Balhousie Wheatlands celebrates ‘Natural Health Award’ for outdoor project

Balhousie Wheatlands, the popular care home in Bonnybridge, has received a Natural Health Award for its already award-winning outdoors project.

The unique project, which Wheatlands has been involved in for the last two years, was recently named a winner in Scotland’s Dementia Awards. Organised by Forestry and Land Scotland in partnership with Balhousie Wheatlands, Alzheimer’s Scotland and NHS Forth Valley, it was named Best Dementia Friendly Community Initiative for encouraging care home residents to take part in woodlands activities.

The care home has been using the same woodlands initiative to work towards a Natural Health Award. Originally intended for child minders to use with children, the award demonstrates the ways in which care home residents can enrich their lives using nature as a focus, says Grace Sloan, Care Home Manager at Balhousie Wheatlands.

Grace added: “Because of the focus on physical and mental wellbeing, we saw no reason why the award couldn’t be adapted for older adults in our care. The most recent Natural Health Award activities have included building birdhouses that residents painted. The effects on the residents are striking with residents taking part clearly focused, smiling and enjoying the whole experience.”

Upon completion of the National Health Award, Wheatlands held an award ceremony for residents to receive their certificate for taking part. During the ceremony, staff and residents enjoyed fruit salads from their very own apple tree. When asked which part of the project they enjoyed most, residents said “the camp fire with the Forestry Commission.”

Balhousie Wheatlands’ focus on outdoor activities will be featured in the Autumn issue of Living Well, the magazine of the National Activity Providers Association following a visit to the home by writer and lecturer Marion Shoard. A specialist in older people, Marion is the author of the book How to Handle Later Life. Last week she presented a paper on ways to involve care home residents with the outdoors, including Wheatlands, at a Methodist Homes for the Aged research seminar in Manchester.

Marion said: “I was very impressed by the steps Grace Sloan and her staff take to encourage residents at Balhousie Wheatlands to enjoy the home’s grounds, the local town as well as sites further afield, while unobtrusively ensuring they are safe while doing so. Residents clearly get great enjoyment from going outside.”