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Funding for toolkit to help care home residents enjoy nature

Posted on April 5th 2017

A team of PenCLAHRC researchers have been awarded Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding to develop a training toolkit that helps care home staff improve residents’ access to nature.

Research has shown that older people, including those living with dementia, can derive wellbeing benefits from sensory experiences of nature. The ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) grant aims to enhance quality of life in care homes by creating ‘My Nature: a training toolkit’ for staff in the residential/nursing care sector.

At present there are a number of barriers preventing care home residents from accessing nature. As well as many residents experiencing sensory impairments or poor health, staff lack time and confidence to organise nature activities, and there is little high-quality training available.

To address this training need, PenCLAHRC will work with the European Centre for Environment & Human Health (ECEHH) and the Sensory Trust, a charity that makes outdoor places more accessible for people affected by social exclusion, to develop the ‘My Nature’ toolkit. Using evidence from previous work with care home residents, the toolkit will feature tips on organising activities and removing common barriers, including supporting bed-bound residents to experience nature.

Vicky Hutchinson, Development Manager at the Sensory Trust, said:

"We’re really excited to bring our joint research project to a wider audience working in the care sector. This will benefit older people by increasing their engagement with nature and enable those working in the care sector to increase their understanding of research within the field of nature and older people's care. It’s also a pleasure to work with the PenCLAHRC and ECEHH team again."

Evidence suggests that embedding nature-based experiences into daily care could provide an alternative to antipsychotic medication in managing behavioural symptoms for some residents, reducing stress for both residents and staff.

The toolkit will be piloted in a series of creative workshops in two care home settings in Cornwall - Coombe House, Liskeard and Castle Hill House, Bodmin. Findings and case studies from the pilot will be disseminated to care homes and the research community.

The ‘My Nature’ toolkit has potential to benefit care home staff as well as residents - it will provide an opportunity to develop their skills and enhance job satisfaction in what is a very demanding and complex area of work. The project could also contribute to increasing staff retention and help care homes achieve a quality rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Dr Noreen Orr, lead researcher on the project, said:

"We’re delighted to continue working with the Sensory Trust and My Nature is a wonderful opportunity to use our research findings to make a difference to the everyday lives of older people living in residential and nursing care."

The grant has been awarded from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), which supports researchers to build relationships with potential collaborators and users of their research, to increase and accelerate its impact.

Visit the ‘My Nature’ project page to find out more about the project and follow its progress. 

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