Domenica does something truly extraordinary. Through an organised programme of film clubs and food events, computer classes and crafts, she brings the older people at Westbury Fields retirement village together in community, reduces loneliness and changes somebody’s day for the better. Here she shares the what and why of her role as Community Engagement Coordinator…
How would you describe your job?
I plan and organise the activities, therapies and social events for the residents here at Westbury Fields. I've been developing a programme of activities which residents can actively get involved in, with an emphasis on varied exercise sessions, dance classes, games such a Boccia and active ageing. I believe that it's very important that we keep moving as we get older as opposed to passively sitting back to be entertained all the time. Getting involved and being active keeps us strong and healthy and stimulates the brain. Joining in also creates a sense of belonging and builds community. Apart from physical activities, the programme offers a large variety of options, such as art, craft, different types of entertainment, talks, singing together, shared reading, inter-generational activities and many more. We finish most classes/activities with a social time with refreshments and an opportunity to chat and spent time together. My job is also to facilitate activities organised by our residents, such as the film club, coffee morning, Scrabble groups, croquet, etc. The residents run these groups completely independently and I am there to support if it is needed.
Which classes are most popular?
Different classes attract different kinds of people and I suppose that's a good thing. Variety is important when catering for people with different interests, backgrounds and age. The exercise classes, dance classes and talks are always very popular. I recently started a jazz cafe which takes place once a month. That is going very well and has a high attendance. At least once a month we have an evening event with a meal and entertainment – these events are always very well attended because they offer the chance for a night out and a great social time.
When I'm older, I too would quite like to feel that there is still value in life and new things to try and learn and to get involved in, even when my physical abilities are restricted.
Loneliness and isolation can be a real problem for some older people. How do you combat this?
When someone new moves in we have a system in place. New residents are visited regularly, first by the porters, then by the receptionists and then by Jeanette our Retirement Community Manager. They receive a welcome card, welcome information pack and a ‘goodie bag’. Every three months have a welcome afternoon tea for new residents. It’s a chance for residents to get to know one another and to tell each other a bit about themselves.
I also pop in several times to invite new residents to activities and especially with residents who have memory loss or are wheelchair users. The care team and I pick them up and take them home again, making sure they are included and can join in with the activities that are of interest.
What would you say you're most passionate about in your role?
I love that I can change somebody's day. Quite a few residents refer to the programme as the ‘yellow pages’! It makes a difference to many that they have something of interest to go to during the day and to meet with others. For some residents this is a lifeline, as they can feel quite lonely in their flats. I feel I can really make a difference to their day and their lives. Others I don't really see much because they are totally independent and have their own lives outside of the village.
Which of the residents most inspire you?
What inspires me most is when people stay positive against all the odds. No matter what health situation they must contend with. They still make time for other people and aspire to new things. For example, we have residents with Macular [degeneration] who still paint and do craft. I think that is just amazing! That really does inspire me. When I'm older, I too would quite like to feel that there is still value in life and new things to attempt and learn and to get involved in, even when my physical abilities are restricted.
To find out more about Westbury Fields retirement village in Westbury on Trym (Bristol) visit the village page on our website where you can see our show home opening times and view a short film with some of our residents.