First Garden Cities Homes: Kingfisher dementia clubs

For many years Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation has awarded a grant to First Garden Cities Homes (FGCH) to support its clubs for local people with low to moderate dementia and/or who are socially isolated.

There are four weekly Kingfisher clubs: two in Letchworth Garden City, one in Hitchin and one in Baldock. Each club runs from 10am to 3pm, accommodates up to 16 members and includes fun physical and mental activities, plus a nutritious, social lunch. All FGCH staff involved in the clubs are Dementia Friends.

Each year, FGCH’s four Kingfisher Clubs provide around 23,680 hours of support in total to 48 members and their carers. The Kingfisher Clubs are supported in a variety of ways by many local partners, including the Heritage Foundation, North Herts District Council, North Herts CVS, Carers in Herts, Careline and Hertswise.

A range of activities

FGCH Home Support Officer Rachel Horne said: “We get to know Kingfisher Club members and find out about what they used to love doing – we then do our best to recreate those activities so that they can access and relive those fond memories.”

The members love attending the clubs. There’s always something exciting for them to take part in, from singing and playing musical instruments, to seated exercises to music, completing puzzles or doing arts and crafts. One member was an avid bowls player so the club now plays it  too – she brings along her own measuring device!

There’s always a lot of laughter in the room during the ‘chair cricket’ sessions, which are funded by Sport England. This activity is delivered by Richard Hill MBE, who helps develop accessible forms of cricket for the England and Wales Cricket Board. Richard said: “Dementia can be very isolating, whereas chair cricket is about being with other people, getting active and having fun.”

Although many gentlemen members were seasoned cricket players in their day, it’s a new experience for the ladies, one of whom said: “I love the club and I love chair cricket. I’d much rather come here than stop at home on my own.”

The club occasionally opens its doors to the local community too. For example, to celebrate World Alzheimer’s Day, supported by a number of local partners FGCH hosted a seaside-themed day of activities at its MacFadyen Webb sheltered scheme.

With ice cream cones, seaside songs, glove puppets, chair yoga and hula dancing, the five-hour event had everything… even an Elvis impersonator! One participant said: “What a lot of fun we had. For people who don’t get out much, it’s a lovely difference and I’m very grateful.”

A helping hand for carers

The clubs make a huge difference to members’ carers too. They can relax and enjoy a welcome period of respite, knowing that their loved ones are being well looked after and having fun. One said: “My husband is so happy when he goes to the club – his face lights up. He really enjoys it. It gives me peace of mind to know that he’s happy. Everyone’s so kind there and the dinners are wonderful.”

Another commented: “My mum loves it at the club, especially the music therapy and singing. I think being around lots of people really helps. She looks forward to going and can’t wait! It takes a lot of pressure off me. It’s nice to be able to have a break – some free time, to do what I want. I think the club is a great idea, I can’t fault it. The people who run it are brilliant.”

Some carers were finding it difficult to get their relative to and from the club on time, so FGCH linked up with the Heritage Foundation and North Herts CVS, who now provide return transport to three of the clubs.

The Kingfisher Clubs were not able to run during the Covid-19 lockdown. However, the FGCH team kept in touch regularly with members and their carers throughout this period, to check that they were doing okay and to signpost local services. At the time of writing, a date for reopening the clubs has yet to be confirmed.

To find out more about the Kingfisher Clubs and how to join, visit the FGCH website or call 01462 683307.

Kingfisher Club