Supporting you in Activity

Care Homes have worked so hard through the recent pandemic in caring for their residents. Alive and The Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service have come together to provide online support, ideas and inspiration to Care Homes to help them continue to support their residents in meaningful activity. With two different forums, they aim to ensure the whole home approach to activity is maintained through these challenging times.

Activity Cupboard

Aimed at care and activity staff, this 2 hour long forum will provide activity ideas and inspiration for those who are delivering activity on a day to day basis. Find more information here

Book Today: Thursday 20th August, 2020 09:30-11:30
Wednesday 16th September, 2020 09:30-11:30

Managers Forum

This shorter, 45 min forum looks at the importance of maintaining good activity and how to deliver in the current restrictions and limitations. Find more information here.

Book Today: Wednesday 26th August, 2020 at 15:30
Wednesday 16th September, 2020 at 15:30

For further information contact Alive on 0117 377 4756 or

Volunteers Week | Interview with Voscur

Our Volunteer Coordinator, Nadja, sat down with Voscur for #VolunteersWeek 2024 to highlight the crucial role our volunteers play in supporting people here at Alive.

Spotlight on Alive: Volunteers Week 2024 by Voscur

Last week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Alive, an organisation enhancing the lives of older adults, including through dementia support and nature activities. With the support of volunteers, they successfully run sessions in Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, and North Somerset.

Volunteers play a crucial role in supporting people at Alive – they help with session preparation, social engagement, garden maintenance and sensory activities, which can include anything from handling different natural materials to discussing the details and uses of unique plants brought in by volunteers.

Alive offers a variety of volunteer roles across a large area, making it easy for people to find opportunities that fit their schedules and interests. To ensure accessibility, they provide both printed versions of their documents and online forms and ensure that they reimburse travel expenses to make volunteering financially accessible.

For Alive, supporting people living with dementia is an integral part of their daily operations and volunteers are a vital part of making this happen. Their Dementia Meeting Centres provide an inclusive, person-centred space where people can take part in activities that bring joy and foster a sense of community. 

Alive’s therapeutic horticulture sessions provide people with a much-needed connection to the natural world, offering physical benefits as well as improving emotional wellbeing. This has also proven to be a powerful way to create meaningful connections, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

By bringing elements of the outdoors into people’s lives, whether through hands-on gardening, sensory experiences, or reminiscing about nature trips, the charity helps bridge the gap between isolation and engagement, demonstrating the transformative and healing power of nature, with volunteers at the heart of this work.

Personal relationships are key!

Nadja Klose, Volunteer Coordinator

Alive have a dedicated person to interview and onboard each volunteer, so they know they have a consistent point of contact, and they also express their appreciation regularly through thank-you notes, birthday cards, and volunteer of the month celebrations. The activity sessions are centred around wellbeing, and they recognise that their volunteers benefit from that as well.

They also offer volunteer social events as well as online training to keep their volunteers engaged and connected. If a volunteer wants to try something new, they can switch to a different type of session or location without going through the entire onboarding process again.

The dedication and thoughtful methods from Alive’s volunteers stand out as an inspiration for others aiming to make a positive impact in similar areas.

Why not get involved? Check out our volunteering opportunities here.

D-Day 80: Cherishing Life Stories

On the 80th anniversary of D-Day, we want to take the opportunity to honour our Normandy veterans and thank them for their service and sacrifice.

As we revisit the history of today, it’s a poignant reminder to cherish the experiences and wisdom of our previous generations for the future. How their stories should continue to be told. Their memories never lost.

Revisiting D-Day: A First-Hand Account

Our CEO, Isobel Jones, spoke with Radio Bristol yesterday about her grandfather’s own role in the Normandy landings. Major James Henderson landed on Sword Beach in the first wave of the attack, in command of the 41st Anti-Tank Battery of the 20th Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Artillery 3rd British Infantry Division.

Isobel Jones speaking to Radio Bristol 05/05/2024 about her grandfather’s account of D-Day

Finding his experience too painful to speak about, he instead wrote his account down in a memoir, describing the events of D-Day and the months that followed. One of Isobel’s most treasured possessions, this memoir details the fear and panic he faced, but also the camaraderie shared and bonds he forged with his fellow soldiers in the face of such horror.

