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Unlike an ordinary gym, classes must be adaptable to meet the needs and limitations of individuals

pressure checks. Goals are then set and a programme designed to help the client achieve them, with staff gently encouraging, coaching and monitoring them on a regular basis. “There’s a lot of one-to-one work and a lot of educating,” says Boyce. “We even offer nutritional advice if needed.”

a team effort

But inevitably there are challenges when working with this population group.

“When teaching a class in an ordinary gym, you go in with a very set idea of what you’re going to do,” explains Boyce.

“Here, your class comes in, and there’ll be Mrs Smith, who can’t step up and down, or Mr Brown, who hasn’t got the mobility in his shoulder to do that exercise, so you have to be adaptable. You need a memory bank of alternative exercises that are safe for them to do. “Communication can be another

challenge, as some people are very hard of hearing; with one lady, we use a small whiteboard so we can write her notes. Other clients have problems with their sight, and therefore need help using the equipment in the gym.” In order to better meet the needs

of users, there are regular in-house training sessions and ‘case study’ meetings, often in conjunction with other medical staff such as the on-site GP, the nurses from the care home or the physiotherapist. “If there’s someone we’re struggling

to help, we’ll get together as a team to discuss what we can do. For example, we had a lady with Parkinson’s who was

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In addition to the spa, facilities at Letcombe Regis include a restaurant and private dining area, meeting rooms, an arts and crafts room, IT area, library and bowling green. In a charming thatched gatehouse at the entrance to the village there will also be a café and a village shop, which will be open to the public.

also in a wheelchair, so there were two issues there we needed to address.”

mental wellbeing

Due to the free-to-residents policy, neither spa is (or is expected to be) independently profitable, although memberships help cover costs. But as a marketing tool they’re invaluable, says Reaves, while the very real benefits they deliver speak volumes about the integrity of the Richmond Village brand. “We’ve seen great improvements

in mobility,” says Boyce. “We’ve had people come in who’ve had to use a mobility scooter to get around. After doing some core and balance work with them, we’ve got them to the stage where they can walk around with a stick, then eventually to the point where they can manage without it. We also do a lot of work on falls prevention and I’m convinced that, if we could measure it, we’d see a signifi cant reduction in falls among our users.” One area where the Letcombe spa will be pioneering new ground is

The pièce de resistance, however, is the 30-acre nature reserve, which is managed by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. With guided trails, permissive pathways and benches, the reserve will also be open to the public, fi tting in with the company ethos of creating ‘a community within a community’.

in dementia care, as the Letcombe village has a specialist dementia care unit. Working closely with carers and activities organisers, the spa will hold weekly classes for this group; given the growing body of evidence showing that regular exercise can signifi cantly delay cognitive decline, it will be interesting to see the results. Although Painswick does not cater for

dementia patients, Boyce believes that the spa has just as positive an infl uence on its elderly users’ mental wellbeing as it does on their physical health. “We’ve got one old boy called Fred

who comes down every morning; I could set my clock by him,” she says. “He goes on the treadmill, then afterwards we sit and have a chat with him, and when he walks out he always says: ‘Thanks very much, you’ve made my day’. The thing is, I know it’s true, and I think: ‘If nothing else happens today, I’ve done something for somebody’.”

rhianon howells

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