Care homes in Surrey have been the first in the country to test drive a new initiative to keep elderly care home residents connected to the communities they have spent their lives in. Residents have been getting out and about more often to a diverse variety of local visitor attractions including Kew Gardens, Grayshott Pottery, Garsons Farm and Woking Lightbox Gallery, as well as trips to everyday favourites like M&S.
Visiting a place that has meant a lot to residents can be a transforming experience.
For Martin, 94, a visit to Brooklands Museum of motoring and aviation proved to be a remarkable day. A former motoring journalist with Autocar magazine for 40 years, Martin was inspired to pick up his pen again for the first time in many years to record the trip. He is now planning more articles for his care home, the Priory Court home in Epsom.
“I haven’t actually written anything for a long time, so when this opportunity came up to start again, it was wonderful,” said Martin.
Debbie Bailey, Activities Leader at Priory Court, part of the St Cloud group, said she was amazed by the change in Martin as his passion for cars and writing was reignited.
“He's started writing an article about his trip and he's going to write some articles for us here at Priory Court too. I think that's an amazing feat, I really do.”
The pioneering service has been launched by Wimbledon-based social enterprise Oomph! who already works with care homes up and down the country to ensure residents live life to the full.
Oomph! Out & About not only supplies a minibus and trained driver, but plans the itinerary with the needs of vulnerable travellers in mind, and joins them on the trip to ensure they get the most out of it – all for a fraction of the cost if the care home had organised the trip itself.
The Out & About service has been piloted at six care homes in Surrey and Hampshire since November and last week launched nationwide, after receiving outstanding feedback about the difference it had made to the lives of elderly people in Surrey.
Research by Deloitte commissioned by Oomph! suggests that while 55% of for-profit care homes claim to provide a minibus service, the average cost was £1,800 a month for around two trips. It was time-consuming to plan itineraries and check destinations for safety and facilities, and hard to find a trained driver.
By comparison, a half day trip for up to eight participants with Oomph! Out & About costs £160.
Explaining why he set up the Out & About service, Oomph!’s founder Ben Allen said he is passionate about ensuring anyone in care can stay connected to the places and passions that matter to them, in spite of the financial pressures and logistics that can make trips challenging.
Ben Allen said: “We are effectively helping individual homes and groups in an area to club together to make day trips affordable. Connecting with meaningful places and communities should be accessible for all.”
Oomph! has recently secured £1.5m in investment to expand Oomph! Out & About. The current fleet of five vehicles is set to expand to 100 within 12 months, and 300 by the year 2020 - allowing half a million individual journeys per year.
Last week Oomph! teamed up with Kew Gardens to host industry leaders on a special sensory tour of the gardens to show them what care home residents have been experiencing. The national trade bodies for the sector, leading care home groups and the Residents and Relatives Association all sent senior representatives.

Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England who was on the trip noted, “What I really like about this initiative from Oomph! is it enables people to have a really good quality of life…I think this has got a huge potential for the whole care sector.”

Article supplied by Neesha Gill