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The unique feature of this programme is the way it fosters independent active choices for older people. Building on people’s strengths involves firstly recognizing each person’s uniqueness and listening to how people have adapted to difficult situations in their lives, and survived. The next step is to then build on their resourcefulness and support individuals in their endeavours and choices.  

Facilitators of Lifestyle Matters groups describe how they have taken a graded approach, over time stepping back more as members built confidence to assume roles within the group, for instance arranging the transport and telephoning others in the group to make arrangements.

Key to facilitation is supporting group members to share their skills and experiences, validating who people are, what they have to offer. In doing so, the locus of control is located firmly with participants rather than the facilitator. An attitude of openness to new ideas and responsiveness to the group is therefore essential.

Individuals are encouraged to engage in discussion and active decision making in relation to the range of topics explored and the activities undertaken. This may feel overwhelming and it is necessary to consider how to best facilitate this. For instance initially you may offer a limited range of options, introduce a voting system for the group or ask for preferences on a menu of potential activities. As a facilitator you will need to incrementally encourage group decision making and this can be a subtle process, especially when people are used to attending groups where everything is done for them or where families assume control.

Facilitators describe the handing over of decision making to the group as a necessary skill that can feel challenging at times. As one person articulated,

 “I think it’s one that gets a bit easier over time I think it can be quite difficult even though you understand the theory of it it’s that kind of making sure that you keep doing it because I think it would be when people want you to be the leader and model it then it can be quite difficult handing it back sometimes."

A full and detailed exploration of the Lifestyle Matters programme is beyond the remit of this web resource. For details regarding facilitator training and resources please contact Claire Craig at c.craig@shu.ac.uk