North Walsham pensioners star in training film

Nipping out for a wander round the park, eating a beetroot sandwich whenever you fancy one and not having your underwear mixed up with someone else's.

For a group of Norfolk pensioners – including two residents of the Rose Meadow home in North Walsham, 87-year-old Rita Dolby and 72-year-old Geoff Ward – that is what dignity in old age means to them.

Now they have made their screen debuts to star in a short film and explain how respect, independence, privacy and happiness are key to maintaining it.

For many, those terms are not often associated with care homes which more readily evoke images of communal living spaces and a heavy reliance on a series of helpers.

But that is something the stars of I Am – who appear alongside fellow residents and workers at the four care homes where they live – hope to change.

The film, by Norfolk County Council, which runs 26 residential care homes and 13 housing-with-care units in Norfolk, was funded from by at �10,000 grant from the Department of Health's Dignity in Care campaign.

Vicky Cowap, quality improvement manager at the council, said the film was a true reflection of the residents' experience. She said: 'We very much wanted them to lead it. It's totally un-scripted.'

Most Read

About 100 hours of footage was shot and condensed into the 16-minute film which was premiered in front of its stars.

Care assistant Rebecca Aldiss, who works at another of the featured homes, Philadephia House in Norwich, said it was important to show people how much care homes had changed in the past two decades.

She said: 'I would never ever put my parents into a care home with how they were 20 years ago. I was shocked. It's amazing how much it has changed for the better. Individuals are treated as individuals.'

The film will also be used to reassure people facing the prospect of moving into residential care.

Mrs Cowap said many people feared their independence would be the first thing to go when moving to a care home.

'You think you are going to lose your individuality,' she said. 'What we wanted to do with the film is show you can still live a good life, albeit in a care home.'

?Rita Dolby said knowing she would be listened to by staff at Rosemeadow care home in North Walsham was incredibly important.

The 87-year-old, who is a former school secretary, said: 'They are anxious that you should have what you want. We have residents' meeting and the things mentioned, very often, are implemented within a couple of days.'

Mrs Dolby, a mother-of-one, moved from her North Walsham home to Rosemeadow after operations on her hips. She said she found it difficult at first but always knew the staff had her best interests at heart and worked hard to ensure she maintained her independence.

'It was important for me to walk - they made me walk and I didn't want to. But it was the right thing to do,' she said.

?Geoff Ward, who moved to Rosemeadow this year after having a stroke in January 2005, said life in the care home was what he made it.

'I get to do the things I like, when I like,' he said.

The 72-year-old admitted there had been instances when he felt his dignity had been affected by living there.

One day he walked into his room and found his washing had been mixed up with somebody else's but after raising it with his carers it was quickly dealt with.

'Getting somebody else's underwear back is completely undignified - it's wrong, isn't it? You don't want to put somebody else's pants on,' said the father-of-two and grandfather-of-four.

'I suggested laundry bags and that's going to happen. That's solved the problem.'