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Older people’s expert encourages families to create wishing trees

December 31st 2018


New Year’s resolutions often seem to close down avenues of fun, but for older people they can re-open the door to much loved hobbies or give them the opportunity to take on a new challenge.

Every year, on New Year’s Eve, people contemplate what to give up, for the sake of their health and wellbeing or just to turn over a new leaf, but a Care UK expert is calling on families to turn resolutions into something special.

Suzanne Mumford, Care UK’s dementia expert explained: “In our homes we use Wishing Trees to help us create opportunities to realise resident’s dreams or simply revisit and enjoy past memories and activities. Residents write down what they would like to do, from small things - such as going to the beach, picking fruit or visiting a cinema - to once in a life challenges or returns to much-loved hobbies.”

In 2018 Care UK residents, aged 95 and above, visited the Vatican and received a blessing from the Pope, had their first driving lesson, flew in a glider – to beat their fear of flying – and returned to horse riding after a 60-year absence.

Suzanne said: “Not everything has to be as large as these ‘resolutions’, but taking on a challenge or returning to a hobby can be life-enhancing for an older person and can reveal much about their past and interests. 

“This is especially important for people living with dementia, as it can give signposts about how to support them as their condition develops, and creates channels of communication.”

The wishing tree resolutions do not need to be limited to the older members of the family. Suzanne suggests: “If everyone in the family contributes ideas and joins in the activities, they will create priceless shared memories as well as ensuring they will never be stuck for something to do on a Sunday again.”

Suzanne’s suggestions for creating a family wishing tree go like this:

  1. The perfect time to get going is the week between Christmas and New Year. Cut out some leaf shapes and ask everyone to spend some time thinking about what they would like to do;
  2. Get everyone in the family to fill in at least one leaf;
  3. Before New Year’s Eve, attach the leaves to the Christmas tree or put them in a box or bag;
  4. On New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, when everyone is together, gather up the leaves and read them out and chat about them. Make sure you put them in a safe place.
  5. After the festive season, take out the leaves and formulate the best way to make the most of everyone’s choices.

Suzanne said: “This is the most rewarding way I know to celebrate the New Year and it guarantees new memories and increased wellbeing for all, without giving up anything!”

Care UK has produced a guide to planning days out for people living with dementia, which you can download free here

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