Open sesame

We live in a technology-driven society that takes instant access and interaction with the rest of the world for granted. Tabby Kinder finds out how the RMBI is helping the older generation cross the digital divide

Late one morning in a sleepy cul-de-sac in Chislehurst, the residents of the RMBI Prince George Duke of Kent Court care home relax in armchairs and sip from mugs of tea. It seems a typical state of affairs that you might find in any UK care home – until you see that the residents are also selecting their favourite songs from a touch-screen computer. 

The new Dementia Life computer provides interactive games and entertainment, with photos, TV shows, music and film clips from the 1930s onwards. The touch-screen device is just one of a collection of digital machines installed in all RMBI care homes this year to help get elderly residents interacting with new technologies. 

Research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that the number of people over the age of sixty-five using the internet is on the up. And with more older people getting used to new technologies, the RMBI is welcoming the opportunity to make sure its care home residents are seeing both the social and mental benefits of using computers.

‘Some of the residents are scared of the computer at first because they’ve never used one before,’ says Sue Goodrich, Activity Coordinator at the Prince George care home. ‘It’s a generational thing. But when I show them how to play their favourite song or look up photos of the place they grew up in, suddenly they’re fascinated.’

A paper presented at the International Conference for Universal Design claimed that using a computer can help older people live a fuller life, as it allows them to engage, communicate and create. Scientific journal Plos One suggests that using a computer, smartphone or tablet and regularly using the internet can even decrease the risk of cognitive impairments such as dementia.

While technology has revolutionised communication, entertainment and shopping, until recently it has remained almost exclusively the preserve of the young. In the UK, while ninety-nine per cent of adults aged sixteen to twenty-four have used the internet, according to the ONS, just thirty-three per cent of people over seventy-five have ever spent time online. 

But computer use by the older generation is growing and the benefits of online access for older people are being recognised as a necessity, rather than a luxury. 

The RMBI offers computer facilities and informal support with IT tasks at all of its care homes in England and Wales, often accompanied by scanners, projection screens, games consoles, and enlarged keyboards and computer mice for improved accessibility. In addition, a few homes are now leading the way with the launch of regular IT training sessions and internet cafes.

Every week, Diane Vowles, a volunteer from Age UK, gathers up a folder of printouts and heads to the Chislehurst care home where she holds workshops to demonstrate the use of personal computers (PCs) using the Dementia Life machine and a shared PC in the home’s dedicated computer room. ‘The residents who are interested surf the net with me and enjoy researching and investigating various subjects. We chat about our personal histories and experiences while searching for images and information on the web.’ 

‘Some residents can be a bit resistant to new technology but others are relishing it. The ones who get into it are amazed by what they can do.’ Diane Vowles

Vowles’s workshops are part of a national campaign by Age UK to promote digital inclusion among elderly people. ‘Some residents can be a bit resistant to new technology but others are relishing it,’ Vowles says. ‘The ones who get into it are amazed by what they can do.’

One such resident is David Giles, a ninety-one-year-old former lodge Secretary of St Mary’s, Gillingham Green Lodge, No. 6499, and Rainham Lodge, No. 3079, at which he is now an honorary member. ‘When I first met David he was one of the only residents here to have his own computer,’ says Vowles. ‘It was filled with a lifetime of documents – minutes from lodge meetings, agendas, letters, banking – plus he had begun putting together his father’s memoirs.’ Vowles and David now sit down together twice a week at David’s computer and type up pages of memories from his father’s life spent in the steam, seaplane and tractor industries. 

‘Hopefully it will make an interesting book for the enthusiasts,’ David says. Although using the computer is a challenge in his advanced years, David puts his ease around the technology down to his daughter and his career spent working as an engineer in the aircraft industry. ‘I started using computers in the 1970s and then I started to get better at using them when my daughter Mary was doing an Open University degree.’

At Prince George, other residents are beginning to follow David’s lead and some have brought their own computers to use in their rooms. ‘One resident wanted to be able to look online to see if she had won on the Premium Bonds and to see where the larger winners lived,’ says Vowles. ‘Another wanted to see images of his previously owned, now vintage, cars and motorcycles. We even checked if an old Birmingham Small Arms Company motorbike was still in circulation – it was!’ 

