The Olympics come to Newhaven


Service users at Newhaven learning disability unit held an Olympics tournament to benefit their physical and mental health during the coronavirus lockdown.

The lockdown has meant that service users are unable to go out and engage in their usual routines, and that visits from family and carers are on hold.

Held across four days, the idea was born out of service users wanting to make a meaningful use of this time in hospital; to try out new activities, learn new skills, build on physical fitness and maintain their emotional wellbeing.

Led by the occupational therapy department, service users and staff members formed five teams to battle it out across various sporting activities.

The team names followed the theme of planets, with teams Mercury, Mars, Neptune, Saturn and Pluto all competing for the title of Olympic Champions.

Games included the likes of an egg and spoon race, walking football, hockey slalom, spaghetti towers, a penalty shootout and an obstacle course; among many others.

All tournament games were adapted and carried out in a way that ensured social distancing was maintained by all. Newhaven have the luxury of a very large courtyard and garden area, so this was used to full effect given the good weather.

After a consistent performance throughout all of the games, Team Mercury were crowned champions of the Newhaven Olympics. They were awarded a selection of prizes to help keep them occupied for the rest of the lockdown.

The event received some great feedback from both staff and service users:

Tim, service user, said: “I feel like it’s brought me closer to other service users and staff because we have been working in teams.”

Adam, service user, said: “It’s given me something to look forward to each day and has gotten me out in the sunshine.”

Amy Kilburn, specialist occupational therapist, describes the effect of lockdown on someone with a learning disability who is in hospital: “Individuals with a learning disability who are in hospital may particularly struggle with the coronavirus measures as they rely on staff for support with many of their everyday activities.

“With staff now having to socially distance and/or wear PPE whilst supporting individuals, their living environment may now appear a scary place. This event has allowed us to make the changes seem less scary by incorporating them in to ‘fun’ activities.

“Those with a learning disability may also be used to particular routines and struggle to adapt to change. They may also struggle to understand the reasons behind any changes. They therefore may need extra support to both understand the situation around coronavirus, and carve out a meaningful routine that maintains their health and wellbeing throughout the lockdown period – where they cannot do what they usually do.”

Matthew Hartley, associate practitioner in occupational therapy, also said: “During the Olympics, we had to be creative in ensuring that events allow for social distancing, whilst also catering for all levels of abilities of our service users at the same time.

“Altogether, spirits were raised and an enjoyable week was had by all. So much so, that the service users are already planning a Summer Olympics!”

The Olympics come to Newhaven

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