Care home residents in their eighties are getting physical in their new state-of-the art gym.
Hengoed Park Care Home in Swansea, a member of Care Forum Wales, has invested £25,000 in transforming two unused rooms into “high street style” gyms to promote wellbeing among residents and staff.
The facilities are proving that age is no barrier when it comes to working out – with many of the older gym bunnies seizing the opportunity to improve their physical fitness and mental health.
Those who prefer the gentler approach to keeping in shape are using the opportunity to keep up-to-date with the lives of their fellow residents over a bench press or rowing machine.
Grandmother-of-two Eirwen Grey, 82, who grew up in Swansea, tried out the gym equipment for the first time last week.
“I never thought I would be doing it but it is very enjoyable,” she said.
Fellow resident Berwyn Williams, 87, added: “I’m really very impressed with the equipment we have here. The exercise will help me maintain and improve my muscle strength and mobility as I’m not going out much these days.”
Adopting the ‘healthy body healthy mind’ philosophy, the care home is also making sure staff have the fitness expertise to demonstrate the benefits of keeping active to residents – with staff being trained in mobility and passive movement exercises to ensure no resident misses out.
“When you engage in physical exercise you release endorphins,” said Tim Williams, care home director.
“The gym is another destination within the home to visit and is definitely a conversation-starter. In all honestly there’s more chatter than beads of sweat but it’s a lovely facility which we’re lucky to have particularly when the residents can’t get out because of the weather.
“It’s somewhere else for them to go and engage with each other. We wanted to create opportunities and space where the residents can do things together and tell their stories. It’s about promoting positive energy.”
The residents’ gym has been kitted out with Technogym equipment which aids with mobility. The equipment has been arranged in a circuit starting with leg presses and progressing to rowing and the stretch squat machine. There’s also a turntable to work wrists and arms while turning a large coil.
“You basically start off working your legs and finishing off with your upper body,” said Tim, 45, from Swansea.
“You can go through the whole cycle. Obviously not every resident can do all of the exercises. It depends on their health and abilities.
“It’s about creating activities that engage a wider range of people. Physical exercise stimulates so many different parts of the brain, only positive things can come out of that.
“It’s bringing purpose to people’s day, that’s one thing that really helps in the care of people suffering with dementia.”
The care home has its own occupational therapist on-site but has organised a major training programme for staff in the coming months to ensure carers have the knowledge and expertise to deliver safe exercise advice and to expand the opportunities for people to visit the gym.
Up to 15 residents can use the gym at any one time although in reality only one or two residents will be exercising at the same time.
The care home is continually striving to create a healthier living environment for its residents and has recently completed the development of a £100,000 nature park to promote vitality and wellbeing – even purchasing a golf buggy to enable less mobile residents to enjoy the natural wildlife all year round.
As part of this strategy, owner Desmond Davies decided to convert two rooms for a gyms – one for staff and one for residents – to enable carers to become healthy role models.
“We have a room totally dedicated to staff which is equipped with all the latest equipment a regular gym would have,” said Tim.
“Our staff use this free of charge and come in before their shift in the morning or after they finish in the afternoon. We wanted to enforce the healthy living message for staff as well as those who live here.
“The staff gym was completed first. A number of staff have joined the gym which is fantastic. It means staff do not have the expense of gym fees every month anymore.”
The pioneering approach at Hengoed Care has earned praise from Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales.
Mr Kreft said: “Well-being and the quality of life of the residents is central to the ethos at Hengoed Care.
“It’s great to see them investing in top class facilities like the gym and nature park that are making a very real difference to the lives of the people living there.”