Google Earth and Skype software, which allows residents to communicate with relatives around the world, are also proving popular. ‘One resident was able to look up the new home of her daughter in Perth, Australia – the swimming pool was a big surprise,’ laughs Vowles. ‘One former resident used his PC extensively to keep in contact with his wide circle of friends via email and Skype. He had led a very interesting life and I learned a great deal from him, all about his career in everything from wartime flight navigation to optical lenses.’

Susan Barnes, eighty, has been a resident of RMBI Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court in Mid Glamorgan for ten months and uses the library computer for sending emails, writing letters and research. ‘When I first arrived here I was quite lonely and missed my bungalow,’ she says. ‘The computer provided a welcome distraction and allowed me to keep in touch with friends and family. I now have my own laptop and internet in my room. I’m delighted to have learned a new skill and all the staff are great if I have a problem doing something on the laptop.’ 

‘It’s essential that older people are supported to learn and access the internet if they want to,’ says Charles Knowles, who has been a resident at James Terry Court in Croydon for almost two years. Charles uses a digital camera to send photos of him and his friends during outings to his family, uses the internet to read and listen to the news, and will soon be installing a webcam so he can see his grandchildren. ‘The internet can take you back down memory lane as well as let you see new places and meet new people. It can also make managing day-to-day tasks much easier.’

‘When I show [residents] how to play their favourite song or look up photos of the place they grew up in, suddenly they’re fascinated.’ Sue Goodrich

A new computer cafe, currently in planning stage at the home, will encourage more residents to get online. ‘We are very lucky here at James Terry Court to have access to computers and the internet whenever we like and to have helpful staff around every day who can help with computing tasks,’ adds Charles.

‘It’s all about independence,’ says Rosie Bower, Marketing Manager for the RMBI. ‘We’re committed to offering person-centred care across all of our care homes, allowing our residents to remain in control of their own lives, long after they have moved into one of our homes. Internet and computer access is integral to maintaining a person’s independence in the modern world. The more external interaction our residents have, the more able they are to keep making their own choices.’

Published in RMBI
Thursday, 07 March 2013 00:00

Legacy boosts Kent care home

A legacy donation to an RMBI care home has expanded facilities for residents, with the opening of a new lounge and dining room

A new addition to the nursing facility was officially opened at RMBI’s care home in Chislehurst, Prince George Duke of Kent Court, by Metropolitan Grand Master Russell Race.

The Hinton Lounge and new dining room followed a generous £70,000 donation to the Home from St Paul’s Column Lodge, No. 7197, which meets in London. The donation had been left in legacy by Brenda Hinton, the widow of local Freemason Roy Hinton.

Roy was initiated into St Paul’s Column Lodge in March 1977, becoming the Assistant Secretary in April 1979. As well as being a passionate Freemason, Roy worked for more than thirty years at The Times and was greatly respected by both colleagues and brethren. Sadly, Roy died in October 1981, aged just fifty-four.

Brenda kept in close contact with the lodge and on her own death in 2010, left a substantial gift to be used as deemed appropriate by the Master, Wardens and brethren. On further discussion between the lodge and the Grand Charity Steward, it was agreed that some of the donation should be used to support improvements at Prince George Duke of Kent Court. The new lounge and dining room were named in lasting memory of the Hinton family.

The opening ceremony was attended by representatives of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge, St Paul’s Column Lodge, the Province of West Kent, the RMBI and the local Association of Friends. Following a welcome by RMBI President Willie Shackell, a formal presentation of the £70,000 cheque was made by Warren Thomas, Master of St Paul’s Column Lodge, and the brethren were appropriately thanked. Russell Race then unveiled the plaque for the Hinton Lounge and cut the ribbon.

Prince George Duke of Kent Court was purpose built in 1968 and is situated in a popular part of Kent. The home can accommodate seventy-four residents for both residential and nursing care and, like all RMBI homes, can cater for people with dementia. The home benefits from individual rooms and attractive communal areas, as well as wheelchair-accessible gardens, a fully stocked library and a hairdressing and pamper salon. There’s also a full programme of entertainment, social events, outings, gentle exercise classes and creative, cultural and intellectual activities.

Published in RMBI
Monday, 12 November 2012 10:28

RMBI care homes achieve Gold Standard Awards

After many months of painstaking work and dedication by Bev Niland, Home Manager, and staff, together with Karina Baldwin, Gold Standard Champion for Ecclesholme in Manchester, the Home has achieved their award. A presentation by Lucy Giles, Clinical Nurse Lead for Gold Standards Framework, was made at Manchester Town Hall.

