PHOTOS: PAUL SLATER IMAGES
Oomph! uses varied and enjoyable activities to get people moving and help them feel stimulated
SPICE OF LIFE Oomph! founder Ben Allen is on a mission to bring more variety to
the lives of elderly people living in residential homes. First he brought them exercise, now he is facilitating days out. Kath Hudson reports
hen you talk to people living in care homes, and witness their quality of life, you see their frustration,” says Oomph! founder Ben Allen. “Take away the time they are sleeping, being fed and cared for, and they still have 11 hours a day when they need to be given a reason to live. A real life is a varied life, not lived exclusively indoors, which is the current experience of many people in residential care.” Allen believes most people working in the sector, including commissioners, want better for their charges, yet finances are always an issue. Allen
An evaluation by Cumbria University showed a 14 per cent improvement in quality of life 88
has set about removing these barriers, creating cost effective solutions to, firstly, exercise and now day trips.
EXERCISE PARTY As a fitness instructor, Allen specialised in exercise for older people. After travelling abroad, he returned to his home town of Scarborough and noticed two things symptomatic of seaside towns: lots of care homes, and high levels of unemployment and seasonal employment. “I thought I could solve two problems at once, by training unemployed people to deliver fitness sessions in care homes,” he says. “Full of optimism, I visited the care home opposite my parents’ house with the idea of introducing chairbased exercise classes. The manager was also optimistic and up for trying it.” Oomph! was born. Unlike previous exercise interventions for elderly people, which were clinically led and therefore a bit stale and boring, Oomph! was all about fun, creating a party-style atmosphere with activity as a by-product.
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Ben Allen has overcome care home budget constraints to help boost residents’ quality of life
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