The award recognised the progressive programme of research from the unique partnership between Somerset Care and the University’s Psychology School.

Unique partnership garners prestigious award

Research collaboration between the University of Exeter and Somerset Care, one of the largest care organisations in the country, has been recognised with a prestigious award.

Somerset Care was recently honoured for “Outstanding Dementia Research” at the first ever National Dementia Care Awards. The accolade recognised the progressive programme of research from the unique partnership between Somerset Care and the University’s Psychology School.

The research has already been taken up and applied in Somerset Care’s 26 care homes in the South West.

TV viewers had a taster of some of the work in the BBC’s highly successful ‘Science of the Young Ones’ in October which featured a residents’ design team re-shaping their own living spaces. Other initiatives include reminiscence groups and water clubs.

The research team measured the impact of these interventions on residents’ mental functioning, well-being and health, as well as their overall levels of activity and engagement.

The results show clearly that the creation of meaningful and active social groups leads to significant improvements on all these measures. For example, membership of a reminiscence group led to a 12% increase in residents’ cognitive performance, while the creation of the design teams led residents to use communal lounges three times more often than they had previously.

In addition to the TV coverage, the research programme as a whole has led to a string of major publications in leading scientific journals.  They are also highlighted in a forthcoming book: The Social Cure, which is due to be published early next year.

Andrew Larpent, the CEO of Somerset Care, said: “This is a great day for Somerset Care, for our staff, and for our residents. But it is also a great day for the care sector and society as a whole, because it recognises what can be done when top scientists and dedicated care workers come together to solve difficult problems.

“The provision of residential care poses some of the most pressing challenges of our time, and I think we have shown that the alliance of the care sector and academia is up to the task of addressing them.”

Commenting on the award, Dr Catherine Haslam, from the University of Exeter and lead researcher on the project, remarked: “We are absolutely thrilled.  This is a real vindication of a fantastic research partnership that we have developed with Somerset Care over the last decade.  What’s particularly gratifying is that it recognizes the work that we have been able to do together in order to make a real difference to people’s lives”.

Date: 30 November 2010

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