James can be seen in the painting he had commissioned after the war – he is in the command vehicle on the front left hand side, at the back pointing.

“When dawn broke, we saw the armada stretching from horizon to horizon, our flotilla of LCT’s in line astern. Then all hell broke loose, battleships and bombers blasting the dimly visible shore ahead which appeared to be on fire from east to west. Soon shells started to explode around us. Our craft was fully in intact when we hit the beach, the skipper having ordered “emergency full-ahead together” and we rode on to the sand for a dry landing. I was able to get off the chaotic beach without difficulty and we made our way through the din, smoke and bloodshed”.

“As our generations age, let’s ensure their stories continue to be told”, says Isobel.

“But above all, we need to thank our elders – and ensure we learn from their sacrifices. So, Grandfather – a huge thank you for your service and for your life so well lived.”

The Benefits of Age-Inclusive Living

Guest writer, Jackie Edwards, explores the potential benefits for older people of age-inclusive living and public spaces.

By 2050, it is estimated that 1 in 5 people in the UK will reach 100 years. Unfortunately, only a third of the global population is looking forward to their old age says an IPSOS report. One reason is the view that older people are ‘no longer useful to society’. In addition, 1 in 5 people do not expect to be fit and healthy in old age. Isolation, loss of independence, and medical problems are also part of the negative perceptions of ageing.  A feasible option to create a positive ageing process is by promoting age-inclusive living among older people. Age-inclusive living can provide numerous benefits such as improved social interactions, better physical health, and enhanced emotional well-being.

Age-friendly Infrastructure for Security and Independence

One of the main ways to support the elderly is to ensure access to infrastructure. Ideally, the design and development of living spaces as well as communities and services must be accessible and accommodating to individuals of all ages, including children, adults, and older people. The concept of age-inclusive living aims to create environments that support people at various life stages and promote social inclusion, regardless of age. A universal design incorporates features and amenities that can be used by people of all ages and abilities.

Adaptable housing and public spaces that cater to diverse needs can transform the lives of older people. For example, a flexible layout is easily modified to accommodate different lifestyles and changing needs. This allows for adjustments to living spaces without major renovations, making it easier for people to age in place. User-friendly kitchens and bathrooms are vital as well and features like grab bars, roll-in showers, and adjustable countertops ensure that these spaces retain their functionality for those with varying physical abilities. In addition, smart home technology can be integrated into adaptable housing that enhances the safety. Voice-activated controls, home automation, and monitoring systems contribute to independent living and security. Research conducted by Fanchonette, point out that smart home technologies have the potential to provide continuous care by monitoring medications, falls, mobility, and quality of life. Likewise, a study by Morris et al., concluded that technology could help ‘older adults live longer, safely, and independently in their own homes.’

Promotion of Social Connections and Support Networks

Age-inclusive living environments often promote social interactions among people of different age groups. This mix offers prospects for diverse social experiences and the sharing of perspectives. It can help older people avoid social isolation, providing them with opportunities for companionship, shared activities, and a sense of belonging within the community. Some shared activities might include exercise classes, cultural events, and hobby groups. Community hosted events, celebrations, and gatherings also create ways for neighbours to interact and connect. These events could be seasonal festivals or other social gatherings that promote a sense of community.

Communal spaces that are designed to cater to different ages encourage residents to come together for various activities. Common areas, parks, recreation centres, and shared facilities provide spaces where people can meet, socialise, and build connections. Take the example of Kampung Admiralty in Singapore. The community was designed to ensure that its inhabitants are socially connected and healthy. Hence, a health centre, supermarket, day care, and bank are on site. Specific cities also plan for an age-inclusive environment. To illustrate, Bristol is committed to enabling older people making them feel, safe, and healthy whilst participating fully in society. In 2018, the city was also accepted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a member of the Global Network of Age Friendly Communities (GNAFC). Bristol has an age-friendly action plan actively collaborating in making the urban area more inclusive.

