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(When the working day is done) Elders just wanna have fun!

Should we be taking fun more seriously in Aged Care??

Recently, in Wacken, Germany a couple of elderly men ‘escaped’ their aged care home bound for one of the world’s largest heavy metal music festivals. Reported missing by carers early in the day, the old rockers were found by police around 3am at the festival in their hometown, “dazed and disorientated”.

As weary as the men were by 3am, according to reports, they weren’t keen on leaving the festival; forcing police to escort them back to their nursing home via patrol car and taxi. A police spokesperson exclaimed, the men “obviously liked the metal festival.”  And why wouldn’t they –once a Judas Priest fan, always a Judas Priest fan, isn’t that what they say?

Our German friends are living proof age is no barrier for fun. While we lose many of the physical abilities we have when we’re younger, very few of us are likely to lose interest in the activities from our more limber days.

But it’s not just that we enjoy having fun, play or ‘purposeless activity’, according to researcher Dr Stuart Brown, is important to development at any age. Play has psychological, neurological and physiological benefits particularly in the elderly.

Laughing lowers blood pressure, and having fun relieves stress which inturn prevents illness by eliminating the hormones that attack our immune system. Having fun also releases endorphins, which can actually lessen the feeling of pain. But fun comes in many different forms for different people, which is why it’s important to seek creative approaches to residential activities.

Award-winning Australian provider Whiddon Group have recently rolled out their “Aged Care Reimagined” campaign, taking shape in a number of programs that tackle misconceptions of ageing – such as you stop wanting to have fun.

CEO of Whiddon Group, Chris Mamarelis, says of the programs,

“It’s about time we reimagined the sentiment around aged care and open eyes to the goodness of our industry and its people, starting with our creative ageing programs that bring enjoyment and health and wellbeing benefits to all our residents.”

Whiddon’s “Live Your Best Week” sees residents rediscover passions from the past to relive them in the now. 99 year old resident Bette lived her best week by riding a motorcycle back in February, something she hadn’t done since she was a teenager, but remembered fondly.

A Best Week activity could be simply going for a swim, or taking a fishing trip, to more ambitious goals not thought possible for people with high care needs like going on a holiday or riding a horse –or attending a heavy metal concert until 3am even.

Best Week activities are tailored for each individual, and even the act of exploring their ‘best week’ wishes has become a chance for carers to build stronger relationships with residents.

Whiddon Group is also responsible for introducing an adapted version of UK’s HenPower. Though it sounds like a bachelorette party act, it is actually a literal live chicken program, which promotes wellbeing through the practical aspects of hen keeping.

“Reintroducing that giving and receiving of care gives them a sense of purpose.” Says Jeremy Watson-Hunt of Whiddon Group’s Casino, NSW centre that trialed the program back in 2016.

And it’s fun.

Residents of Whiddon’s Casino centre who participated in HenPower loved being with the hens – and vice versa according to resident, Mr. Lavis.

“I can tell they’re happy here. They come running when they see us.” Says the former poultry judge now living in aged care.

Getting out among the chickens is promoting an active lifestyle and combatting loneliness for residents. Activities coordinator, Watson-Hunt also believes the chickens bring spontaneity and variety back into their lives. It’s a healthy kind of fun.

“They look forward to coming outside into the sunshine and collecting the eggs.”

Perhaps the biggest take home from our Heavy Metal loving German mates is, despite the physical barriers of ageing, our actual age has no bearing on our perception of fun, nor our desire for it, so it’s best we address fun as a serious proposition in care!

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