Fulfilled living in later life

Tuesday 6th April 2021

Encouraging anxious seniors to come out of lockdown

Louise Morse

How many reading this know anxious older people who are reluctant to leave their homes and mix with others as lockdown ends?

I’ve heard of so many. It’s hardly surprising: for over a year we have been bombarded with fearful newspaper stories and instructions to stay home to keep safe, and isolation itself has had a bad effect on many of us, causing depression and anxiety. So, how can we support older people to socialise again, and, in particular, come back to church? Feedback from faith leaders who are using our Brain and Soul Boosting programmes tell us that it could be the answer.

My colleague Janet and I have a sense of déjà vu about the circumstances we are looking at today and those that prompted us to produce the Brain and Soul Boosting programme several years ago. In one of our retirement housing schemes a group of people had developed dementia and were withdrawing within their own four walls. They would sometimes get lost in the large complex or be lost for words and become frustrated. So, Janet, who was psychogeriatric nurse all her life before she became a care home manager, and me, a cognitive behavioural therapist (with a Masters’ degree that researched dementia) came up with a programme that would restore their confidence, boost their mental processes (cognition), and strengthen their faith. We produced a workbook with evaluation and feedback pages. It was developed over three years as Janet led sessions with the group, and sessions with a group without dementia and found that they enjoyed it just as much – the only difference was that they were much quicker than the group with dementia.

Most importantly, we evaluated the results and found that it definitely did improve cognition (boosted the brain), increased self-confidence, strengthen their faith and helped build relationships between the group. We also found that it is great for sessions with only two people, including where one has dementia. A text from a couple who are going through the Easter version said, ‘We’ve just finished our first Brain Boosting session. David* did all the reading! Thank you, Jesus!’ David had become alarmingly withdrawn and silent so to hear of his engagement with the session was wonderful.

In March I led a session over Zoom which looked at how the Brain and Soul Boosting resource works. We saw how it would work with anxious seniors in church, and how describing it as a series of companiable sessions that will boost your brain and your well-being would be attractive to them. If you would like a copy of the slide-pack and to find out more about our Zoom sessions, please email me at louise.morse@pilgrimsfriend.org.uk.

Encouraging anxious seniors out of lockdown