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Sydenham House: We couldn't bring residents to the beach, so we brought the beach to them

Covid-19 prevented Sydenham House from attending its usual residential trip to the seaside – something sorely missed by residents as one of their favourite things to do. However, determined to not let lockdown rules get the better of them, staff at Sydenham House got creative in seeking ways to bring the beach to the residents instead.

Fully aware of the benefits of residents spending time outside for their wellbeing, the beach project began to form. Initially, the plan was to build a large sand pit so residents could feel the sweet sensation of sand between their toes. However, nothing prepared them for what that finally came to fruition.

Activity Coordinator, Lauryn, posted a request on Facebook for beach items to be donated to assist with the project. The response was overwhelming, showing just how valued Sydenham House is within its local community; paddling pools, windbreakers, bucket and spades were provided to the home. Wessex Water donated two tonnes of sand, Smilers donated four tonnes and Jewsons donated an incredible six tonnes. By this point the project was really starting to take shape, but it got much better.

Home Manager, Sandy, reached out to councillor, Dave Hall, seeking help from someone with a small digger to make space for all the sand donated, as the original sand pit had been superseded. Much to her surprise, she was put in touch with Lorna, from the building company Wilmot Dixon. Lorna visited the home that same day to devise a plan of action. However, Lorna and Sandy took it one step further and decided to turn the summer house into a beach café and create the illusion of beach huts along the remaining wall.

Sandy discovered Lorna’s kindness knew no bounds: her team painted the beach café, supplied the wood for the beach huts, painted them bright colours and donated a lovely seated shelter.

There was then Frank, from PJB, who created an electric supply to the new café, having worked with the home for years. Nigel, from Taylor West, donated vinyl flooring, while B&C Joinery of Taunton made and donated the counter and shelving for the café. Bridgwater Carnival Club built an ice cream cart on a mobility scooter, donated by the family of late resident Jean Gale, which has since been fondly called ‘Jean’s creams’. The Property Team made the final touches, including a sign to go above the door titled ‘Syd’s Beach Café’.

Sydenham House is overwhelmed by the generosity and help of those around them, and is forever grateful. The project has made a massive difference to the home, which they can enjoy all year round. It’s allowed residents freedom to get out of the home in safe and secure area that will enhance their wellbeing. It’s given them something to focus on in the coming months, as a welcomed distraction from coronavirus.

Carol, a much-loved resident of Sydenham House since 2017, has missed having the physical interaction with family, which government guidelines have stipulated. Her sister has been able to visit her once a week from a distance, wearing suitable PPE, while Carol's son lives in Scotland. She's been able to video call him regularly but understandably wants to be much closer to them - as we all want. However, the new beach project has been a great boost for Carol, as she expressed in a letter she recently wrote and invited us to share:

On Saturday 10th October I went to Syd's Beach Cafe, located in the beach area of Sydenham House.

When I first saw the beach area, I thought it looked amazing. I went into the beach cafe for a cup of tea and cake. I was so overwhelmed, I have tears of joy.

I was so excited, it didn't feel like I was even in Sydenham House! They even had sounds of the ocean and seagulls. It made me feel so relaxed, as I was feeling a little stressed that morning. It was as if a weight had been lifted and I had found my happy place. I could have stayed there all day. It really has made a difference and I haven't stopped talking about it.

It's been a difficult few months with all that's happening and only being able to see my local family from a distance. So that one moment really picked me up and I cannot wait to go back out there.

Sydenham House continues to look forward to making sure all its residents are able to visit the beach without risk of infection, where they can enjoy fish & chips, ice-creams and drinks long into the winter months – all thanks to the wonderful people who have helped with the project.

Situated in the heart of a friendly community in Bridgwater, Sydenham House offers care to the elderly, with options available for respite care and, when government guidelines permit, day care. More information on Sydenham House is available here. Should you wish to explore our other care homes, you can view them here.