This Christmas will be extra special at Belong village in Crewe, as residents will be able to come together with families and the wider community to celebrate the festive season.

Jess Butler, Experience Coordinator at Belong, who is responsible for organising the activities, says “It will be a big occasion for us and I’m really looking forward to it as we’ve been restricted for the last two years with the pandemic. We’ll be able to invite the community back in and have schoolchildren singing carols to our customers. I’ve also invited students from the local college to perform a panto.”

Belong, a charitable organisation, which specialises in supporting people with dementia, operates “villages” with a vast range of amenities. At Crewe there are 80 residents (known as customers), with 66 living in “households”. These are six groups of 11 customers who not only have their rooms, but also share a communal kitchen/living space. An additional 14 people reside in independent living apartments.

Jess has regular meetings with the catering team and a plan is put into place featuring key events and how they can work together. A major activity is the weekly “Get Your Bake On Tuesdays” where residents are invited to get creative with food. Christmas themes include Christmas cake, homemade mince pies and decorated biscuits.

Bake Off

Jess says “All the customers get involved with this. It’s an activity for everyone whatever their ability. They’re given their own bowl and ingredients to make the cake and the mixture will be poured into tins or moulds. The catering team will support the customers and help them where necessary. The cakes are cooked in the catering ovens and the baked goods brought back by the catering staff for customers to taste or take away.”

Another popular Christmas activity is assembling and decorating gingerbread houses. “The catering team make the gingerbread in advance,” adds Jess, “and the customers create the house. We also make savoury twists into Christmas trees.”

Competitive Edge

Christmas baking competitions always go down well with customers, Jess says “We discuss with customers what they would like to create with a Christmas theme – it could be a traditional Christmas cake or cupcakes decorated with Santa faces. We’re hoping that this year schoolchildren will take part and also help to judge it.” Taste tests get customers involved, with food as the focus. “We number all the food items and people can judge anonymously by filling in slips of paper and then we’ll announce the winner.”

Feedback is Key

For operators needing a little advice on how to make the holidays special for care home residents, Jess says “Discuss activities with residents and get an idea about what they want to do, what would bring them joy. Food is a great topic of conversation and there are loads of opportunities for creative activities focusing on food and where possible, involve the wider community.”