Day centres: understanding the value of day centres for their regular usersDownload (PDF 248KB)
Summary of report content
In early 2020 Surrey County Council initiated a review of the daytime activities offer for older people across Surrey. Healthwatch Surrey offered to help by undertaking qualitative research with day centre users. The research was undertaken during the Covid-19 pandemic and they spoke to 9 people.
Day Centre attendance strongly supports mental health; primarily by enabling social interaction but also by providing meaningful activity. Importantly this social interaction is with a range of different kinds of people – often friends, but also acquaintances and strangers; not just with peers, but a across a range of ages, interests and experiences. It also happens across a range of experiences: chatting, sharing a meal, learning something, doing something. Volunteering/helping at the centre, supporting others (formally or informally) and learning new skills contribute to feelings of self-worth and personal value.
The social side of attending a Day Centre is an activity in itself – in fact, it is the primary activity relating to Day Centres. For most regular visitors individual activities are not the primary driver for visiting the Day Centre – people go to a Day Centre because it is a social ecosystem, a community that also happens to offer good activities. Meeting and chatting with friends, sharing activities, interacting with different kinds of people, being out in the world are the key drivers for most. - Day Centres are also valued for their practical offer, including cooked meals, exercise and activity, services such as podiatry, and providing a means of information and skills exchange.
Transport and travel time/physical effort are significant barriers. Mobility, continence, fatigue, sight and hearing problems all mean that the only viable transport option for many is door to door vehicular access. Few drive so (where no transport is provided) this means enlisting family and friends, arranging volunteer drivers or paying for a taxi both ways.
Even where door to door transport is provided, the time and effort that need to be invested to get to an activity can be very high. A stay of several hours with good social interaction and multiple activities makes the effort worthwhile. - For a Day Centre user the “value” of a Day Centre is judged by weighing up the benefits of social interaction and meaningful activities against the difficulty of travelling to and from the centre.