Funky fitness brings joy to care home residents

Oomph at Grimsargh House, Grimsargh, Preston
Oomph at Grimsargh House, Grimsargh, Preston
Share this article
Have your say

Preston’s older people are getting funky by shaking their stuff at new fitness classes for older people.

Grimsargh House, on Preston Road, Grimsargh, Preston, is one of a number of care homes in Lancashire now regularly holding the party-style classes which aim to bring “an hour of joy” to residents.

The activities, which include “Strictly Fun Dancing”, cheerleading, pom-pom shaking and ‘Chairobics’ are revolutionising how people in care homes, including those with dementia, participate in physical activity to improve mental alertness and physical health.

Personal fitness trainer Carly Ingham, 34, from Preston, runs Oomph! classes at Grimsargh House as well as four other care homes around Preston.

Mum-of-two Carly says: “Oomph classes are like no other – to see older people’s eyes light up as they do a gentle jive and shake pom-poms to their favourite music is wonderful to see.

classes blend reminiscence with dance, music and movement.

“The favourite tracks for residents seem to be Cliff 
Richard’s Living Doll and Doris Day’s Que Sera, Sera.

“The Yellow Road of Texas is also particularly liked as it encourages residents to pretend to march and use their lower body.

“I know some care homes whose residents are not doing much physical exercise and there’s sometimes a mindset that older people in care homes can’t do physical exercise – but the opposite is true.

“Oomph’s funky style brings in a fun element that improves mobility and general mental stimulation.”

More than 600 care homes in the north of England have signed up to Oomph! classes since its launch three years ago and it is estimated around 75,000 elderly people, including those with dementia, have been involved in the upbeat sessions.

Grimsargh House’s manager June Rickus, who has been at the home since she joined as a cook 30 years ago, says: “Residents here really love the classes – although it’s easier to get ladies involved than it is the gents!

“It’s so important to keep residents active. I’ve seen cases in care homes where people just sit all day doing nothing.

“Our residents love singing and dancing and the Oomph! classes take this to a new level.

“We had one lady in her eighties who previously would not join in activity classes, but with the Oomph! classes she certainly does.”

The demand for Oomph! classes comes at a time when care quality is under the spotlight.

An undercover investigation by BBC’s Panorama in April exposed abuse in one of England’s largest care homes.

In order to help drive up standards, in December last year the Government’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) emphasised that people in care homes must participate in “meaningful activities” to promote good physical health and mental well-being.

Research for the Health Survey for England Adult Trend Tables shows only seven per cent of adults aged 75 and older are getting the minimum recommended levels of physical activity.

This means a shocking 93 per cent aren’t getting enough exercise.

Oomph! says its own data shows how classes improve flexibility, mobility, balance, mood and alertness and so can bring about a reduction in older people falling of up to 28 per cent.

Ben Allen, founder of Oomph, says: “We feel we are making a massive difference to quality of life for older people with these exercise classes.

“Importantly, they are also a bundle of fun.”

More than 400,000 older people live in care homes - a figure which is set to rise given the UK’s ageing population.

Residents and staff at Grimsargh House also participated in an international care home Mexican Wave by becoming one of hundreds of UK care home to join care homes in Australia and South Africa in the social media video venture.