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Care home turns to ‘armchair karate’ to help dementia residents

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Armchair karate has been helping older people in Northumberland stay physically active, after a nurse purchased equipment so they could test out their “best jabs” at the care home she runs.

The activity has been adopted to help try and maintain the strength and movement of the residents at the Oaks Care Home in Blyth – all of whom have dementia.

“I never would have thought elderly people would enjoy something like this”

Ann Mielnik

The idea for using martial arts as a recreational tool came about when registered mental health nurse and Oak’s care manager Ann Mielnik saw a video on YouTube of a 93-year old woman doing the activity.

The day after the video was seen, Ms Mielnik purchased training pads for careers to wear while residents throw their “best jabs”.

According to Ms Mielnik, the older people have welcomed the idea, with the home gaining positive responses from the residents and their family since the activity was introduced in June.

“Residents absolutely loved it. It helps them to exercise. It also helps their well-being because their chairing each other around,” said Ms Mielnik.

Hill Care Group

Armchair karate

The Oaks Care Home resident Ann Lillico testing her punching power on pads held by carer Elizabeth Morton.

“It is difficult because all of the residents have dementia so it can be difficult to communicate,” she said. “But when they see the others doing the activity it makes them want to take part as well.”

“I never would have thought elderly people would enjoy something like this,” she added.

As all of the residents have dementia, the activity is one of many to help them stay active and brainstorm their minds through physical activities and recreation, said those behind the initiative.

Meanwhile, the care home also hosts a range of other activities, with the help of local charity MIND Active.

For example, every month the home hosts an activity centered around food, where they focus on different cultures and their cuisine, including an Italian night where residents had the opportunity to make their own pizza.

Meanwhile, other activities revolve around, gardening, letter writing, crafts and exercise.

MIND Active aims to use “mental stimulation” to promote elderly inclusion, mostly in South East Northumberland.

It provides a choice of community-based activities, where guests can enjoy musical entertainment, raffles, quizzes, and outdoor activities.

“We successfully lift the mood of loved ones, carers and those with dementia”

Stephen Ward

In February this year, MIND Active also teamed up with Whitehouse Farm Centre near Morpeth to host regular visits to dementia patients.

Stephen Ward, founder and project manager at MIND Active in Bedlington, said: “Living with dementia can be extremely isolating.

“At MIND Active, we have witnessed people affected by dementia benefit immensely just by being part of the community,” he said.

He added: “By offering a variety of socially-interactive events, we successfully lift the mood of loved ones, carers and those with dementia by helping them to enjoy quality time together.”

The home is part of Hill Care Group, which was established in 2001 and currently operates 38 care homes across the UK.

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