Health, Wellness, and a Sense of Purpose

Promotion of physical health is an outcome of access to recreational programs, fitness programs, and wellness activities. Regular exercise and healthy living contribute to a higher quality of life and may help or prevent certain health conditions. According to a 2022 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exercise and a healthy diet can drastically reduce mortality rates. Furthermore, regular social engagement and a sense of belonging can positively impact the emotional well-being of older people. Feeling connected and valued within a community contributes to a more fulfilling and satisfying life. Many studies attest that social connections make people happier. They are also associated with better health and a longer life, according to an article written by Thomas Oppong.

The opportunities offered by age-inclusive living to participate in community events, activities, or volunteer work give a sense of purpose and direction. Being valued and useful can enhance overall life satisfaction. Hence, the combination of social interactions, engagement in activities, and a supportive community environment contribute to better mental health outcomes reducing the risk of depression and anxiety.

In summary, age-inclusive living can have a positive impact on older people by addressing social, emotional, physical, and safety-related needs. These benefits contribute to a more vibrant and fulfilling lifestyles for older individuals, allowing them to age with dignity and an enhanced quality of life.

About the author

Jackie has worked as a therapist, though is now partially retired and spends her time writing. Part of her therapy work involved working with older people and using horticultural therapy to engage and help with communication. Away from work, she’s married to her husband Brian – and in any free time they have, they’re taken for walks by their two dogs Cox and Pippin.

Filming with the England Football Men’s Team

We had the most incredible opportunity with Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service to film with the England Men’s Football Team this March at St George’s Park to help raise awareness of the symptoms of dementia.

Produced by the Alzheimer’s Society and the FA as part of their #SupportTheSupporter campaign, we invited players Kyle Walker, Ivan Toney and Jarrad Branthwaite to put on the Empathy Suit for a film encouraging fans to better understand the physical symptoms of dementia. Made up of 13 components which inhibit mobility, motor skills, vision and hearing, we asked the players to complete a series of tasks while wearing the suit.

“The Empathy Suit can be quite a moving experience, and we saw how surprised the players were to get a sense of some of the challenges people living with dementia often face,” said our CEO Isobel Jones.

“Of course, the most common symptoms of dementia, including memory loss and confusion, are non-physical, but what a lot of people don’t realise is the breadth of symptoms and challenges that can make everyday activities harder than usual. Hopefully this video will help people to be more aware of the symptoms of dementia and encourage people to visit their GP if they are unsure”.

At Alive, we use the Empathy Suit to support carers, giving them the opportunity to walk in the shoes of those the care for, helping them to understand, adapt their practice, and ultimately improve the quality of life of those under their care. Understanding the symptoms and encouraging people to receive an early diagnosis, is so important in helping people living with dementia better access treatment and live as well as they can.

Thank you to the FA and the Alzheimer’s Society for allowing us to be part of the filming process and to Bristol Dementia Wellbeing Service for working in partnership with us. What a privilege to be involved and to be able to shine a light on dementia.

Community Gardening | Spring Update

With the new growing season officially underway and signs of spring everywhere, we’re gearing up for another exciting year across our ever-increasing number of community-growing and therapeutic horticulture projects.

Please keep reading for the full low down on what we’ve been up to and what’s to come from ALIVEgardening this year.

North Bristol Dementia-Friendly Allotment

After a slow start to the new year, sessions are now getting busier, and it’s been great to see many old friends returning to the allotment in recent weeks. We’re planning for the season ahead by sowing early seeds, tidying up around the space and welcoming lots of new volunteers to the allotment.

Our calendars are beginning to fill up with open sessions planned for the Festival of Nature and Get Growing Trail – so watch this space for news about them!

Wellspring Settlement Community Garden

The group have loved our partnership work with Avon Wildlife Trust this season, thanks to which we now have a beautiful wildlife pond and are preparing for a trip to their flagship site, Grow Wilder, to learn from them and buy some native pond plants to complete the habitat.

BRI Sessions

The patients and staff at BRI love their ‘Gardening Club’ on Wednesdays at the hospital. To cope with the cold, we have been working indoors in the beautiful tree-lined glass atrium overlooking the garden, making miniature gardens and lavender bags, planting bulbs, and starting seeds.

The families and staff supporting patients are so grateful and have told us how it is inspiring change across the hospital and in families when patients are discharged – a testament to the healing power of nature!

South Bristol Dementia-Friendly Allotment

We are cracking on with the final bits of work involved to get this beautiful, accessible site ready for launch on March 26th!

