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Briefly, in my early life, for 5 years, I was a Hospital Engineer for a hospital group consisting of 2 large hospitals and 7 cottage hospitals/care homes.  One of my responsibilities included visits to the 7 smaller establishments to check them out for maintenance requirements of all things mechanical and electrical. In those days there was very little electronic equipment and it was under contract to specialists.

When I visited the care homes, I often went into big community rooms that would have between 10 and 20 high backed chairs with patients sitting in them and my guess would be about 80%, 4 in 5, being female.  It may have been that men didn’t like to congregate and socialise as much as women, but there was still a much higher proportion of females.

Because many would have been incontinent there was always a distinct smell of urine and there was little conversation and even less entertainment.  That was 1969 to 1973 and I formed a definite opinion that I did not want to end my days in one of those type of places.

I am not passing judgement on the staff who worked in them or the hospital authority who employed me, that was how it was.  I cannot say that it was accepted practice but it was common practice.

Over the last 50 years I have not given much thought to care homes as my personal family circumstances have not been such that I have needed to.  However, due to my spell associated with them I have always thought they were a place where clients would tend to end their days unhappily.

That was until a few weeks ago when I read in my local evening paper about the National Day of Arts in Care Homes.  Although the event was a national initiative, the article was about some of the successes clients in Anchor Group homes had been celebrating, therefore I visited their website to get more details and to print here some information I have copied from it.

Please read it and if you have the time click on the link at the end to see the artwork displayed, most of the entries can be classified as Excellent, Exceptional and even Mind-Blowing.  I could hardly believe it.  I know 50 years have passed and some changes and improvements should be expected but to see them on this scale is an absolute credit to the system, philosophy, dedication and commitment of absolutely everyone who is now involved with the care and motivation of the elderly.  Obviously the clients themselves are more aware and astute.  They are probably more demanding and well able to meet many challenges that they have always dealt with during their lifetime and want to go on enjoying them in their retirement as hobbies, rather than dwindle away into oblivion stuck in a high-backed chair in a care home community room with nothing to do and nowhere to go.  Please read on and enjoy.

Anchor is England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for the over-55s, and passionate about giving older people a choice of great places and ways to live.  It is an established care home provider, with more than 50 years’ experience and over 100 residential and dementia care homes across the country.

Anchor has high standards for the quality of service provided, from buildings to staff and policies. All homes are regulated by the Care Quality Commission.  As a not-for-profit organisation, all the money Anchor makes is reinvested back into its services. This enables them to provide high-quality facilities and care for all customers.

Diane Armstrong, Anchor’s Wellness Advisor, said: “We are so happy to take part in the National Day of Arts in Care Homes as it builds on the many creative activities we already organise in our 114 care homes across England.”

“Art is a wonderful way for residents to express their feelings, show off their artistic flare and for others to appreciate the talents of the older people living in our care homes.”

The online gallery of older people’s artwork can be viewed here

Definition of prejudice: An adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.

John Lightfoot MBE, Solar Solve Chairman