ENTERTAINING: Golden Pond activities co-ordinator Robin Burton says keeping residents active has helped bring her out of her shell.

PUSHING a trolley of sweets, treats and miscellaneous items around Golden Pond, activities co-ordinator Robin Burton needs to be on alert.

While the weekly shopping event provides the rest home residents an opportunity to purchase their favourite biscuits or snack, Robin says sometimes people can get a little forgetful. It’s possible a resident ambling by may forget the trolley is a mobile shop where items are required to be paid for.

“I need eyes in the back of my head,” laughs Robin, who says her regular shopping round is a departure from the activities and events that she and colleague Domini Crang-Casey spend their working days focused on.

“It’s a busy job and I love every minute of it but I’m glad there are two of us,” says Robin, who, now in her fourth year in the role, is jointly responsible for providing activities and entertainment for the centre’s residents. Already working in the kitchen at Golden Pond when the role became available, she says she had jumped at it. “I heard they needed someone to work with Domini and I thought, well, that’s me.”

Golden Pond cares for a wide range of elderly people. There are those who suffer from dementia and others who are in the centre’s private hospital. There are rest home residents and those living in the centre’s retirement units. Developing an activities programme that meets everyone’s needs is always a challenge.

“Everyone enjoys different things and is capable of different things. Some people are more mobile than others so we need to offer various programmes that everyone can enjoy.”
Passionate about the merits of activity and stimulation for elderly people, Robin describes her role at the centre as fun, and rewarding. “I really love it and you see the results of your work. I enjoy getting to know each individual, learning about them and what they like and enjoy, and learning how I can meet their needs.” And she says her role rewards her in another way, too. “It makes me feel close to my mother.”

Her mother had been a resident of a rest home in another town before she died several years ago. “I saw how much she deteriorated with the lack of stimulation and activity there. It really could have been better.”

Busy with fulltime work, she was unable to spend as much time with her mother as she wishes she had. “It’s a funny thing but doing the work I’m doing now makes me feel close to her. It’s comforting. I want to have input into creating for our residents what I wish had been provided for Mum.”

With a full activities programme offered at Golden Pond, Robin says residents can join in a range of activities that include exercise, art and crafts, quizzes, and the all-time favourite, Bingo.

“We have movie events, lunch trips and hand massage and nail therapies. We have music groups that come in to perform. We have a men’s group who enjoy a beer or a whiskey and chat and a ladies’ group now too.”

The ladies’ group started, she says, after the women decided if the men could do it, so too could they. “They do different things,” Robin says. “More hands on, floral arranging or cooking and things like that.”

She says music plays a big role in the lives of many of the residents. “We do a lot of karaoke, which is always fun,” says Robin, who admits she is also prone to providing entertainment herself, dressing up, playing guitar, singing and generally enjoying herself.

“I used to be shy but I’m certainly not now. Once you dress up, you can be as crazy as you like, and no one is going to judge you here. Everyone just laughs, either at you or with you. It’s always fun.”

And she says technology at the centre means music can now be played through the centre’s smart TV as well as the screening of a host of popular programmes and clips off YouTube. “Reruns of Mr Ed, and Funniest Animal videos are commonly requested.”

“And of course, we have the pet therapy dogs come to visit,” Robin says. “Not everyone loves dogs, but the therapy dog owners are quick to learn who does and who doesn’t.

They’re wonderful, and the dogs bring a lot of pleasure to our residents,” she says, adding, however, that the pleasure is not shared by long-time Golden Pond feline resident, A.J.

“A.J is never too happy when the dogs visit,” she says. “He doesn’t like them at all.” And when a lamb named Princess visited the centre on a special Spring Celebrations, adorned with a pink nappy and collar and lead, he wasn’t too happy about that either.