On that date, we’ll host an open event to which all are invited. It’ll be an opportunity to see the space we’ve created and to meet the team delivering the free weekly dementia-friendly gardening and green craft sessions.

Join us and help plant the first fruit, vegetables, and flowers on this special new plot. There will be tea, cake and a chance to meet the community of our new South Bristol community growing space.

Hoppiness Project

We’re excited to have secured funding to run The Hoppiness Project across two more care homes this year – Meadowcare in Redland and Beaufort Grange in Patchway. 

We’re collaborating with the University of Bristol on the project and will co-create an activity pack that can be shared with other care homes nationwide. We’re also anticipating many exciting research outcomes from the collaboration, demonstrating the power of the work we do.

Lawrence Hill Health Centre

Our green social prescribing sessions at Lawrence Hill Health Centre recently celebrated their first year. These sessions are for in-house referrals from the health centre, usually via their health and wellbeing worker.

It was great to pop in on the anniversary and hear some stories about how impactful the sessions have been for people.

Projects & Partnerships | Spring Update

Our bustling Projects Department has been springing into life this month, with new shoots of activity and partnerships forming. Our South Bristol allotment is launching this March and has been a hive of activity over the winter months in preparation for welcoming new friends in the spring.

We continue to work closely with University of Bristol exploring new ways to co-produce exciting and stimulating experiences for older adults. This includes growing and brewing our own beer in care homes, in The Hoppiness Project, and finding new ways to explore travel and culture from home.

Welcoming in new projects, our intergenerational Share and Repair café model is in development and preparing for launch in Bristol and we are proud to be starting two new therapeutic horticultural groups for older people in North Somerset at Stanley’s Garden in Worle.

Our #OneGoodTurn project is concluding on a happy note with a intergenerational joke sharing campaign this Easter, hoping to get care home residents and school children all laughing together across North Somerset.

Be sure to follow our social media for more updates on our expanding portfolio of projects in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.  

An Intergenerational Tea Dance with Flamingo Chicks

How about a gorgeous video full of warmth to cheer you up this cold January? We are so proud of our intergenerational activities, especially our collaboration with Flamingo Chicks last year. Joining us were residents of Brunelcare’s Robinson House and pupils from New Fosseway School.

Showcasing the impact of these sessions, and the magic of intergenerational connection, be sure to watch the video below. Enjoy!

Unlocking Creativity Through Garden Art

Inspiring Older People and Those Living with Dementia to Express Themselves: from guest writer, Jackie Edwards.

Diving into the world of garden art isn’t just a pastime; it’s a portal to a life bursting with joy, especially for our cherished older generations. Creative Ireland’s study shines a spotlight on this: those older people painting their world with the vibrant strokes of creativity are dodging the spectre of loneliness, side-lining sadness, and kicking stress to the curb. And for those living with dementia, the garden becomes an arena of magic—where stress withers away, and the joy of connection blooms. This isn’t just a hobby; it’s a canvas where life’s golden years get a touch of green-thumb brilliance.

Exploring the benefits

Ongoing research suggests that creativity may be key to healthy ageing, notes the Washington Post, which points out that studies show that participating in activities such as singing, theatre performance, and visual artistry could support the well-being of older adults. Furthermore, it’s noted that creativity “which is related to the personality trait of openness,” can lead to greater longevity. Regarding the link between creativity and those who experience dementia, Age UK notes that there is a developing body of research that suggests engagement with the arts can help such individuals. Arts for Health’s handbook, titled ‘Dementia & Imagination,’ centres on arts workshops for older individuals with dementia which took place in care homes and in NHS settings. Age UK highlights the comments of a participant’s spouse, who said “… his attitude towards the future has improved in the way that he is more positive and no longer dwells on ‘the prognosis!’” Another participant commented on the value of the workshops, noting the soothing nature. “You feel you are achieving something. It’s not completely gone — your mind’s not completely gone.” 

