Community development in care homes
A case study from Alive and Growing Support's Communities of Interest project

In 2017 Alive and Growing Support launched the BAB funded Communities of Interest project.

This joint initiative works to tackle social isolation by linking up care homes with their communities. By supporting staff and residents to engage with community groups older people are increasingly able to participate in meaningful activity and form new connections within their community. This two-part case study will examine the experience of John Allen, a resident living at Katherine House residential home, during his involvement in the Communities of Interest project. In particular it will consider the ways in which the project has impacted upon John’s wellbeing and quality of life from the beginning of the project through to its end in March 2019.

The next installation of the case study will be published in March 2019.


In what ways has John been involved in the project to date?

John first became involved in the project during a series of group and one to one consultations that took place across four Bristol based care homes. Alive set up the consultations to ensure that older people led the project and made the decisions about the delivery of the project. 

The aim of these consultations was to encourage residents to take ownership of the project, share responsibility for driving it forward and to ensure that it represented the needs and requests of care home residents. When we asked John how he felt about being involved in the project at a strategic level he told us that it was nice to be asked to input and help shape the initiative. In his words it was valuable “to have something coming from the base so to speak. I think most of the residents here are fairly valuable…. it’s nice to have a group and share the ideas.. it’s nice to know the residents opinions.”

Having John on board, alongside the other residents at Katherine House, Bamfield Lodge, Stokeleigh and Granville Lodge, enabled Alive to keep co-production at the heart of the project. Each focus and steering group that took place was well attended by staff and residents and presented Alive with an opportunity to respond to the suggestions and requests of the residents themselves.  

Why did we select John as a basis for a two-part case study?

We knew that John was eager to be involved from the get go due to his enthusiastic and considered responses during consultation and steering group meetings. John made several suggestions about what might be of benefit to him as well as considering what might be in the best interest of others from within his community. John told us, for example, that he hoped the Communities of Interest project would be an opportunity to build tighter bonds between male residents at Katherine House as well as involving gentlemen from other care homes and communities. Specifically he hoped that the project might encourage male residents to engage in meaningful activities together. In his words:

“The men don’t always turn up to activities..the big majority of the residents are women and [the activities] are slanted in their direction..I remember saying that a lot of the activities were angled more at ladies…and perhaps the men were a bit left out of decisions.”

John suggested that Alive might help to organise activities and events that focus upon bringing men together socially. “The men don’t get together.. I don’t think it’s because they’re antisocial I think it’s because maybe it hasn’t occurred to them.” John suggested various ways of how this might work and put particular emphasis upon bringing residents from Katherine house and Griffith House, the neighboring building, together. Meeting new people was important to John who pointed out that making new connections would be “half the fun of it.” This was a suggestion echoed by other residents during both one to one and steering group discussion. Alive and Growing support have agreed that wherever possible collaboration across all four care homes will occur when facilitating trips and activities.  

John’s willingness to engage in “Communities of Interest” and play an active role in shaping it has been a real asset to the project. John’s strengths lie not just in suggesting activities and locations for trips but also in thinking about the logistics of organising each activity. John has worked alongside Alive staff to finalise variables such as the best times and months for events to take place, practical settings for activities, a list of suitable venues and potential ways of engaging as many participants as possible in the activities. As a sociable individual who makes an effort to get to know others within his community John is well placed to make suggestions on behalf of the group. Throughout the project he has demonstrated a good knowledge of the unique needs of other individuals as well as embracing the ethos of the project itself. 

What next?

Now that two phases of consultation and coproduction have taken place Alive and Growing support have produced a comprehensive activity plan based upon the suggestions put forward by residents themselves. This varied plan consists of a range of activities that present opportunities for lifelong learning, social activity and community engagement across all four care home settings. Some examples of activities that John and others from Katherine house have suggested include: evening talks, tea dances, nature based outings, horticulture groups and gardening clubs.      

So far the residents are already enjoying the gardening sessions facilitated by Growing Support. Looking forward to the next 12 months there will be regular opportunities for participants to continue to shape and modify the project if they wish to do so. Regular reviews will take place in the shape of additional steering group meetings and one to one discussion will be held with residents.

John from has made a commitment to help assess the progress of the project and continue to oversee its delivery alongside staff from Alive. Likewise, in other care homes we work in residents have expressed an interest in exercising a strategic role in project delivery and analysis.


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