The importance of external value for motivating Seniors

In response to the huge amount of interest in the upcoming Congress on Dementia where Hale & Fun will be hosting a round table (Click here for more info), we thought we would expand on some of the key issues that Hale & Fun addresses and why its innovative and new approach to Aged care has become a key discussion topic for the upcoming conference.

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The Importance of External Value for Motivating Seniors

One of the most prominent questions facing staff and management in the aged care industry is “how can we better utilize our resources to maximise the benefits provided by the leisure activities and social calendar of our community?”

Too often valuable time and money are put into developing cognitively challenging programs only to find that residents simply don’t attend.

If you’ve ever found yourself seeking to improve the quality of the activities and programs provided within your community but find that, in spite of your best efforts, you are unable to retain the interest or motivation of residents, then you belong to a considerable majority of managerial staff looking for a better way to invest resources in the future of their residents, staff and business.

This paper explores how the incorporation of programs and activities that provide seniors with a strong sense of external value can greatly improve mental and physical health, while also helping to reduce the workload of your staff.

Members of retirement villages and the broader aged community are constantly voicing their desire for a greater variation and frequency of leisure activities and social functions, presenting management with the difficult prospect of sifting through the market to identify which services can best meet the physical, mental and social needs of seniors.

The market has been inundated with new products and services that claim all sorts of benefits, however very few recognize the humanistic side of their target market.  The result is that these apps, brain exercises and guest speakers fail to address issues of motivation, personal interest and sense of belonging that are so crucial to ensuring the long-term benefits are met; how many times have you yourself tried the latest craze in brain training, only to completely forget you ever even downloaded the program to begin with?

The key issue is that these sorts of programs and services, while born of the best intentions, fail to connect the ‘user’ with the broader community and with which they are so desperate to reconnect. By failing to tap in on the strong motivation already present these fads fall by the wayside all too easily and, in the absence of long-term use, never even come close to realizing the supposed potential benefits the claim, resulting in little more than disgruntled seniors, worn out staff and fruitless financial investments.

 

So, what are seniors missing out on?

 

 Issues with Current Initiatives

Emerging research in the field of neuroscience has revealed that the brain does possess the ability to rearrange and renew itself[1], thus increasing the potential for seniors to take proactive steps to ensure the longevity of their mental health. With a correctly applied approach and sustained engagement, seniors are able to exercise some control over the rate and extent of their cognitive remediation, affording a greater level of independence and, consequently, a higher quality of life.

However significant results are dependent upon the individual’s willingness to engage with the programs provided, which in turn requires the approach being employed to carry with it the power to invoke high levels of intrinsic and/or extrinsic motivation. In order to achieve the levels of motivation required the approach needs to directly and deliberately address the core values of the individual, and unless a high degree of value and meaning is attached to the completion of the task then the amount of time and energy likely to be invested is minimal.

The vast majority of current initiatives fail to resonate with the values seniors identify with, and as their initial curiosity dries up all hope for cognitive and physical improvement dissipates.

Furthermore, as the number of seemingly meaningless number of tasks, crosswords and guest speakers increases seniors are being inadvertently taught that they are no longer capable of doing anything of real value- that they are no longer able to complete any task of genuine importance.

        Well, what do seniors ‘genuinely’ value?

Raised in a period of time characterised by war, depression and economic hardship, Australia’s seniors were taught to assess the value of actions, beliefs and occupations by the extent to which they contributed to ‘the greater good.’ Having since retired from their professions and no longer bearing the responsibility of raising children, the vast majority of seniors now find themselves unsure of what or how they can contribute to the broader community.

Just as they are beginning to seriously question their own value their doubts are exacerbated as their daily routine begins to fill with activities that, while enjoyable, don’t address their strong desire to give something back to the community. In fact, in 2013 over 70% of elderly participant declared that ‘being a burden’[2] was one of their biggest and most distressing concerns, reiterating the importance to them of being able to feel needed by society.

 

Hale & Fun: A Brief Overview

Hale & Fun seek to realize the full potential of cognitive and social engagement by providing a unique service that directly enables seniors to reengage with society in a positive, productive and meaningful way that also enhances cognitive functioning and promotes genuine social inclusion.

Working with accomplished artists, entertainers and educators, Hale & Fun have tailored a vast range of courses and educational programs designed specifically to address the emotional, physical and mental needs of the aged community. Courses can also be created to reflect the specific interests or makeup of a specific community, as each program is designed to create an inviting and engaging environment that reconnects seniors with the outside world.

The programs are facilitated by vibrant and enthusiastic educators who are dedicated to ensuring that each participant is left with a genuine sense of belonging, achievement and involvement in the construction of a better society.

Hale & Fun’s commitment to delivering the best service possible has resulted in significant growth over the past three years, resulting in the development of partnerships with a number of educational institutions and organizations. In 2013 members of Hale & Fun participated in a vast range of exciting and innovative projects across the greater Sydney region, and they look to continue to build on this success in 2014 through the continued strengthening of inter-village connections, collaborations and competitions.

Hale & Fun distinguish themselves from similar programs by working beyond the traditional ‘senior education’ paradigm to reverse roles and have participants adopt the role of mentor. As they are called on to work collaboratively with the facilitator to provide them with feedback and suggestions about how they could improve as an educator participants are afforded the opportunity to make a genuine and meaningful contribution to the development of an aspiring teacher, and in doing so are playing a significant role in improving the standard of education and learning throughout the community. This feature of the course has proved immensely popular with all participants, typifying Hale & Fun’s pronounced ability to synthesize research with a humanistic approach that maximises benefits on all fronts, for all stakeholders.