Prince George Duke of Kent Court, Kent, has also achieved the Gold Standard Award.

This highly coveted award is the only one to be recognised by all Care Home Authorities and lasts until 2015 with yearly visits by the Framework Authority to check that the very high standards that this organisation demands are being maintained. Congratulations to all concerned.

Published in RMBI

Mrs Olive Pheasant, resident at RMBI care home Prince George Duke of Kent Court, Kent was the first prize lucky winner of an hour's flight in a two seater Chipmunk plane.

The flight took place earlier this month and Olive, 97 years old, made the short trip to Biggin Hill aerodrome in Westerham, Kent with her son and daughter-in-law along with a group of residents and staff members for support.

Olive said of the flight: "It was a nice long run and take off was so smooth that I didn't know I was flying until I saw all those lovely fields. I know that it is an old saying but it really was like a patchwork quilt. I couldn't help thinking how much lovely countryside we still have left; England is still a green and pleasant land."

Once back on dry land, Olive had said "there were no words" to describe how much she enjoyed the flight.

The raffle draw took place at the Home during their summer fayre. The first prize was kindly donated by Simon Tilling whose grandmother-in-law is a resident at the Home.

Published in RMBI
Thursday, 20 October 2011 09:49

The RMBI - Our Grand Designs

The RMBI continuously invest in their care homes to ensure that they meet government guidelines, legislation and the changing needs of older people. The RMBI also ensure that there is a consistent style in their Homes in order to create an environment for our residents.

Just over 18 months ago an Interior Design Manual was developed using the RMBI Corporate Identity guidelines as its foundation. This ensures that all RMBI Homes are refurbished to a consistent standard where the interior design is distinguishable and recognisable.

The Purpose of the Manual

The purpose of the Manual is to help provide an environment that suits all people living in RMBI Homes and to create an image that is welcoming and representative of the RMBI across all its Homes.

The Manual offers a series of options that the management staff at the RMBI can use to refurbish areas in the Homes, from furniture and curtain choices to wallpaper and flooring. This removes the temptation for a mix and match approach of personal tastes and helps to maintain a consistent style throughout.

As the RMBI's property portfolio ranges from listed and art deco buildings to purpose built care homes, the Manual was developed once a review was undertaken of all its properties. This was to ensure that colours and themes were selected that would enhance the buildings natural aesthetics and help to create more comfortable environments. This helps the RMBI management teams in choosing the right themes and colours to suit the building and most importantly the various types of care that is provided in different areas of the Homes.

A range of furniture and furnishings has also been selected on the basis of their high standard of quality, thus adding value to the Homes as well as ensuring that appropriate furniture is purchased to suit the varying needs of people living in our Homes.

Refurbishment at Homes

RMBI Homes have been going through major building and fire prevention works due to regulation changes. While this work has been in progress, the RMBI have taken the opportunity to carry out the refurbishments required at their care homes in line with the Manual, resulting in minimal disruption for the people living in the Homes.

Reception areas at care homes Cadogan Court in Exeter, Ecclesholme in Manchester, Lord Harris Court in Berkshire and Prince George Duke of Kent Court in Kent, have been upgraded to allow more space, natural light and seating areas and to form a more consistent image of a welcome area in RMBI Homes.

A previously unused section of Albert Edward Prince of Wales Court in Mid Glamorgan has been refurbished to provide 10 bedrooms with ensuite facilities in the form of wet rooms. In addition, the lounge, dining room and kitchen areas have also been refurbished, all in line with the Manual.

Prince George Duke of Kent Court in Kent, has also recently had its hairdressing suite upgraded and modernised to ensure that treatments are provided in pleasant and relaxing surroundings.

Queen Elizabeth Court in Llandudno, has had lounge areas and communal areas in the nursing wing refurbished in line with the Manual. This has given a new lease of life to the areas, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere that is suitable for the nursing care provided.

Connaught Court in York, is currently undergoing some major works to enhance the aesthetics of the Home as well as providing newly refurbished areas such as the new dementia zone area.

 James Terry Court opens its doors

Phase 1 of the rebuild of James Terry Court, Croydon opened this autumn. Phase 1 is furnished using the Manual to ensure consistency and a high standard of furnishings.

Published in RMBI

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