In addition to the numerous benefits that getting creative can have, it’s imperative to take into account those associated with outdoor green spaces, like gardens. In a paper published in the North Carolina Medical Journal, Lincoln Larson and Aaron Hipp, Associate Professors of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University, discussed the value of green spaces (such as parks) regarding health. “People who spend more time in nature enjoy enhanced cognitive functioning and attention and reduced stress. They are also less likely to display anxiety disorders and depression and more likely to report high levels of happiness and well-being.” To further highlight the benefits, particularly in regards to older individuals, a 2022 study of four U.S. cities, for example, found that high residential green space was associated with a reduced risk of dementia among older adults. By injecting creativity into gardening in the form of garden art, older people and those experiencing dementia can reap the benefits of both activities, particularly when it comes to encouraging self-expression. 

Unique and eye-catching sculptures

For those looking to explore creativity by creating garden art, there are no shortage of options out there. HGTV highlights several options for creating garden art with recycled materials — for example, an unused coil of heavy wire can be transformed into the shape of animals and displayed amongst the plants, while lumber scraps can be used to create a unique sculptural piece. “Save the most colourful and interestingly-shaped bottles from your glass recycle bin and decorate a tree or bush with them, preferably one that is dormant in the winter or dead and too large to be easily dug up,” states the post. 

Midwest Living highlights several additional ways to go about creating unique pieces for the garden, from using a wagon to create a statement piece by filling it with colourful plants, painting a checkerboard onto an old stump to create a functional gameboard, or by adding whimsy with a unique stone sculpture — to name just a few. With endless opportunities for creating something truly unique, self-expression can be allowed to flourish — whether it’s through creating something that aligns with one’s personality or interests or simply working with a favorite colour.

Creating sentimental keepsakes

Creating garden art can also benefit older people and those living with dementia by serving as a way to stay connected and spend time with loved ones, as it can help prevent loneliness, contribute to social interaction, and provide support. A 2016 BBC article highlights a survey, which found that 42% of the public think that there is no point in keeping up contact at the stage of the disease in which a person fails to recognise the faces of friends and family. However, the Alzheimer’s Society said that family visits stimulated feelings of happiness, comfort, and security — even as the condition progresses, it said that those with dementia can still hold an ‘emotional memory.’ This means they continue to feel happy long after a visit or experience. 

Exploring creativity through garden art can easily be integrated into family visits and time spent together. Crafts such as creating a sculpture, or a personalized flower bed, can create memories that will last a lifetime. Creating sentimental keepsakes, such as handmade stepping stones for the garden, or creating decorative rocks can make for wonderful creative décor that can put the focus of the craft on family and loved ones while exploring creativity through paints and tactile art (such as by arranging tiles in a mosaic stepping stone). 

Finding solace through simplistic landscaping 

The activity of gardening itself can also bring great benefits to older people and those living with dementia. For example, gardening encourages sensory stimulation, can improve attention span, and helps increase strength and balance while providing a sense of purpose. With that in mind, it’s important to realise that creativity can also be found in traditional gardening, providing an ideal outlet for those who would prefer to tend to a garden rather than do arts and crafts. For instance, creativity can be found in choosing colours for flowers to plant or by arranging a flower bed. Creating floral arrangements from flowers that have been grown in the garden is another way to spark creativity, though it’s imperative to point out the fact that creativity can be explored in more ‘traditional’ ways as well. 

Garden art and creativity can also be explored through the renovation of a garden. For instance, integrating a unique design into a walkway, painting a garden arch or fence, or trimming the hedges into a uniform shape can all serve as therapeutic and creative outlets. Aiming to create a therapeutic garden through biophilic design is just one way in which older people can endeavour to positively transform their own gardens. This can be achieved by integrating key elements such as consistent greenery while ensuring that the biophilic environment is varied, interesting, and engaging in order to properly reflect the natural environment. Adding in plenty of flowers can also work to have a positive benefit on mental health. In fact, one study in which workers were sent flowers to arrange and consider during their break times resulted in 90% finding that it reduced stress levels.

For older people and those living with dementia, green spaces like gardens can provide a myriad of benefits while also serving as a positive outlet for creativity. From creating innovative sculptures to making keepsakes with loved ones, creativity can even be explored through traditional gardening.

About the author

Jackie has worked as a therapist, though is now partially retired and spends her time writing. Part of her therapy work involved working with older people and using horticultural therapy to engage and help with communication. Away from work, she’s married to her husband Brian – and in any free time they have, they’re taken for walks by their two dogs Cox and Pippin.