 

“Cognitive decline is the main threat for the abilities of elder people to continue enjoying their favourite activities and a major additional threat to their quality of life”[3]

 

What are the benefits provided by Hale & Fun’s programs?

 

Improved Cognitive Function  

Cognitive remediation has long been misidentified and misunderstood as an irreversible and untreatable side effect of the natural ageing process. Consequently, one of the most common approaches to dealing with issues of declining mental capacities is to adopt a responsive position, waiting for problems to arise and then dealing with the situation as it unfolds. This has a predictably detrimental and profound impact on the health of the individual, while also placing unnecessary strain on the resources of the facility responsible for their care.

What research is now telling us is that engagement with cognitively challenging tasks can, over a period of time, not only decrease the rate of mental remediation but also reduce the impact of debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s[4]– a leading cause of dementia.

The courses and programs provided by Hale & Fun are purposefully designed to stimulate and exercise various regions the brain, using fun and innovative pedagogies to ensure that all participants are challenged end engaged at a level suitable to their ability to ensure that their minds are kept active and alert throughout their golden years.

Increased Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy refers to the belief and individual holds about their ability to carry out a given task successfully, and has been shown to have a strong correlation with one’s assessment of their own quality of life[5]. As seniors progress through various stages of retirement their responsibilities tend to be gradually reduced, and while such practices are invariably well-meaning (and in many cases inevitable) they also subconsciously send the unintended message that ‘you can’t do this anymore, please stop trying and let us do it for you.’ This in turn leads to a dramatic decrease in self-efficacy as seniors are left feeling as though those around them no longer believe that they are capable of even the simplest tasks, which eventually leads to the seniors themselves adopting this belief.

Helping seniors to overcome their learned helplessness can be a complex process, one that requires ongoing support in conjunction with carefully considered tasks that allow the individual to experience a sense of achievement that they can attribute to their own actions.

At Hale & Fun we set out to ensure that all challenges, materials and programs are designed and implemented in a way that allows all participants to enhance their self-efficacy by demonstrating to themselves and others that they are still capable of giving back to society while also learning new and practical skills.

Intergenerational Collaboration

The implementation of intergenerational projects has yielded extremely promising results in recent years, with initiatives fostering relationships between seniors and young people to afford both parties a genuine sense of social inclusion end mutual benefit. Ongoing trials of an intergenerational language exchange program at Monash University[6] exemplify the principles on which Hale & Fun’s own programs have been constructed, drawing significant positive attention from around the nation on account of the unprecedented success being experienced.

The sense of social inclusion afforded by this direct connection between seniors and emerging members of society incorporates them into a broader social network of communication and mutual obligation, resulting in participants feeling more “cared for, loved, esteemed and valued” as well as having a “powerful protective effect on health” [7], as well as the development of healthier behaviour patterns.

Benefits for care staff

       Few (if any) would deny that working in aged care can be extremely demanding, both mentally and physically. The need to be constantly aware of countless schedules, diets, prescriptions and policies is taxing enough on care staff without adding in the unnecessary burden of having to perpetually coax seniors in to participating in the activities and programs that management have invested their time and money into. Recent cuts in funding have further contributed to the ever increasing workload of staff, leading to almost a third of care staff in the retirement industry to describe themselves as “emotionally exhausted”[8].

Once you have selected the activities and programs that best cater to your specific circumstances Hale & Fun handle the rest, allowing staff to enjoy some respite from their demanding daily routine with the peace of mind provided by knowing that their residents are being placed in the hands of educated and caring professionals.

Click below for more information on our programs and how we can help you save time and money

click-here-for-more-information

 

Take-away Points  

While conceived with the best intentions in mind, the vast majority of new and emerging services that claim to offer significant benefits fail to recognize the true needs and values of seniors, resulting in low rates of participation and engagement. This in turn places unnecessary stress on staff.

 

Activities and programs that don’t appear to have any practical value often undermine seniors’ self-efficacy and self-worth. Conversely, activities and programs that allow seniors to feel that they are giving back to society have been documented to have a profoundly positive influence on these two aspects, while also reinvolving them with society and greatly increasing quality of life.

 

Mentally stimulating activities and challenges reduce the rate of mental remediation and have also been shown to combat the onset of debilitating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.  However, these benefits are only realized through sustained and wilful engagement.

 

Hale & Fun’s unique model synthesizes leading research and developments with a profound understanding of the needs and values of seniors to provide a comprehensive program that enriches the quality of life for all members of the retirement community; not just seniors.

 

                                                             

 

Next StepsIf your organization or community could benefit from more productive, engaging and beneficial leisure and social activities than contact Hale & Fun at info@haleandfun.com.au, or phone (02) 8034 6945 to discuss which services and programs could best benefit the lives of those around you.

 

 

Click below for more information on our programs and how we can help you save time and money

click-here-for-more-information

 


[3] Stern, Paul C. and Carstensen, Laura L. Editors; Committee on Future Directions for Cognitive Research on Ageing, Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences, National Research Council “The Ageing Mind: Opportunities in Cognitive Research ISBN: 978-0-309-06940-3, 288 pages, 2000

[5] Kvarme, L, K Haraldstad, S Helseth, R Sørum, and G Netvig. “Associations between general self-efficacy and health-related quality of life among 12-13-year-old school children: a cross-sectional survey.” Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 7 (2009): 85.

[7] Wilkinson R & Marmot M 2003, Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts. 2nd edition World Health Organisation, Geneva.

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