Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Community Inclusion – Multi-Sensory Outreach programme

Posted: August 19, 2014 at 11:14 am

‘Westonbirt on the Move’

Over the last six months I have been piloting new activities in care homes and community day care centres around the local counties. I have built links and relationships with the care home managers and activity coordinators, trying to create an ‘outreach’ activity programme that would be suited to their residents/clients.

I have built stronger links with the Alzheimer’s Society South West. To date I have eight more sessions booked with different support groups in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire area.

I now have a team of five fantastic volunteers that are helping to support the outreach sessions.

My work is about involving older or vulnerable adults that may not be able to physically visit the arboretum, to still have the experience of Westonbirt with a series of tailored multi-sensory activities held at their care homes or day centres.

The focus of the activities is all about reminiscence, creating conversation within the group, sharing anecdotes and triggering memories.

When I go to the homes, we do all sorts of activities as a group from:

  • Touch - a range tactile and tangible artefacts including our tree specimens from our nursery to handle and explore
  • Sound- natural sound activities, connecting visual pictures with sounds i.e. birdsong, wind blowing, heavy rain etc.
  • Scent - a quiz-like game through passing around scents of different tree essential oils and giving clues.
  • Sight - a selection of photographs of Westonbirt Arboretum to share and discuss.

So far I have trialled the activities at nine different care homes and day care centres. I evaluate what activities are the most engaging and popular through gaining feedback from residents and staff. I will be refining some of the resources within the next few months developing the digital technology resources to create ‘soundscapes’ of Westonbirt, apothecary scented jars, textual photography and much more!

It has been really interesting for me to talk to so many elder people who have such a wealth of knowledge that very often we don’t know about or appreciate. I am learning more and more through discussions that come up during the sessions. Care home residents have had backgrounds in carpentry, cabinet making and wood turning. Others have travelled extensively around the world and have the most amazing stories and sometimes personal connections with nature.

Community activitiesCommunity activities

Feedback from care staff:

‘The activity got residents talking to each other (which is a hard thing to do!) and has also been a talking point since. Everyone enjoyed the visit and found it interesting, improving their wellbeing in general.’

Katherine, Ashley House Care Home, Cirencester.

I have had some wonderful comments too:

‘It reminded me of my childhood. We use to know every flower, every tree, we use to go and look at everything in the countryside. We use to look at bird nests when we were supposed to be on our way to church.’

Doris, Ashgrove Care Home

‘I went to Westonbirt Girls School. My great grandfather used to drive Robert Holford. The Handkerchief tree was my absolute favourite tree.’

Helen, Ilsom House Care Home.

‘I used to walk along the parameter of Westonbirt with my husband...we’d always have a lovely afternoon.’

Margaret, Hunters Care Home.

Claire Community Inclusion Officer