Innovation tournament celebrates social connection initiatives

A ginger beer brewing and bottling project adding a sparkle to the lives of aged care residents and a “hole in the wall” café giving retirement village residents a touchpoint during COVID-19 restrictions are the winners of Bolton Clarke’s inaugural Innovation Tournament, announced last week. 

The Tournament – led by the Bolton Clarke Research Institute – was open to teams from Bolton Clarke’s residential and retirement living communities, with a focus on projects and initiatives supporting social connection. 

“We know our teams are incredibly inventive, resourceful and always looking to improve the lives of those working and living in their communities,” Head of Research Judy Lowthian said. “That’s been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We wanted to give teams a space to generate and share ideas to keep people connected. An innovation tournament is a fun an engaging way of enabling residents and employees to work together towards a common goal.” 

Teams submitted ideas from employees or residents, providing short written responses to six questions about the ideas. 

A panel of residential aged care and retirement living managers and Institute researchers chose the top 10, who were invited to film a two-minute video pitch and upload it to a shared site. Winners were voted by employees from across the organisation. 

“The 51 ideas designed to optimise social connection are now being collated for distribution to all sites,” Adjunct Professor Lowthian said. “They will provide a superb toolbox for our communities to draw from, now and after the pandemic.” 

Bolton Old Boys Brewery, Macquarie View, Bolton Point NSW – Winner, residential aged care 

For residents at Bolton Clarke’s Macquarie View residential aged care community at lakeside Bolton Point, the ‘Bolton Old Boys Brewery’ offers residents the opportunity to relax with mates – and their first brewing foray, non-alcoholic ginger beer, is proving to be a hit. 

The brewing process brought back treasured memories for many residents, including Shirley Hancock. 

“When I was young, my mum used to make ginger beer and ice cream together. I couldn’t get home from school quick enough to get some!” said Shirley. 

Bolton Clarke Diversional Therapist Colleen Bruce said the residents had come up with the idea and enjoyed showing off their home brewing expertise. 

“Currently we have a group of about 20 enthusiastic brewers,” she said. “Six of them have done home brewing before so it’s a real treat to be able to revisit a much-loved pastime and show off old skills.” 

“We are taking it in turns to make batches in small groups. It’s been great to be collaborative while social distancing. It has given everyone a sense of accomplishment and purpose – even our local brewing shop is invested in our idea!” 

While the keen brewers have been mostly men, the ladies have been part of the process too, making labels for the bottled ginger beer. 

Hole in the Wall Café, Broadwater Gardens, Port Macquarie NSW – Winner, Retirement Living 

The “Hole in the Wall” café at Bolton Clarke’s Broadwater Gardens retirement village in Port Macquarie has become the caffeine-fueled antidote to social distancing challenges for resident retirees. 

The residents, who usually enjoy their monthly coffee club in the village clubhouse, have been gathering in smaller groups to pick up their daily cappuccino outdoors courtesy of Bolton Clarke Village Manager, Allison Purdy. 

Residents say it’s been an important way to stay connected. 

“The Hole in the Wall café has allowed us to see our neighbours and share morning tea – we can all join in with each other,” says resident Carol Cosgriff. 

Carol says having the café open every day between 10am and 3pm has made a big difference to resident morale and has fostered some new friendships too. 

“Being able to come anytime has meant I’ve caught up with different people in the village. Ending up here after a walk is very pleasant – It’s great to see people sitting in the fresh air, having a coffee and a chat.” 

Initially, residents were taking their coffees away for a walk or back home, but as restrictions have eased, they’ve been able to sit in smaller socially distanced groups. 

“We arranged some takeaway cups through our coffee supplier, and I set up a tab system so that we didn’t have to handle or carry cash,” Manager Allison says. “This way the residents can pop by whenever they want without worrying about keeping money with them. My office is right nearby so if I’m not in the window there’s a little bell they can ring, and I’ll come right out. 

“It’s also been a great opportunity for me to have regular interaction with the residents and get to know our community better.” 

The initiative has been so successful Allison has even added some themed days, including lunchtime hot dogs on a Wednesday. 

“We were all missing our monthly coffee club and happy hours, and to have nothing was awful, but the Hole in the Wall café has lifted everyone’s spirits,” says resident Jill Chambers. 

About Bolton Clarke 

Bolton Clarke is the new face of RSL Care + RDNS. Together we have provided healthcare and aged care services for more than 200 years. We are one of the largest Australian owned and operated not- for-profit healthcare and independent living service providers, with a passion for ensuring our customers live the best possible life across home support, retirement living and residential aged care. 

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