Youth project aims to reduce falls in elderly

Hillbury care home resident Margaret Newell pictured with children from Ysgol Bodhyfryd Ffion Haf Scott and Ruby Maddock.

Residents at a care home have pimped up their zimmer frames – with the help of some creative schoolchildren.

The  decorations have been used to brighten up the steel walking frames for the older people living at the Hillbury House Care Home in Wrexham.

The care home has nurtured a strong relationship with the pupils from Ysgol Bodhyfryd, Wrexham, who added the wow factor to the frames as part of an innovative workshop.

As well as being a fun, inventive challenge for pupils to exercise their research, design and crafts skills, the project has a serious goal,  explained Sarah Edwards, artist in residence with Pendine Park Care Organisation which runs Hillbury House.

She said: “National figures show the risks of falls in care homes is reduced by 60 per cent through the good use of zimmer frames. Each person who requires a frame has it individually measured to suit their own height.

“But of course in large a facility like Hillbury with so many zimmer devices under one roof it is quite easy for residents to mistake theirs for somone else’s. That’s what inspired us to come up with the idea of customising each zimmer so it is immediately recognisable by its owner.”

Ysgol Bodhyfryd pupils were thrilled to be asked to help out and donned their thinking caps to produce some unique designs.

Over the course of three once-a-week sessions they worked in pairs, with each pair assigned to a different resident who they first interviewed about their likes and dislikes, former careers, hobbies, families and social lives outside of Hillbury.

Their findings were then cleverly used as the basis for drawing up a decorative design template for pimping up each resident’s zimmer frame in a different style.

Ray Jones owned a record shop in Brook Street, Wrexham, for ten years and still loves listening to music of all genres. So his walking frame has been given a cheerful musical theme.

Eleven year old Ethan Tyzack helped put together the design.

He said: “It’s been great getting to know Ray and chatting to him about his days at the record store. He’s a really fun, friendly person and helped us a lot with some of the design ideas.

“We cut out cardboard in the shape of the old 45 singles records, to hang from the frame, and we’re also working on some bird shapes, as Ray enjoys hearing the birds sing too.

“He also likes to watch football on the telly so we might incorporate some soccer themed decorations as well.”

Ray said the project has been enjoyable for the residents as well as the children.

“It’s been a nice way for us to help them develop their art and design skills and, in turn, we all get a great looking zimmer,” he laughed.

Fellow Hillbury resident Margaret Newell loves the bright and cheerful flower themed design which the pupils came up with for her.

On having her photograph taken with eleven year old pupils Ffion Haf Scott and Ruby Maddock, in front of the zimmer frame, she joked: “It’s fantastic, a bit like me!”

Ysgol Bodhyfryd teaching assistant Mandy Warner said the project has proved a great way to stimulate pupils’ artistic flair, with each design being totally unique and purposefully relevant to the owner.

She said: “They’ve worked really hard on this and the residents are all appreciative of their efforts. Some good friendships have been formed along the way.”

While Ysgol Bodhyfryd’s relationship with Hillbury House is long-standing, normally a different group of pupils visit the home each week, but for this project the same group has been allocated to the task over a period of three weeks, giving them more time to build up a rapport with the individual residents to whom they were assigned.

Pupils Harry Richardson and Erin Marshall, both 11, agreed it was a valuable and interesting experience.

Erin said: “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the residents and hearing about their lives before they came to live here at Hillbury. It’s something we’ll remember for years to come.”

Harry enjoyed putting together a vibrant show-stopper design for resident Janet Green.

He said: “She told us she likes lots of colour and especially loves fireworks displays so we wanted to make it as bright and unmissable as possible.

Sports fan Reg Crein, meanwhile, was  pleased with the football and cricket themed adornments created for his previously plain grey metal frame by India Mae Davies, aged 11.

And resident Gwen Davies Barrett delighted Bodhyfryd pupil Osian Meredith, 11, when she immediately got on the phone to her son in Malta to tell him all about the new-look zimmer which included the Maltese flag. 

“I love it,”  she said. “All the zimmers now have extra special meaning to us, there’s no mistaking any of them!”

Hillbury House manager Cindy Clutton said: “This project has been a real joy because it has brought two different generations to do something that is fun but that also has a practical purpose.

“We value the intergenerational work with Ygsol Bodhyfryd and it is an important part of our work in building links with the community we serve.”


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