Crafts & Creativity: A round up of C&Cs sheltered housing schemes’ online activities

Chris Barber C&C
Chris Barber
Resident Engagement Manager, Central and Cecil

Last month the Housing LIN published a Covid-19 briefing as part of their series on how the sector has responded to the challenges of Coronavirus to support residents in sheltered housing and extra care housing. The briefing highlighted ways in which different organisations are supporting ‘extremely vulnerable’ people who were shielding or self-isolating cope with loneliness and isolation, and support residents with any mental health issues under lockdown. It concluded with a useful A-Z of activities that organisations have put in place to help older residents remain connected with neighbours within sheltered housing schemes, as well as their family and friends. The briefing can be found on the Housing LIN Coronavirus Info Hub (opens new window) pages along with a selection of other Covid-19 briefings, such as supporting people with dementia, coping with bereavement and end of life care.

Having read the Housing LIN’s briefing, I wanted to share some of the inspiring crafts and creative activities that Central and Cecil (C&C) as a housing provider has been carrying out with residents during the pandemic, both digitally and at our schemes in a socially distanced manner.

Founded in 1926, C&C provides affordable homes and person-centred care to people over the age of 55 in London. For over 30 years our sheltered housing schemes have enjoyed a diverse programme of free activities as part of our Fitness and Events Programme which we have recently been transitioning as much as possible online! Our own A-Z includes the following activities:

Activity Emails

C&C started up a fortnightly email of our top activity picks, which has proved a hit with residents. Featuring specially created arts and fitness activities from us and our instructors and partners, quizzes, puzzles and other cultural links, this lovingly curated roundup has proved a hit – and our email subscriber base has doubled during the period!


Freelance choreographer and dance teacher Jo Meredith filmed some ballet exercise classes exclusively to help C&C’s sheltered housing residents stay mobile in isolation. Having previously worked with C&C’s residents, running workshops with Birmingham Royal Ballet, Jo is now loving the opportunity to bring ballet into people’s front rooms across London and the South East thanks to video platforms such as Zoom. (opens new window)


Professional singer Nicola Wydenbach, who leads C&C’s All Together Singing choir (comprising residents), made the short podcast video (see link below) to get residents singing, smiling and socialising again. Nicola is now leading C&C’s fun weekly choir sessions on Skype. (opens new window)


C&C’s art teacher Christine Osborne developed a quick and simple film for residents showing them how to draw trees. It was a big hit amongst our residents, and led to Christine running regular online drawing sessions teaching our residents how to draw birds, wildlife and flowers. Our oldest participant is 98 years old and embracing the world of online learning for the first time! (opens new window) (opens new window)


Freelance exercise teacher Justyna Janiszewska put together this lovely exercise video of gentle stretches and seated mobility movements  that residents can do in the comfort of their own home. Justyna is now leading some of our outdoor exercise classes (with social distancing), as C&C explores different ways of keeping residents mobile: (opens new window)

Outdoor classes

Like everyone, we’ve taken a very cautious approach to easing lockdown. For example, most of our communal spaces remain closed across our schemes (July 2020). However, at schemes where there is ample outside space, we have recently started to trial outdoor fitness classes (five residents at a time; 2m social distancing). These are logistically challenging for a number of reasons, but are being well received from residents.

Pictures from your Window

C&C asked residents to send in photos or drawings from their window, or a poem or text about something happening in their street. We’ve been receiving an amazing selection of photos in response. Residents then started sending in images of all the great things they’d been up to during lockdown, from crocheting placemats to growing plants from cuttings and painting pictures, which we shared on C&C’s social media channels.


The week of lockdown, we wrote to all of our residents to offer guidance and support. As part of that, we included a special activity pack to help keep them occupied. Our selection of puzzles proved so popular that they now regularly feature in our fortnightly activity emails.


C&C’s aromatherapy and Qigong teacher Maria Harvey-Lavin put together this video of gently flowing Qigong moves (which is similar to Tai Chi), to help residents relax at home and take their minds off their daily challenges during lockdown. (opens new window)

Staying Connected

C&C housing staff make daily visits to our sheltered schemes to monitor residents physical and mental health, and they also provide support such as organising food deliveries  themselves or via local community partnerships such as the Felix Project. Staff also make regular phone calls to our more vulnerable residents to check on their wellbeing, as well as helping residents get online.

To facilitate this, C&C offered free tablet computers to those residents most in need. Consequently, over 100 residents received a tablet, allowing them access to online services, try out new activities and to stay connected with friends, family and other residents. Some C&C residents are also enjoying a telephone buddy scheme run by InCommon (an initiative bringing different generations together to combat isolation), allowing them to forge friendships with local primary schoolchildren and their families via a range of activities over the phone: (opens new window)

Zumba Gold

Prior to lockdown, Paola Andrea Gianelli was leading her popular high energy Zumba Gold classes for over fifties at several of C&C’s sheltered housing schemes. Residents loved the combination of funky Latin beats and fun dance moves so much they persevered with the technology and are now enjoying weekly online sessions in their living rooms. The classes are specifically developed for the over 55s. Watch Paola Andrea Gianelli in action here: (opens new window) 

At this time, participating in the arts is more important than ever. Our research shows that getting involved in activities such as these:

  • Promotes inclusion and reduces social isolation
  • Helps people’s health and wellbeing
  • Advocates lifelong learning
  • Encourages individuality and personal expression
  • Gives access to creative ideas and experiences 
  • Helps to build friendships and support communities

But the real evidence comes from the voice of one of our residents who told us:

Though I'm considered as highly vulnerable because of my cancer. I am happy because I have a hobby which I enjoy doing and it really diverted my attention instead of thinking about my situation.”

And if you would like to talk through any of the issues raised in this guest blog and/or find out how the Housing LIN can assist your organisation, email us at: 


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