Caring about Climate Change: why collective action in care homes matters

Kayleigh Lytham: "Being included, being heard and being able to contribute matters."

Together for our planet

Our Dementia Friendly Development Officer, Kayleigh, shares the surprising results from a climate-focused care home project in Perth & Kinross. Kayleigh explains how increased movement and physical activity might occur as a consequence of another activity.

What does climate change mean to you? Why should we care? And what can you do about it?

The Together for Our Planet project, led by Paths for All’s Dementia Friendly team, aimed to answer these questions by facilitating positive change with seven care homes across Perth and Kinross. Empowering residents and staff was at the heart of this work, taking their lead on what matters most to them. Having meaningful and inclusive action that could be undertaken was important; so together, we discovered what was possible.

Breaking down climate change complexities

The topic of climate change is complex. Knowing where to start, recognising what you are already doing, and identifying where improvements can be made seems daunting. Partnering with Perth and Kinross Climate Action team helped to break this down into more manageable chunks, taking topical themes from their Climate Action Strategy and Plan and turning them into relatable actions. As you might expect there were some obvious points in there; are you recycling, or do you switch off lights and electrical equipment when not in use? And whilst the answer was largely yes, this wasn’t as straightforward as you might expect. Then there were more challenging areas, active travel, single use plastics, food waste, and procurement to name just a few… these areas required a little more thought.  

Whilst the outcomes of any project are important, so is the context – some of the people that took part in this project have a long-term health condition (including a diagnosis of dementia), some have limited mobility and most required support with tasks. Try to put yourself in a resident’s headspace when reading through a few of the highlights below that stemmed from some of the topical themes.

Climate Champions

To help deliver aspects of this project we had to call in the Pro’s; whilst they did an excellent job in sharing their expertise, you could say we maximised on their attendance by asking a further 101 questions. Each home appointed a Climate Champion, perfectly suited to those who love a plan and having conversations. Implementing and actioning the commitments made whilst encouraging everyone to get involved, made this role somewhat special. Enabling discussions and conversations with residents and sharing their learning with other Champions was what this work was all about, it was possible because they came together.

Inclusive activities

A notable highlight was the bespoke Step Count Challenge involving staff and residents. The month-long challenge tracks activity, creates some healthy competition and encourages people to get up and move around more. An impressive 1,724,878 steps were taken, that’s the equivalent of walking 769 miles! If active travel is on your radar, this is a great way to bring it to the forefront, without asserting action. 

The introduction of ‘energy free hour’ was met with such positivity. The creation and sharing of activities that involved no power source empowered residents to engage in activities that were meaningful to them. If you want to know what a giant game of ker plunk looks like…I suggest you read the report!

Whilst it appears simple to recycle, most of us do it every day without probably giving it a second thought - it became apparent early on that there was a need for more bins, inclusive labelling (with words and illustrations), and more prominent placing around the home. More thought made this an easier and quicker improvement without creating questionable displays to highlight that there was a recycling bin ready and waiting to be used! 

Biodiversity enhancements surpassed commitments made by all homes. Staff and residents really embraced upcycling projects, planting, fruit and vegetable growing, creating herb planters, and so much more! Time to call upon those with ‘green-fingers’!

Moving more and protecting the planet

A surprising output of this project was the increase in physical activity amongst residents. With so many different aspects to get involved in, moving more, walking more, engaging more and socialising more, were just some of the benefits that were easily seen.

Whilst the promotion of walking and physical activity is essential – this does raise the question ‘is how and what you can do equally as important as what you should do’? Every individual is different, we have different capabilities, different interests, and different aspirations – should we be encouraged to move by simply doing what we enjoy? Is all and any movement better than none, particularly in a care setting? And as evidenced by a project like this, can one person’s actions heavily influence another – that’s a powerful output.

Topic aside, the beauty of seeing a project like this unfold is the engagement and enthusiasm shown by residents in care.

Being included, being heard and being able to contribute matters. Having your ideas noted, actioned, and recognised is what turned lots of small collective efforts into big changes, and more importantly, ownership to continue those efforts beyond the scope of the project.

The support and dedication of care staff for residents was equally crucial. Their enthusiasm and commitment has seen transformational change embed throughout these care homes, they will benefit longer term and have the desire to keep making improvements. This project also paves the way for others; showcasing examples of good practice and opening up conversations between staff and residents.

The questions you have to ask yourself are, what does climate change mean to you, why should we care, and what can you do about it? 


To find out more about the project, you can read the summary report here, or contact Kayleigh at