Acacia Cove Retirement Village manager Bruce Cullington returned last week armed with an award from the 5th APAC Eldercare Innovation Awards 2017 held at the Ageing Asia conference in Singapore. He was met by his residents holding celebratory signs, bearing gifts and singing ‘Baa baa black sheep’.

The nursery rhyme is something of an “in joke” Cullington explains: during a recent photo shoot he got the residents to keep singing it while the photos were being taken.

I can well believe it. They’re a fun bunch at Acacia Cove, and always appear to be up for a laugh and ready for something new.

Perhaps that’s why Cullington’s ‘Live Longer and Live Better’ programme was a success. The programe took out the award for ‘Best Active Ageing Programme – Residential’ over stiff competition from New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong.

Acacia Cove’s programme wasn’t focused on one activity, rather a collection of over 30 activities aimed at collectively improving the mind, body and soul.

“The residents run the activities,” says Cullington, “We don’t have activities coordinators.”

The activities included things from marking out a new 750m walking track within the village, to meditation, to singing tutelage, to resistance training, to beginner’s line dancing.

Cullington said they were beginning to notice that some of the older residents were becoming less active, which led to an increase in falls and difficulty with breathing.

So they got a breathing instructor to come and give breathing courses. The singing classes have also had an emphasis on breathing.

Cullington – who professes to have difficulty with his breathing – describes the breathing instruction as very helpful. Naturally, he has attended all the activities. He knew that his participation would prompt residents to come and see him make a fool of himself, he said.

He’s been surprised by how well-received some of the activities have been with the residents. He didn’t expect meditation would have been a popular activity, yet they regularly get 25 to 30 people taking part, Cullington included. The meditation class is run by a resident.

“What I’ve found is that people who have come in the last three or four years don’t tend to do the more traditional activities,” said Cullington, “Instead of bowls, they’re interested in playing petanque.”

Cullington thinks their entry appealed to the judges because of its holistic approach to active ageing. Rather than focusing on a single activity or single dimension, the programme looked at improving mental health, physical fitness and general wellbeing across its entire resident population.

“The only problem is fitting it all in,” says Cullington.

Acacia Cove was also a finalist in the ‘Facility of the Year – Independent Living’ category, in which the village’s entry was all about being a community within a community, focusing on its interactions with local schools, businesses, charities and political figures.

The residents are delighted and proud of their village’s success, says Cullington. He believes in the need to keep reinvigorating keep life interesting.

“I have a very low boredom threshold,” he says, which might help explain why Acacia Cove continues to be a fun and vibrant place to live.




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