Fun-guarding: Putting a value on fun

Article description
Caroline Benham
Date Published:
01 October 2019
Last updated: 
01 October 2019
Designed by Molostock -

Many care homes have a guide for good quality care - they may use the simplicity of Tom Kitwood’s Flower which is based on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or they may have developed their own along similar lines.

They are, of course, a great help to underline the importance of each aspect for every individual but I feel that these rather miss the point of quality care and support that can be offered to older people living in care homes.

Surely there is more to life than mere survival. I’d like to see the addition of one simple sentence: ‘we facilitate the use of all our senses’.

In school we learn the five senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight. These can all be exercised through daily activities and many activity co-ordinators will support residents to use these senses with a variety of activities.

But what about our other senses? Our sense of freedom, our sense of balance, our sense of space, our sense of belonging, etc. Perhaps the most important - our sense of fun and our sense of humour which are intrinsic. They keep us going, even through our darkest days. Are these recognised as having equal value?

My grandmother had a saying she used when she did something a little differently to enhance everyday experiences: “well, it’s a bit of fun!” This might elude to Friday night’s chip supper being enjoyed by the river or a piece of costume jewellery that was a bit ‘showy’. Small things, but to her they gave a little bit extra to the norms of life.

Many fun activities are curtailed because they are deemed ‘childish’ or demeaning - but if you think it’ll be fun, try it! You’ll soon know how your residents feel about it.

Talk about ‘bucket lists’ and encourage residents to create their own. You’re never too old to live happily ever after. Making the list can be fun too, as residents get more daring with their ideas - cycling, abseiling, water-skiing, jumping from an aeroplane. Watch their eyes light up as the ideas start to come fast and furious with remarks such as ‘can you imagine?’ bringing forth giggles.

Choose one simple ask and one challenging ask for each resident. Make sure they are personal goals and that they really want the opportunity to do it. Remember that they may need reassurance if it is something very daring. 

Set your goals, both the easy wins and the big achievements.

Scary? Well, you know you should do something that scares you every day. Be ready with your risk assessments - what are the risks if you do it? And, what are the risks if you don’t do it? (Disappointment, depression, no goal in life, loss of confidence, etc are all potential consequences).

Make sure you do everything you can to reduce the risks - and then feel the fear and do it anyway. Share the adrenaline rush, it’s good for you. And then, share the joy of achievement.

“Well, it’s a bit of fun!”

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