In the past few years, there has been renewed focus from both the public and private sector on the need to deliver high-quality, purpose-built housing for later living. This goes beyond just homes – with developers now putting increased emphasis on wellbeing and an active lifestyle.
One such provider is Anchor, which has industry-leading ‘wellness centres’ as its new developments. Here, we speak to Brett Jenkins, who works as a senior wellness manager across two of Anchor’s flagship retirement villages; Hampshire Lakes in Yateley and Bishopstoke Park in Eastleigh.
Brett has worked in the health and fitness industry for over 25 years, and was recently nominated as a finalist in the Physical Activity Champion category of the UK Active Awards, for his outstanding work in changing the lives of older people.
So what does his average week look like? He tells us here:
I spend this morning mapping out the week ahead with the team and checking in on some of our classes.
We are in the process of rolling out some new classes and activities that are both enjoyable and good for our residents. These have been designed so that there is something for differing abilities and differing senior age groups – our mantra is ‘everyone is included, no-one is excluded’.
Our classes include swimming, mobility walks, table tennis and active balance – a seated session incorporating cardiovascular fitness, strength and balance exercises to improve overall wellbeing. We are extremely flexible and accommodating – so if someone can’t physically do something but wants to sit in for the social element, that is absolutely fine with me!
While I spend a lot of time in our wellness centres themselves, resident engagement is a large part of my role – I take great pride in knowing all of the residents at our villages so I enjoy making time to get out and about to speak to people, whether in the cafés and social areas or visiting in their homes. I aim to inspire people to remain active, so if I haven’t seen someone come into the centre for a while I’ll make a special effort to check in and see how they are doing. I am extremely passionate about combating loneliness and depression, so this is one of the most enjoyable parts of the role.
We also make time to reach out to the local community groups and neighbours. Our wellness centres are open to non-residents – we want to create an environment that is welcoming for all.
This morning, my colleague Ana and I are hosting ‘Aqua Active’. This is a 30-minute, low-impact, water-based class, designed to gently improve cardio fitness and mobility.
Our wider team includes a number of third parties include swimming coaches, physios, hairdressers and beauticians, so I spend some of the afternoon liaising with them to discuss future plans while also ensuring that our high standards of customer service are upheld. We have had some fantastic usage numbers at both our centres this year, and this is in part down to the level of welcoming, friendly service that we deliver.
A large part of my – and my team’s role – is helping residents who have recently come out of hospital. Often they have been heavily medicated and are unmotivated, so with ‘exercise prescription’ we create rehabilitation plans to help them get active again.
We want to see all of our members improve rather than just become stagnant – but this particularly important with those who have recently been injured or unwell, so we make a real effort to help these people. These are primarily those in independent living – but we also build relationships with our care home managers to help create specific plans for their residents.
Today kicks off with ‘Active Box’, a martial arts inspired class led by a colleague that takes people on a journey improving endurance, balance, co- ordination and flexibility. Of course, we’re not talking about black-belt full combat here – but we do draw on some of the principles and it is extremely enjoyable.
This afternoon, we have a meeting to discuss Anchor Active – a new initiative which allows both residents and staff to volunteer their own skills, talents and time to hold classes. This can be informal one-on-one sessions and others in groups, and will help us provide a wider range of services. It’s looking promising already – so onwards and upwards!