An amazing story! The Healthy Living Club. Inclusive, enabling and fun!

I love stories. I love the way they can capture good practice and inspire others.     And what a story this is…

I honestly can’t remember what it was that first grabbed my imagination about the Healthy Living Club. A few tweets by @SimonaFlorio1, I think but I became fascinated and wanted to know more. I invited Simona to write a post in our “In my shoes”  series, looking at dementia from different perspectives, and she did. I will leave you to read more about the club and its wonderful co-production approach in the original blogpost here.

But it was not as simple as that. This was the ONLY blogpost in the whole series that I “pushed for”. OK, OK, I encouraged other people – perhaps tweeted a reminder or two, but I REALLY wanted to tell this largely untold story of the Healthy Living Club for people with dementia in Lambeth and to help give them a voice. Simona and I put in long hours writing the blogpost together, by email. There was so much material and it felt very important to do justice to it.

But that was only the beginning of the story and I have been honoured to be more actively involved in spreading the word as things have progressed. Few of my followers on Twitter will have missed me “going on” about this awesome initiative!

There was a really good response to the original blog. The Healthy Living Club use social media very effectively and Simona and I set up a barrage of exchanges on Twitter and Facebook that meant that the blog has now been viewed by hundreds of people.

In no time at all, it was featured on the Department of Health “Dementia Challenge” website. It has helped forge a very positive relationship with Anna Hepburn, the Digital Communication Manager who was keen to learn more about Twitter and negotiate the VERY tricky path of “public officials” engaging with the big, wide world. Anna has since written a great blog about this.

AND Anna started using our #dementiachallengers #hashtag, bringing together a wider and wider group of people with often VERY different perspectives but with a shared passion for improving the lives of people living with dementia:

Over time,  I learned more and more about the Healthy Living Club. I heard how they had been closed down last March when funding ran out. I will not go into any politics or the whys and wherefores. Suffice to say that they defiantly carried on… an act of faith. With huge voluntary effort and commitment and wonderful friends, and hoping to attract proper funding, they have continued to provide the wonderful, warm programme of activities at the weekly sessions that everyone looks forward to so much. A real highlight in the lives of people for whom life could easily offer a bleak existence.

At the last minute I spotted an opportunity to nominate Simona for the “Best Activities Co-ordinator” in the JDC National Dementia awards. With her usual modesty, Simona did not exactly jump at the opportunity, saying she was busy with a funding application. She realised however that such a nomination, and potential success, would be good for the club. With Simona, it is all about the club and not about her. I used her “off the cuff email” as the main argument in my nomination…

We had a quick “whip round” to gather up some testimonials. As you can imagine, there were some lovely tributes from the club members and this one was emailed straight back from Kate Hoey, the local M.P. :

“Simona is an amazing person whose dedication, flair and perseverance has made the Healthy Living Club a model of how dementia sufferers should be able to be involved in the community. I cannot think of anyone who  deserves this award more”.

Meanwhile, Anna Hepburn told us about the power of audioboo. Alistair Burns, National Clinical Director for Dementia, uses audioboos very effectively.

Simona and friends, in particular Claire (who tweets as @Clairybums) quickly rustled up some audioboos, recording people at the next weekly club meeting. I love their responsiveness and passion for continuous improvement – they really do not mess about! (Huge lessons here for many large organisations, methinks!) Again, the audioboos are now on the DH website, raising awareness and sharing the joy!

The haunting “Bassez Down” song niggled away at me. I indeed wanted to “Bassez Down” to the Healthy Living Club and meet Simona (we still hadn’t met) and all the club members. I had been invited to come and take some video of the exercise class but couldn’t wait until the pre-arranged date! I was in London one Wednesday attending a meeting later in the day with Think Local, Act Personal (TLAP) National Co-Production Advisory Group, with whom I am doing a Whose Shoes? partnership,  so couldn’t resist the opportunity to gatecrash outrageously to see what they were all up to and to feel the warmth of this wonderful club first-hand.

I am still glowing. It sounds a cliché but I caught them on a day when they welcomed me with open arms… and apologies. Volunteers were off sick. There were not so many members as there were some weeks…

This is the video I took . You judge for yourself…

bbAND (at a later date) this was the video I took of the Bassez Down song…

The story is growing. Simona and I were both thrilled last week when it was featured on the popular Disruptive Social Care Podcast compiled by the inspirational duo, Shirley Ayres and Stuart Arnott. One of the aims of the show is to “amplify the voices of people with great ideas that few people haven ever heard about” and the Healthy Living Club was in pole position!

{I am also extremely grateful for the frequent mentions of the Whose Shoes? facilitation tools, helping people work together for positive change, as well as for the mentions for our blog series! Thank you Shirley and Stu!}

So, what happened about the nomination for a national award? Simona had to attend for interview in London and (not surprisingly) has been shortlisted. I am SO looking forward to supporting her at the Awards Ceremony at the Dementia Congress in Brighton later this week.

Watch this space…  @HLCLC

About Gill Phillips - Whose Shoes?

Passionate about personalisation in health & social care. Creator of Whose Shoes? - an imaginative approach to helping people work together to improve lives.
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5 Responses to An amazing story! The Healthy Living Club. Inclusive, enabling and fun!

  1. begethers says:

    Heartfelt gratitude to Simona, the volunteers and the members of this wonderful community club – the words and video are full of energy, joy and hope. Thank you to you Gill for your deep curiosity and passion for throwing light on all that is good – your contribution to developing inclusive asset based communities in which we all matter is wonderful.

    With respect and solidarity

    Frameworks 4 Change


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  3. Whose Shoes? says:

    Thank you Andy for your lovely comments and, as always, for your wonderful support. I was delighted to be able to meet you face-to-face for the first time this week along with so many other #dementiachallengers – and that Simona was there, shortlisted for a national award. AMAZING achievement, Simona 🙂


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