall wellness and quality of life.
It's not uncommon for people in care homes to struggle with their mental health or many people residing in care homes to experience challenges with their mental wellbeing due to feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety, so for care staff it is essential to develop strategies that address any mental health issues for residents with programmes of activities that are designed to promote engagement, community, a sense of fulfilment and overall quality of life.
Tackling mental health issues with singing
One of the ways to promote a greater sense of engagement for those living in care homes who might be struggling with mental health issues brought about by feelings of isolation or loneliness is a group activity that brings residents together with a positive community spirit, and one of the best ways to do that is through singing.
Melissa James, a singer-songwriter who is partnered with Oomph On-Demand, had a vision of just that during a launch party for her latest album, and when she invited members of the public to come along to an event and sing with her, she was “blown away that anybody made the effort to come.”
She said: “Those that came to the event explained why they were there, whether it was because a person had a family member struggling with mental health, or someone knew a person who took their own life, or whether it was a person who worked with young people and had concerns about their mental health, there was a big spectrum of people who all had different reasons, but were there for a common cause.
“So, it crystalized it for me that there was a real importance for doing events like that.”
Soon afterwards, while at the Royal Star and Garter care home, she learned about the services being offered by Oomph Wellness. After discussing what Oomph’s vision is for true quality of life for care home residents through engaging and meaningful activities, Melissa agreed to come and do some singing sessions for the platform.
Melissa is a huge proponent of the singing as a means of bringing people together, and in a care home setting, where residents can take part in singing sessions together to both engage in a community activity and relive some of their fondest memories through the powerful recall that songs can offer, this can have a profound impact.
“The power of people coming together and the joy that can be experienced as part of that experience; it really helps to cultivate that,” she explained.
“There’s something that happens where there’s an unspoken support that gets created; there’s a bond that gets formed. And when you have people standing together, they automatically start to support each other, And that’s a great metaphor for life in my eyes; when we learn that we have a purpose in someone else’s life, and we have purpose in our being here.
“We feel needed, and we feel worthwhile.
“We feel that there’s a worth to us that automatically lifts us and if we don’t feel like we have a purpose and we’ve got a sense of worth, that’s when mental ill-health can set in in some way or another, because if we don’t feel needed then why are we here?”
For Oomph! Wellness, creating and fostering a feeling of togetherness and community is one of the central pillars of quality of life, which in itself is a central component of mental wellbeing and sits at the heart of what truly person-centred care really is – to ensure that every person who lives in a care home, all with their own life stories, their own beliefs, values and personalities, are able to live a full life for life, able to come together to create a true community and remain fully within the world around them. Melissa’s vision that singing can help to make this happen is one of the reasons she was a perfect partner for Oomph.
Sing for joy, not for judgement
She also discusses the importance of embracing it, to find the joy in it: “If a carer isn’t the type of person who either has experience singing or is nervous about their own voice, they may feel shy. I can understand it might be a daunting task, but one of my mantras in all of my sessions is we sing for joy, not for judgement.
“That just sets the tone for it. It doesn’t matter what comes from this, as long as we’re doing it with the intention of everybody coming together and being together while we’re singing.
“The voices find each other; it becomes meditative and it’s like we’re locked out. Then the worries that we have about what we might sound like disappear. It really is quite amazing and magical.”
Like the many other activities that can be done as a group which inspire and foster a sense of community and engagement within the care home, group singing sessions have the power to instil a sense of wellbeing for people living in care homes.
Improving mental health through physical activity
There are many other ways that Oomph! On-Demand delivers a full spectrum of activities, all carefully programmed and created by experts, designed to promote wellbeing, quality of life and ultimately person-centred care. Another way this is achieved is through physical activities.
For those living in care homes, ensuring that they regularly engage in exercise programmes is an essential component for wellbeing and quality of life because it promotes healthy living, improved functionality by maintaining balance, mobility and strength, and also serves to retain a sense of independence and the lessening of negative feelings, such as lethargy, anxiety and depression.
Pilates has been proven to work well for older people to maintain muscle strength and balance in ways that are challenging but achievable, and another one of our partners, Ruth Melling, who owns and operations RM Pilates, used her own experiences to identify the need for an exercise programme that was uniquely tailored to older adults.
“I do a lot of exercise,” she began, “and I found that as I’ve gotten older, I wanted something a little bit slower. I’m also really into mindfulness and meditations and relaxation as a means of achieving wellbeing – and that’s what brought me to Pilates; it just kind of fitted together for me, so it was the case of slowing down exercises, being intensive and focusing in on connecting the breath with the movement.”
Ruth’s relationship with Oomph Wellness started eight years ago when she was initially a trainer, a role in which she would travel the country and deliver training programmes such as chair-based exercises and similar activities.
Before that, Ruth worked as an activities coordinator in care homes, providing activities for residents, so she was quick to understand Oomph’s mission and see the values in the platform, which very much aligned with her own.
One of the principal aspects of Pilates for Ruth isn’t just the physical benefits it can offer, but also how Pilates can have a profound and positive impact on mental health in older adults, saying: “It helps in the sense that it allows us to reconnect with our mind with our concentration, with our focus.
“It also gives us the opportunity to connect the mind with the body, helping us slow things down, helping us to be intentional, helping us give our thoughts the chance to come to life.
“I think that when you are engaged with an activity, especially something that engages the mind and the body as one, it really serves to accelerate that sensation of being in the moment, almost as if to say: ‘I am here and I am doing it’, and it gives us a chance to practice that aspect of gratitude and that recognition of all movements, good movements that give us a sense of pride that we’ve done it, which of course is such an integral part of mental health and our own self-esteem and our self-confidence.”
Ruth’s advice for care home staff
“I think for a carer, an activity coordinator or nurse,” Ruth began, “whoever is in the room at that point, just join in! I lead by example and get involved. I show them how much you can enjoy it.
“Another key thing to remember is encouragement, to be there at their side to offer positive reinforcement, as well as to give some prompts to really be engaged with their thoughts because sometimes we can go through exercises and other activities and our minds can be elsewhere.
“So, having someone there to give external prompts and refocus them and really engage with the exercises will help to build their self-esteem and also help them to build relationships with those who care for them and whom also are engaging with the Pilates session.”
For Ruth, the question of mental health being at the centre of her thinking and goals as a business owner as well as someone who works with older people living in care homes isn’t necessarily something that can be separated from the physical, such is the importance of the synergy between the two.
Ruth concluded: “You can’t deivide the two. I think mental health, physical health and overall wellbeing comes as one whole package.
“Not only that, but I think sometimes when we define exercise, we tend to focus on what the body can do. But I think that from my own point of view it comes as a package, because I think you can’t be healthy in your body and still drive forward without having that focus on mental health and looking after your mind and looking after all the thoughts that drive your physical actions.
“For me, reconnecting with that is such an essential part and for that Pilates is great for just allowing time and allowing you to slow down.
“Basically, allowing you to reconnect because it’s essential. It’s essential in overall health in my opinion.”
Whether it’s physical activities or wellbeing activities, Oomph! On-Demand's mission is to provide a wide and diverse range of activities designed to achieve greater engagement, quality of life and ultimately to improve the mental health of older adults living in care homes.
Both singing and Pilates are available on the Oomph! On-Demand Platform, as well as hundreds of other wellbeing and and fitness activities, ensuring that no matter what care home residents’ preferences might be, there is something there for everyone. To find out more information, just click here.