Halo’s Feel Good for Life programme (FGFL) supports approximately 150 people affected by dementia, isolation & depression, to be physically active and socialise. With a principal aim of the FGFL programme being to reduce isolation & loneliness, carers and cared-for needed the programme more than ever to provide support, stimulation and keep their social connections going, thus maintaining their physical and mental health.
Due to lockdown, the physical and social activity sessions delivered in Halo centres had to stop. Without such support, people’s symptoms worsened much more quickly and unpaid carers struggled to care round the clock for their loved ones, exhausted, with nowhere else to turn. Furthermore, government advice was to remain active in order to maintain physical and mental wellbeing and stay connected through the use of technology such as Skype, and Zoom. However, those who participated in FGFL groups were less likely to have internet access and the digital skills to get online. Hence they were increasingly likely to be cut off. Halo therefore worked to:
- Adapt and sustain by moving to an interactive, online format.
- Make free opportunities to exercise and socialise available online.
To deliver this, Halo would:
- Engage key partners (including funders).
- Obtain infrastructure and source & distribute devices to support online delivery.
- Develop digital skills, confidence, capabilities amongst intended participants (and employees), offering training and support.
Funding enabled the purchase of internet enabled devices for people with complex needs already engaged with the FGFL programme and those linked to NERS which helps manage long-term health conditions and rehabilitation of patients in specialist areas including Cardiac rehab, Pulmonary rehab and Falls prevention. As such, services for vulnerable people who were disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 lockdowns, were maintained by making them available through on-line, digital formats. Despite fears over using the internet being common amongst older people, all iPads were adopted and embraced by the target audience.
This was helped by having activities that interested older people, using a peer-to-peer approach, and ensuring that the devices were simple & ready to use.
The programme supported vulnerable groups including:
- Older people with long term complex needs such as those affected by dementia
- Unpaid Carers caring for vulnerable loved ones
- People affected by loneliness, social isolation and/or depression
- Those with long-term conditions and rehabilitation patients in specialist areas including Cardiac rehab, Pulmonary rehab and Falls prevention
Each of these under represented groups were digitally deprived, so this in turn helped to address inequalities in terms of digital exclusion and health.
Social value outcomes
The programme has supported the most vulnerable parts of our communities to maintain good physical and mental health. The interactive online environments support healthy lifestyles and access to services, providing care during the COVID pandemic which disproportionately impacted on these groups. It is accomplishing the following. Addressing health inequalities within the region, including:
- ‘Dementia’ as research shows the projected number of people with dementia in Bridgend is greater than the other local authorities in the region. Concerningly, the number of people supported with dementia in Bridgend is anticipated to reach over 3,000 by 2030.
- ‘Poor health amongst unpaid carers’ who repeatedly report poor health outcomes and have a significant risk factor for chronic loneliness. 80% of unpaid carers report feeling lonely and 34% exercising far less as a result of caring, but ‘being in touch with other carers’ -as Halo’s programme enables- makes a big difference. (Jo Cox Commission)
- ‘Poor health linked to Digital exclusion’, the need to address this is highlighted in the local authority’s Aging well plan and the Equalities plan, because there’s a clear link to loneliness & isolation and the wider determinants of health.
- Supporting community health, enabling people to live the highest quality of life; The Health inequalities above were exacerbated through COVID. Vulnerable people faced service curtailment.
Less than half of our participants were online. Without the routines, stimulation and well-established relationships formed via our community-leisure programmes which contributed to wellbeing, the anxiety and isolation experienced was compounded, and negative psychological and cognitive problems reported. However, the programme provided vulnerable people with:
- Exercise and stimulation.
- Social engagement and connections with others.
- Structure and routine; regularly described as giving ‘something to look forward to’.
- Information, answers to questions, and verifying what’s being reported.
- First time access to online services such as provided by the local CVC, including delivery of food or medication Halo’s programme also provides much needed respite and peer support for unpaid carers reportedly exhausted from extra care, thus improving carers’ quality of life.
- Supported employees to focus on health and wellbeing plans.
- Ensured services support people to understand behaviours and choices that benefit future health.
To become successful, the programme firstly needed to understand the behaviours and concerns which commonly lead to older people choosing not to engage with digital services.
Significant work was put into overcoming the barriers to adoption of digital devices, helping people to understand the benefits, supporting them through their fears, and working to ensure there were no-experiences that caused frustration. This was helped by having an activity that interested older people, using a peer-to-peer approach, and ensuring that the devices were simple & ready to use. This led to all 57 iPads being adopted and used. 30 vulnerable people received digital skills training, including ‘How to Zoom’ and 6 week essential skills courses.
This enabled exercise professionals to reach new audiences including older people who may not have been able to take part in face-to-face sessions, due to mobility, transport etc and help them to retain skills and independence for longer.
Submission by Ryan Statton, Active Communities Manager, Halo Leisure
Judging comments by Leanne Millard
The winner of the Health and Wellness Award is given to Halo Leisure. Offering a technological lifeline support to the digitally excluded through the Covid-19 crisis.
Halo’s Digital Inclusion Project supported vulnerable and isolated people, including those with complex health conditions, such as dementia, and their carers, to stay physically active and stay socially connected. Halo Leisure offered online opportunities to exercise and socialise during the COVID-19 crisis to replace those delivered physically in the Halo centres before lockdown.
Halo Leisure worked with Partnering organisations:
- Social Enterprise, a registered charity and leading leisure trust Halo Leisure inc
- The National Exercise Service (NERS) for Bridgend County
- Bridgend County Borough Council, Digital Communities Wales, (who supported the move to digital inclusion activities with training and advice, helping us to do it well and make a bigger impact)
- Wales Cooperative Centre
This collaboration ensured that engagement was part of the wider provision for the older, vulnerable people involved, and brought about a ‘Long-Term approach, equipping older people with digital skills to maintain independence and quality of life, as services from banking, to shopping to GP services, moved on-line.
Halo Leisure provided devices, internet access and training free of charge to some of the communities’ most vulnerable and isolated groups, who’d relied upon the support programmes and services they offered. Halo managed to get more people active during & after lockdown, and improved access to information & advice, keeping people connected. This ensured that vulnerable groups are not left behind on a variety of levels including physical and mental wellbeing, social inclusion and digitality.