A Thank You to Our Volunteers of 2023

Reflecting on a year of meaningful connections with our team of extraordinary volunteers.

As the year comes to a close and the festive spirit fills the air, we find ourselves reflecting on the wonderful journey we’ve shared together. As we express our gratitude, we want to shine a spotlight on those who have brought joy and laughter to our therapeutic gardening sessions, intergenerational projects, tech workshops, Wishing Washing Line West participants and Dementia Meeting Centres. Thank you so much to all our volunteers for your support, dedication, and warmth.

We planted, sang, danced, crafted, played games, and felt the sunshine on our faces; we went on trips, made willow wreaths, harvested vegetables, celebrated together and shared stories, meals and smiles.

Our volunteers helped to connect young and old, answered questions about computers and smartphones, provided a friendly face and listening ear to carers facing bereavement, cleaned the dishes after a shared lunch, grew hops together, and fulfilled wishes of residents in care. Together, we visited care homes across Bristol to brighten days with person-centred, light-hearted activity sessions.

Thanks to our shared efforts, our community gardens across Bristol are thriving. We are indebted to the many groups of corporate volunteers who have come along for a day and helped us with bigger tasks, like clearing, fencing and painting. Your support is very much appreciated and helps us provide inclusive, accessible gardening for older people in Bristol – thank you.

We aim to deliver sessions that benefit wellbeing in a holistic way. It was beautiful to hear this reflected back in a poem by one of our recent volunteers, Samantha Tucker, who visited our dementia-friendly allotment in Brentry as part of the Shift Practical Sustainability Course. Here is an excerpt from her poem, ‘Voices of the Allotment’:

What if we all realised that growing
One seed is akin to a rebellion?
That even when people are forgetting;
Slipping bits away from themselves,
Like a traveller washed up on an island,
Seeking familiarity –
That it might be found in:
The richly scented rosemary
Or the cloddy touch of soil,
Thick with clay
And reminiscent of art class.

Who knew that slips of self might
Be found between
The sprout stems and rhubarb?
That in the tracing of fingers
On the earth,
One’s own place might be remembered
Or less misunderstood.

The whole poem can be found here.

As we bid farewell to 2023, we look forward to the opportunities that the coming year holds. With the support of our amazing volunteers, we look forward to continuing our mission of ‘lighting up later life’. One exciting project we have starting in 2024 is our new dementia-friendly allotment in South Bristol. We can’t wait to open our gates to new volunteers and participants alike and share the joy of gardening with new faces.

So thank you, dear volunteers, for your commitment and efforts, your enthusiasm, your time, and the kindness that you shared with us throughout the year. We are truly grateful to have you with us.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with hope, joy, and many moments of happiness, and are looking forward to seeing you in 2024.

Meeting Centre Team Wins Hennell Award

We are so proud of our Dementia Meeting Centre team for winning the prestigious Hennell Award for 2022/23.

Presented by University of Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studies (ADS), the Hennell Award for Innovation & Excellence in Dementia Care celebrates those that have demonstrated the ability to create positive change for individuals living with dementia.

Praised for their significant contribution to promoting person-centred care, our fabulous Meeting Centres were recognised as having energised and imaginative leadership. The judging panel were also especially impressed by our team’s innovative and excellent standard of work, highlighting their ability to overcome barriers by a range of means, and our centres’ clear link between the learning gained from ADS-facilitated courses and the outcomes for people living with dementia and their carers.

“On behalf of the Alive team, I am delighted that our Meeting Centres have been recognised by the University of Worcester. We encourage people to remain active following diagnosis. Thanks to our professional, skilled and passionate staff, our members have built strong relationships and supportive communities that helps them continue to live independently and enjoy life. We also have loads of fun!”

Louise Spencer, Dementia Meeting Centre Manager

The award was formally presented to our CEO Isobel Jones and Nicola Taylor (Delivery and Training Manager) at the 17th UK Dementia Congress in November by Dr Chris Russell (Senior Lecturer, ADS) and Dr Shirley Evans (Director, ADS).

We’d like to thank the judges and entire team at ADS for their ongoing support of our Meeting Centres. And a very warm congratulations to our team for their well-deserved win.

Find out more about our Dementia Meeting Centres here.