It’s not every day that you see a group of older people donning pairs of boxing gloves and having a go on a trampoline, but in one Bristol care home they are bringing the gym to the residents, allowing them to do just that.
Run by chartered physiotherapist Andy Stenner, the weekly ‘gym’ sessions at Deerhurst in Soundwell, have been designed to help maintain fitness and mobility, challenging balance and coordination to whatever level possible.
This is done with a variety of equipment including a mini-trampoline, step, balance board, cross trainer, exercise bike, gym ball, resistance bands, boxing, tennis and weights.
Many Deerhurst residents live with a dementia and other health issues for which they require around the clock care. But as Andy explained: “In addition to the physical benefits the sessions can also help mentally. Being part of the ‘exercise group’, doing an activity you thought you might not do again and seeing yourself improve at a skill are all valuable benefits of the sessions.”
Andy continued: “I think it is important to keep individuals as independent as possible, whatever level of physical or mental disability they may have. It is our responsibility to ensure that people have the stimulation and opportunity so they can challenge and maintain a level of independence, regardless of being in a care home.”
Over the past 11 years as a chartered physiotherapist, Andy has worked in many hospitals in the Bristol and Bath area, with his time currently spent half in the NHS for the North Bristol trust as a musculoskeletal outpatient Physio and half private work.
Following getting more involved with care homes and working with residents individually, Andy approached the managers to suggest the option of running ‘Physio fitness’ group sessions: “I saw the opportunity to offer exercise sessions where I could offer ‘gym’ and ‘sporting’ equipment in addition to the typical chair exercises that are commonly done. It can be an easy option for people to spend a lot of time being inactive, the problem being that we become good at the things we practice!”
Deerhurst manager Lesley Hobbs has witnessed first-hand the positive impact the gym sessions have had on many of the residents, saying: “These sessions have allowed us to positively encourage residents to reach goals they may not have thought possible. We’ve had one gentleman with Parkinson’s and who is wheelchair bound actually get up and have a go on the step – Andy has shown us that it’s ok to push people beyond what they, and we, think their limits are in a controlled environment.
“We are an active care home, constantly providing a variety of activities to keep residents stimulated, showing that with a little bit of thought and commitment, care homes can be vibrant and stimulating places to live too,” Lesley said.